Advancing Practice In Academic Development: Chapters 5 to 8


Edited by David Baume and Celia Popovic
Routledge – The Staff and Educational Development Series
Publication January 2016

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Chapter summaries and extracts will on the SEDA Blog over the coming months. (There may be small differences between these and the published versions)

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Chapter 5 – Consultancy in academic development

Sue Thompson


This chapter explores the roles of consultancy in academic development. Drawing on exemplar cameos and stories from within the sector to describe a range of internal and external consultancy approaches, the chapter considers how consultancy can form a valuable part of the academic developer’s toolkit. Particular attention is given to how consultancy can be most effectively used as part of a planned change process, and the practical implications for the developer’s role.

Some extracts

As Shrives and Bond (2003) observe, a large part of the day-to-day work of an educational development unit involves consultancy. Land (2004) identified the role of internal consultant as one of the key orientations of academic development (see Chapter 2). Indeed it has been suggested that most people in staff and support roles in organisations are really consultants (Block, 2011). As well as having a consultancy focus to their own role, however, academic developers may themselves draw on the expertise and knowledge of both external and internal consultants.


There are several sources of need for the use of consultancy. These include:

  • Access to particular expertise and knowledge
  • Support for strategic change initiatives such as review, development and implementation support
  • Support for staff development – to work with people on an institutional, team and individual basis
  • To help deliver a project
  • To evaluate and review specific activity


Academic development is concerned with improving teaching, learning and assessment across the institution. Academic developers need to be skilled in the technical aspects of these topics. They also need to be skilled in what are sometimes and misleadingly called the softer skills. These include knowing when to ask, when to suggest and when to tell; making connections between strategy, policy and practice, as explored in Chapter 17; and facilitating and empowering.

For those in leadership roles, development has another dimension. Development also means knowing how to manage and provide leadership, how to act strategically in an organisational context and in a climate of rapid and continual change.

Chapter 15 considers leadership in academic development. The work of academic development is often, by its very nature, concerned with bringing about cultural change. Academic developers need to work as effective agents for change within the organisational culture.


The consultant’s role again is to help clients to solve their problems, as these comments from consultants suggest:

As a consultant my role is not to solve their problems but to deliberately do myself out of a job.

It’s easy to say ‘in my experience‘, but people need to work through things themselves, doing things they believe are right in their particular context.

Good consultancy works with people on what they need, asking critical questions, working with them to help them achieve their own goals.


Increasingly, the expectation is that academic developers are able to operate strategically in a climate of rapid and continual change and can work as an effective agent for change within the organisational culture (see Chapter 2). This is a complex role and task. There are key challenges here in determining how best to achieve results in a climate of limited/diminishing resources and who and what approaches can help. Academic developers need to have a sophisticated understanding of change and how it works in a complex organisation.


Academic developers need to be familiar with the processes worked through by consultants and the consultancy cycle, described in various models. Block (2011), for example, describes each consultancy project, ‘whether it lasts ten minutes or ten months’ as having five sequential stages:

1 Entry and Contracting

2 Discovery and Dialogue

3 Analysis and the Decision to Act

4 Engagement and Implementation

5 Extension, Recycle or Termination

Shrives and Bond (2003) used a simpler account of the consultancy process:

1 Getting in

2 Getting on

3 Getting out

Getting things right at the contracting stage is crucial. When consultants talk about their disasters, their conclusion is usually that the project was faulty in the initial contracting stage (Block, 2011). The business of contracting is the hardest part of all, getting clarity in what’s wanted. You almost need a pre-contract stage for this, to give everyone involved time to sort out what is needed. It’s important to set out expectations clearly for the consultant’s input and manner of engagement, including reporting, and work to these.

Chapter 6 – Coaching and mentoring in academic development

Diana Eastcott


This chapter offers definitions and contexts of use for mentoring and coaching, and suggests their relations to training. The core idea of coaching and mentoring as ‘conversations for learning’ is explained and illustrated. Skills, processes and methods which are crucial in effective coaching and mentoring are described, and examples given. Accounts are given of coaching and mentoring as part of academic development. The idea of a formal contract for coaching and mentoring initiatives is explored, as is the use of coaching for staff taking on new roles. Examples are given of university-wide initiatives and recognition for coaching and mentoring. The chapter concludes with a summary of the benefits of coaching and mentoring and an overview of strategies for success.

Some extracts

The first core idea of both mentoring and coaching is a one-to-one learning relationship – that is, a relationship that has the explicit intention of facilitating learning. This learning is usually associated with the intention to support the enhancement of professional capability and performance. It will typically include conceptual and theoretical learning, as well as practical, professional and sometimes personal learning. Such learning relationships are usually conducted at least in part through learning conversations, using appropriate media and technologies.

The second core idea is that the coachee/mentee, not the coach/mentor, decides on the agenda for the learning.

Some specific examples are:

  • Mentoring of new staff
  • Mentoring as part of Postgraduate Certificate in Education Courses
  • Mentoring for Higher Education Academy accreditation
  • Mentoring/coaching of staff taking on new roles
  • The use of coaching/mentoring skills and processes as part of consultancy and facilitation


Connor and Pakora (2007) describe both coaching and mentoring as learning relationships which help people to take charge of their own development, to release their potential and achieve results which they value. Coaching and mentoring draw on a similar range of skills, and the key to success is a shared, relevant and appropriate understanding between the partners on goals, methods and outcomes.


An individual requesting assistance may not use the term coaching. Requests for coaching, or more generally for assistance, may be triggered by a need to accomplish tasks more effectively. For example:

  • ‘Please help me to find ways to perform better when working with large groups of students’.
  • ‘Please show me how to run that board of studies more efficiently’.
  • ‘Please help me to have more confidence in using the assessment criteria when marking the final dissertations’.

A request for assistance, or coaching, may also be triggered by organizational and/or personal change – a change in role through promotion or restructuring, or a change in manager who demands a different kind of performance. Effective coaching/mentoring support learning, development and enhanced professional practice. Whatever the process is called, the core relationship must be based on objectivity, honesty, trustworthiness and confidentiality. Effective coaches and mentors are skilled in working from these foundation values, and use active listening, appropriate questioning and reflective feedback with their learners.


A key principle underpinning this chapter is that coaching and mentoring in academic development can be viewed as an extension of the concept of developmental conversations for learning. A starting point is the work of Neil Haigh (2005), an academic developer in New Zealand. Haigh suggests that ‘learning conversations’ constitute an important aspect of day-to-day work in an academic staff development role.

The theoretical base for learning conversations includes the insights of Senge (1994), who devised the term ‘learningful conversation’ to describe conversation that evokes reflection, in particular reflection on the mental models which are a foundation for personal action. Senge describes mental models as ‘deeply ingrained assumptions, generalisations, or even pictures or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action.’ (Senge, 1990, p. 8). Senge believes that the willingness to engage in a ‘learningful conversation’ is a prerequisite for professional learning.


Coaching and mentoring skills and processes are used in much academic development work. In this chapter, a distinction is made between formal coaching/mentoring, as a distinct process with a clear contract, and instances where a range of coaching/mentoring approaches and skills are used along with other academic development processes, for example consultancy. (Consultancy in academic development is the subject of Chapter 5.) Here the terms coaching and mentoring tend to be used more loosely than in the formal context. The contract typically addresses confidentiality, a code of ethics (see for example International Coach Federation, 2008), frequency, purpose and location of or media for meetings, and methods of record keeping.


Piccinin (1999), an academic developer in a large Canadian university, reports that holding focused individual conversations with academic staff about their teaching formed a large part of his work. He was interested to know if these coaching/mentoring conversations made any difference. A detailed study found significant improvements in teaching, as measured by student ratings before and after the conversations. Interestingly, improvements were found even after quite brief consultations.

Chapter 7 – Supporting part-time teachers and contract faculty

Fran Beaton and Ellen Sims


Unprecedented increase in access to higher education over the past decade, particularly in the UK and Canada, has required Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to employ more instructors, increasingly on contractually limited arrangements. What began as a short-term solution has now become the norm in many countries. In some disciplines, for example professional and practice-based subjects, there is a history of employing staff/faculty on a contractual basis, bringing valuable professional and industrial experience. Contextual pressures influence universities: changing expectations of their nature and purpose, the relationship between students and universities, changes in curriculum and teaching. At the same time, potential students and future employers scrutinise student satisfaction with the quality of their education. Public support for permanent/tenured positions has declined (Kezar, Maxey and Eaton 2014) and there is a demand for a more flexible workforce. These conceptual and practical considerations are crucial to effective support for part-time and contractual staff. This chapter includes a series of case studies and examples from the literature, intended to illuminate good practice in the support and development of these instructors.

Some extracts

Part-time teachers are a diverse group. Beaton and Gilbert (2013: 5) note that:

…it is becoming increasingly obvious that there are many different types of people who might be classified as having a non-standard academic post [so it is] important to consider the ways in which we might identify this elusive group.

Gappa and Leslie (1993) identify that some may be part-time from choice, for instance combining professional practice with teaching. These practitioner-teachers are employed elsewhere but come in to share special expertise, to ‘connect students to the cutting edge ideas and practices of the professions’ (Chan, 2010: 39). They model practice and embody professional knowledge (Chan, 2010; Trumble, 2010), maintaining expertise and status in both spheres. Others are part-time, aspiring academics hoping for a full-time or established roles, cobbling together enough work to survive (e.g. Bettinger, 2010; Bettinger and Long, 2004; Kezar et al., 2014; Jones, Gopaul, Weinrib, Metcalfe, Fisher, Gingras and Rubenson, 2014).


The contribution of part-time staff needs to be set in the context of a number of changes which have influenced universities. These include changing expectations of the nature and purpose of universities, changing curricula and changes in the way in which these curricula are designed and taught. Some reflect broader trends and affect numerous aspects and players: students, institutional perceptions of what the general public and politicians believe universities are for, how the quality of teaching and research is decided and the implications for institutional prestige. Other UK examples of change include the rise of nursing as a graduate profession, the expansion of the university sector (both as a consequence of the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act and in the development of specialist HEIs such as conservatoires, schools of art and private providers), the relationship of teaching and research and the balance between teaching, research, administration, and enterprise. In some professional disciplines, such as social work, the curriculum is influenced by the requirements of a professional body, so staff may be involved in designing curricula which integrate aspects such as arranging and monitoring work placements. It may be important to note that in some countries such as Canada, the HE system is highly unionised, including support staff and contract faculty. Collective bargaining has been the primary mechanism for determining academic work. (Jones et al., 2014).


Some studies (e.g. Bettinger and Long, 2004) link part-timers to a decline in teaching quality. This may be due to a number of reasons, including their being made to feel like second-class citizens (Gappa and Leslie, 1993). Kezar (2012) suggests that this may contribute to a ‘caste’-based faculty system and notes that teachers who are divided into different cultures do not usually interact. This impacts on students and the curriculum, as well as creating implications for professional development (see Chapter 4) and sharing of good practice. Kezar et al. (2014) document the negative impact on both institutional and student outcomes in the areas of retention, achievement, transfer and graduation rates. They list several conditions potentially affecting student learning: last minute hiring, affecting preparation time; lack of access to mentoring, orientation and professional development; exclusion from curriculum design and decision making; and lack of access to space and resources.

In contrast, Landrum (2009:25) found no significant differences in course evaluations and grade distributions between tenured faculty and part-timers, also noting that ‘it appears they do the same with less’. Kezar et al. (2014) conclude that it is not the tenure track status alone that affects quality, but the appropriate policies and practice in place to support faculty. Landrum (2009) also found that where there is a difference, it is small and differs by discipline – where vocational knowledge is more valued, adjuncts may provide better teaching outcomes. Jones et al. (2014:347) note that contingent faculty ‘ … make important contributions… and complement the work of faculty with more traditional workloads’. Gunderman (2006:134) suggests that, as a result of educational compartmentalisation, specialists know more about less, and argues ‘[O]ne of our greatest opportunities as organizations is to increase the permeability of our internal boundaries.’ It is worth noting that a large number of the authors cited in this chapter recommend an increase in opportunities for interactions between part-timers and full-time, permanent academic staff, to improve the student and staff experiences, as well as to benefit the institution (see Chapter 4). Meixner, Kruck and Madden (2010) reviewed the literature on the relationship of instructor type and student success, some of which is quoted elsewhere in this chapter, and found contradictions and the need for further study. However, it is often noted in the literature that institutional support for faculty can improve student success and experience.

Chapter 8 – Technologies and academic development

Keith Smyth, Sheila MacNeill and Peter Hartley


This chapter proposes a critical approach to new technologies, identifying what academic developers need to know and do, emphasising strategic engagement. We offer conceptual frameworks to help us select appropriate technologies, including the Digital University Matrix, 5C (Connecting, Communicating, Curating, Collaborating and Creating) and 3E (Enhance, Extend, Empower). We explore practical strategies including attention to technologies in courses for new staff; new ways of working with students such as the Change Agents’ Network; and informing and working with institutional strategy. Finally, we suggest issues requiring our continuing attention, including the changing expectations of learners, changing teaching roles, and new forms of delivery such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Some extracts

This chapter proposes a strategic and critical approach to the selection and use of broad classes of technologies, in teaching and learning and, based on this, in academic development. It explores what academic developers need to know and be able to do about learning technologies, considering both breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise. We avoid the obvious risk of instant obsolescence which would be the result of focusing on particular and specific technologies of the moment. Instead we concentrate on the functional and educational potential of current and emerging classes of technologies. To some extent academic developers should follow and respond to the introduction and use of new technologies by teachers and institutions. However, following the guidance in Chapters 10 and 16, we should also be willing to take a strategic and leading role.


Our approach to technology and development responds to three key questions, and we illustrate our responses with examples and case studies:

  • Which conceptual frameworks can we use to select appropriate technologies?
  • Which practical strategies can help us make the most effective use of technologies?
  • What are the key issues that we need to monitor?

We emphasise the necessity of productive collaboration between academics, educational developers, learning technologists and others concerned with development

in higher education, as technology comes to permeate thinking and practice, becoming at the same time increasingly ubiquitous and less and less visible, less and less remarkable. Perhaps a post-digital age is already arriving (‘Preparing for the postdigital era’, 2009)?


The 5 Cs Framework was originally designed as a thematic framework for the five-day open online course, #BYOD4L (Bring Your Own Device for Learning – an initiative we discuss later in this chapter). The five areas provided an underpinning theme for each day. The framework has now evolved into a wider pedagogical framework to:

… foster social learning underpinned by critical and creative thinking andaction. (Nerantzi and Beckingham, 2014)

The five areas are:

1 Connecting,

2 Communicating,

3 Curating,

4 Collaborating and

5 Creating.

They provide interrelated hooks for individual and collaborative learning opportunities, particularly when situated within learning scenarios, such as #BYOD4L, which utilise social, collaborative media. Although apparently simple, the framework can provide a rich interface for both educational developers and learners, and indeed educational developers as learners, to explore and contextualize a range of formal and informal learning scenarios and spaces both on and offline.


As our understanding and practice in the use of technology in higher education has evolved, we have seen a move away from the use of online technologies to deliver educational content and towards the use of online technologies as spaces to facilitate collaboration, cooperation, and content creation on the part of our learners.


[Academic developers] need to build their own and their team’s expertise, use flexible conceptual frameworks, adopt an evidence-based approach to innovation, build collaborative networks across the organisation, and perhaps encourage innovative, even playful, approaches to using new technologies. This list of expectations may appear daunting. But the pressure can be alleviated by a team approach, where academic developers collaborate to cover the ground between them rather than expecting everyone to be expert in everything.


Higher Education institutions must adopt a strategic and critical approach to the selection and use of broad classes of technologies to enhance learning, teaching and assessment, as well as other more general features of the student experience. Given the pace of development in new technology, the wrong kind of strategic approach could delay / discourage the very experimentation with new technologies which is a vital part of digital fluency. Strategy has to be agile and reflexive. Educational developers can play an important role here by ensuring that they build their own and their team’s expertise, use flexible conceptual frameworks, adopt an evidence-based approach to innovation, and build collaborative networks across the organization.

About the Editors

David Baume is an independent international higher education researcher, evaluator, consultant, staff and educational developer and writer.

Celia Popovic is Director of Teaching Commons at York University, Toronto, Canada.

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