The programme leader is responsible for ensuring a coherent programme of study is designed and delivered by a diverse collection of academic colleagues. It is arguably one of the most crucial roles in HE (Lawrence and Ellis, 2018).
Working within institutional structures, leading, managing and bringing together academic and professional service colleagues (Lafoe et al, 2013) while addressing various stakeholder requirements and quality assurance process can be difficult (Zutshi et al, 2013) and isolating (Cahill et al, 2015) at the best of times. In the age of COVID 19, where constant change and uncertainty reigns, where the practical and pastoral support needs of staff and students are intense, this kind of educational leadership is all the more demanding.
The UK HE sector continues to increase its reliance on teaching-focused roles with HESA data reporting 32% of overall academic staff employed on teaching-focused contracts in 2019/20 (HESA, 2021). We adopt the term education-focused to include the variation in career pathway nomenclature across institutions that align to the HESA teaching only category. Some examples include teaching-focused, education and scholarship, teaching and learning.
Unlike research career paths, a common sector approach to promotion for those on ‘teaching and scholarship’ tracks has not yet emerged, leading to variation in practice both at an institutional level and across UK HE. This has contributed to a sense of confusion for those who seek to progress their careers on such tracks. The concerns are increasingly recognised across the sector and emergent work in specific disciplinary areas, notably the UK Business School sector, is now starting to address education-focused career progression e.g. British Academy of Management (Anderson & Mallanaphy, 2020).
The UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) was launched in 2011 to articulate expectations of those who teach or support learning in higher education. Since publication is has become the benchmark against which many institutional and sector-wide schemes of teaching recognition are measured. The SEDA Special ‘Doing a Good Job Well – Being Recognised as an Experienced, Professional Teacher in HE’ investigates how to engage with the UKPSF. Through five chapters it examines different aspects, with a particular focus on how to make the case for ‘Descriptor 3’.
From 2017–2021, we partnered the Association of Commonwealth Universities in a 4-year capacity building project in blended learning in 23 universities in East Africa, in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Called Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL), SEDA’s responsibilities were to design, develop and deliver a course, Developing Blended Learning (DBL) that explored the pedagogic underpinnings of repurposing material for online/blended delivery, which was evidenced practically by the development of a module that was shared with colleagues in the region.
The past 18 months have made the activity of critically considering and reflecting on our teaching practice more important than ever as the sector has been turned upside down with the wholesale adoption of online teaching approaches. In this SEDA Special, the authors briefly outline the current scholarship around reflective practice and offer different approaches for experienced and inexperienced teachers to interrogate their practice within their own context.
In 2020, shortly before the pandemic and the UK lockdowns, the Oxford Centre for Staff Learning and Development (OCSLD) at Oxford Brookes University began a project to develop and publish the practical wisdom of teaching in HE for our staff and readers internationally. We invited HE teachers to complete an online survey which investigated what resources they currently used—and also wished they had—to inform their teaching practice. Our respondents were mostly UK-based colleagues, but a few were based in China, Italy and New Zealand. Respondents had a wide range of HE teaching experience, reporting between 5 and 50 years with an average of 19.97 years (SD = 9.99). Most respondents were from humanities and social sciences disciplines, with a smaller number from STEM disciplines.
One thing is for certain; we will never forget 2020 and now, 2021! As we embarked on our Co-Editor duties for SEDA’s first Special on Wellbeing in Higher Education (HE) back in September 2019, we could not have begun to imagine how everyday life would dramatically change in a matter of months. At that time ‘wellbeing’ was already a ‘hot’ topic in HE, but as the Covid-19 pandemic progressed, we soon realised that our SEDA Special could not have been timelier!
As we connected with contributors from across the globe, we were all in unfamiliar lockdown territory but united in a shared vision to draw upon our wide-ranging knowledge, expertise, and experiences to ultimately provide insight and guidance on how best to support staff and students to achieve their wellbeing equilibrium. Moreover, we wanted to draw attention to valuable resources, and techniques for readers to consult as appropriate to their needs and interests.
Registrations on Masters programmes are record breaking this year. Students from home and overseas are progressing their studies straight from graduation or returning from the workforce to redefine career prospects. Many academic staff will be picking up postgraduate taught (PGT) for the first time, perhaps at short notice and potentially teaching a more diverse student cohort than ever before. They are looking for additional steer, recognising these particular students in these specific times need more than disciplinary expertise and great teaching to get the most from their studies. This blog is for the educational developer tasked with supporting those picking up PGT or preparing their PGT teaching at pace.
As Freshers’ Week takes place at our institutions and we are welcoming a new cohort of students into our programmes, it seems timely to be writing about the topic of transition. This year more than ever, the need to facilitate a smooth transition back into the world of learning seems more pertinent than ever. Students face not just a new step up in terms of their studies but also a re-adjustment back to face-to-face teaching experiences.