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Rethinking professional development observations of HE lecturers: Cases of the unorthodox

Compton, Martin; (2019) Rethinking professional development observations of HE lecturers: Cases of the unorthodox. Doctoral thesis (Ed.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Drivers for improving teaching in Higher Education (HE) may be slowed by convention, conservatism and a sense of academic autonomy but are nonetheless inexorable. Formal programmes, such as Post Graduate Certificates in HE (PGCerts) for teaching academics, are still relatively nascent. The tension between academic autonomy and accountability is mirrored by the core tension of purpose when it comes to all types of observation of teaching and learning (OTL) used in HE, including those used within PGCerts. In this climate, some Academic Developers (ADs) who lead training programmes are experimenting with approaches to observation that deviate from an orthodoxy characterised by an emphasis on observee learning through feedback by a colleague on a teaching session. This study focusses on three cases of unorthodox approaches to professional learning designed to develop those with teaching responsibilities in HE from three very different universities. Case one examines a model of observation that widens the vista of observation beyond face to face teaching and asserts particular value in observer learning. Case two explores a system that extends and revitalises ‘microteaching’ and Case three analyses a scheme where students review teaching and ancillary work of lecturers. As a qualitative study, this exploration of cases of unorthodox observation seeks to understand how and why each is organised and the contextual drivers and impediments that shape AD thinking and the observation schemes they design and oversee. Of equal importance and fundamental for contrast and depth, within each case and comparatively across cases, is the experience of each observation system by those participating. Using Activity Theory as a framework for both data collection and analysis, the data has been used to narrate, interpret and critique each approach and then draw conclusions about actual and potential effectiveness. This, in turn, illuminates broader conclusions about academic development, professional learning in HE and the broader observation landscape. The findings show that breaking from the orthodoxy necessarily reflects the culture of the institution, can lead to positive (and sometimes unanticipated) outcomes and reinforces the imperative to question underpinning purpose and design of all observation schemes. Surveillance, compulsion, voluntarism, collegiality and developing self-efficacy are all key lenses of the analysis. Beyond these case-specific findings and conclusions, the thesis presents an original contribution to practice in the form of an analytical framework (The 4 Ms Observation Audit) for ADs (or anyone overseeing or designing OTL schemes) that can be used to appraise existing approaches and/or as a basis for the creation of new schemes, whether orthodox or innovative.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ed.D
Title: Rethinking professional development observations of HE lecturers: Cases of the unorthodox
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP: Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP: Education > UCL Arena Centre
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10079394
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