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Professional learning of academics for their
teaching function: an “impossible luxury”
Nicoline Herman, Brenda Leibowitz, ...
An “impossible luxury”
The words from a respondent in this research.
What did the person mean?
 something desirable that ...
Background
 Part of umbrella NRF funded research project
 Phase 2 :
o anonymous electronic questionnaire
o all permanent...
Professional learning (PL)
Drawing on various authors (Brew 2004; Opfer &
Pedder 2011; Kwakman 2003; Johnston 1998) I am
...
Background: Questionnaire
Adapted from questionnaire
developed by Prof Maria
Slowey with her permission
 4 sections
o Bio...
This presentation =
SU responses on section 4
 5 questions
o
o
o
o
o

Formal recognition for participation in PL for teac...
SU Questionnaire respondents










238 self-selected respondents = 25% response rate
All 10 faculties represe...
Professional learning of academics for their teaching function: an
“impossible luxury”

What is the role of context, for p...
Is there any formal recognition for participation in PL for
teaching at your institution?
o We are encouraged to develop o...
Does your institution provide resources for PL for
teaching?
o

resources are really ones that focus on support for
teachi...
Does your workload hinder your participation in PL for
teaching opportunities?
o

… there are too many
responsibilities et...
Relevance of themes presented during PL for teaching
opportunities
o Mathematics can indeed be quite different from other ...
Ease of finding information about PL for teaching at
institution
o

o

o

centre for teaching and learning, they are
alway...
Context of SU academics for PL
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o
o

Resources are available – mostly central
Mostly easy to find informati...
"If men define
situations as
real, they are real
in their
consequences"
WI Thomas 1923
“Reality is in the context of the
beholder”

Jason Silva 2012
Reality of everyday life
• Reality is constructed from ‘something’ – from
the life-world of our everyday life (Schutz &
Lu...
Conclusions?
The environment (context) has a significant impact
on what humans think is going to happen and how
we choose ...
Way forward…

Professional learning of academics for their teaching
function: an “impossible luxury”
Way forward…

Professional learning of academics for
their teaching function: a necessity
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Nherman heltasa professional learning of academics for their teaching function_final

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Nherman heltasa professional learning of academics for their teaching function_final

  1. 1. Professional learning of academics for their teaching function: an “impossible luxury” Nicoline Herman, Brenda Leibowitz, Eli Bitzer Stellenbosch University
  2. 2. An “impossible luxury” The words from a respondent in this research. What did the person mean?  something desirable that is not a necessity  something expensive or hard to obtain  a foolish or worthless form of self-indulgence  free indulgence in the comforts and pleasures afforded  products and services that are not considered essential  products which tend to make life more pleasant  a pleasure out of the ordinary allowed to oneself: the luxury of an extra piece of cake
  3. 3. Background  Part of umbrella NRF funded research project  Phase 2 : o anonymous electronic questionnaire o all permanently employed academics o 8 participating institutions  Purposes: o Locating patterns of belief about need for professional learning (PL) for teaching o Exploring uptake of PL for teaching o Ascertaining perceptions as to contextual enablers and constraints for PL for teaching
  4. 4. Professional learning (PL) Drawing on various authors (Brew 2004; Opfer & Pedder 2011; Kwakman 2003; Johnston 1998) I am using the term professional learning when referring to the “numerous activities which have to do with the professional learning of academics in postcompulsory, tertiary or higher education” in stead of the more generally used synonyms ‘staff development’, ‘faculty development’, ‘educational development’, ‘growth opportunities’, ‘professional development’, ‘academic development’, ‘academic professional development’, ‘lifelong learning’ or ‘continuous learning or development’
  5. 5. Background: Questionnaire Adapted from questionnaire developed by Prof Maria Slowey with her permission  4 sections o Biographical details o Teaching experience o Activities undertaken as part of PL for teaching o Perceived enablers and constraints for PL
  6. 6. This presentation = SU responses on section 4  5 questions o o o o o Formal recognition for participation in PL for teaching? Availability of resources for PL for teaching? Does workload hinder participation in PL for teaching? Relevance of PL for teaching themes Ease of finding information about PL for teaching  Responded to 5 point Lickert scale  Motivate responses = 120 pages of data Focus = SU qualitative data from 5 questions
  7. 7. SU Questionnaire respondents          238 self-selected respondents = 25% response rate All 10 faculties represented Equal division between male (51%) and female (49%) More senior academics (60%), 61% doctorates Years teaching at SU range <5 to >40 Profile represents that of SU as institution Most rated themselves as good or excellent teachers (81%) 87% indicated interest/passion for teaching Frequency of participation in PL = range from once or more a term (12%) to never (20%) Survey gave voice to wide selection of respondents
  8. 8. Professional learning of academics for their teaching function: an “impossible luxury” What is the role of context, for professional learning to be seen as a luxury item?
  9. 9. Is there any formal recognition for participation in PL for teaching at your institution? o We are encouraged to develop our teaching methods but there is never any formal recognition I have never been encouraged to attend any PL for teaching, on the contrary, colleagues have sometimes discouraged me to attend o There is recognition (awards) for "good teachers", o Engaging in PL for teaching is done in your own capacity. I can attend as many courses as I wish to but it never reflects in my performance appraisal o Does not help my performance evaluation, only if it improves my student feedback o They pretend … they give recognition for teaching excellence, but in fact they only want more research publications, i.e. they put good researchers on a pedestal while investment in good teaching is considered a waste of research time o … research and publications are valued more than teaching. It is assumed that we can do this [teaching] without paying attention to our classroom practice. I would have liked to take up offers of further training, but the time pressures of teaching, supervision, admin and research has not yet allowed me to pursue this particular interest
  10. 10. Does your institution provide resources for PL for teaching? o resources are really ones that focus on support for teaching and learning such as the Annual teaching and learning conference, lecturer The support with teaching matters such as WebCT, assessment support. The FINLO initiative is also very helpful in this regard as well as the lunchtime discussions o There are lots of courses, learning opportunities and conferences to attend o Central unit which coordinates university teaching arranges workshop, conferences, etc. which provide a range of opportunities for such engagement and are done at the university’s expense will release departmental funds for well-motivated activities o Always a budget fight o The opportunities might be there but the faculty focuses on research and therefore does not necessarily create space in terms of time and workload o Department Head
  11. 11. Does your workload hinder your participation in PL for teaching opportunities? o … there are too many responsibilities etc. o Most academics in my faculty have a workload o responsibilities … at the same time, like teaching, research, management that exceeds 50h per week I do my best for the students and enjoy teaching, I just do not have the time to attend courses for teaching. The little time I have I try and spend on research since ultimately publication output is what leads to promotion o I feel I can develop my teaching skills and techniques better, and my students will benefit, but I would rather spend the time on publications as I feel this will benefit my career and professional reputation as a researcher o I am much more interested in doing research and contract work to supplement my, rather low, university salary than attending courses on teaching for days at a time where you do not really learn anything useful. I am paid extra to do it I would o I don’t have the energy to read for my own education when I am done teaching and supervising If masters students o I struggle to find a balance between research and teaching commitments and sometimes feel if I could at least just prepare for class, it has to be sufficient o We have to do research and write articles although the students are our clients o … question of priority - I make the time available for this because I value it highly (and feel it is primary to all my other roles/responsibilities in the academic environment) o I feel a good researcher and presenter of research projects is a good teacher. Rather concentrate on the teaching (guiding) of postgraduate students and researchers
  12. 12. Relevance of themes presented during PL for teaching opportunities o Mathematics can indeed be quite different from other disciplines in many regards, so I think that this is almost inevitable. E.g., we don’t have group discussions in class or let our students write essays. o Accounting cannot be compared with other disciplines, e.g. History/ Human Science, etc. o Teaching is pretty much the same over all disciplines o Learning for teaching seems to be independent of discipline in my experience o I only want to teach to the students... not necessarily want to be bored by the in depth research and methodologies . Interested in practical application o Educational theory is underemphasised o The discussions are normally of a generic nature and it is almost always possible to apply it to my own field o I've attended numerous courses which were overly generic and totally irrelevant to what I need/do. I have had to learn by doing, for the most part. o Obviously topics are not always directly applicable, and some people will moan about this, but really it depends on attitude - whether you are willing to be innovative
  13. 13. Ease of finding information about PL for teaching at institution o o o centre for teaching and learning, they are always willing to help We do get emails and I know we have a vice dean in charge of teaching so that is an obvious place to start Such opportunities are generally well advertised and given good institutional coverage. Having been involved in some activities you then become Can contact our attuned to others o I do not know even where to start looking for such opportunities o I access all my teaching support from textbook support resources or I generate it myself
  14. 14. Context of SU academics for PL o o o o o o o o o o Resources are available – mostly central Mostly easy to find information about PL opportunities Mixed messages about what is important Research-teaching nexus exist Opportunity cost attached No formal recognition, waste of time, encouraged but not valued No incentives /regard / reward for participation in PL Not planned into time and workload Individual wellness and balance not taken into account Personal attitude If this is how respondents describe their context – then this is their everyday reality
  15. 15. "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" WI Thomas 1923
  16. 16. “Reality is in the context of the beholder” Jason Silva 2012
  17. 17. Reality of everyday life • Reality is constructed from ‘something’ – from the life-world of our everyday life (Schutz & Luckmann 1973) • Humans have the ability to be aware of their life-world (environment) and themselves which emerge as their context (Berger & Luckmann 1966)
  18. 18. Conclusions? The environment (context) has a significant impact on what humans think is going to happen and how we choose to act Currently the SU context is not perceived as enabling for PL for teaching PL is indeed a luxury!
  19. 19. Way forward… Professional learning of academics for their teaching function: an “impossible luxury”
  20. 20. Way forward… Professional learning of academics for their teaching function: a necessity

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