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Insights into the dynamics between changing professional fields and teaching in higher education

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What counts as expert knowledge, and what is expected from knowledgeable practitioners are subject to continual change in professional fields. Consequently, professional education programmes are often challenged to ascertain their capacities to prepare “job-ready” graduates for such changing professional knowledge work. However, what is the nature of these changes and how they get incorporated into teaching and learning practices in university courses are rarely examined, so teachers running courses for professional education get little guidance about how it can be more clearly conceptualised, and done better. Our study focussed on “epistemic shifts” – observable changes in professional fields that bear on how professionals are expected to work with knowledge. We aimed to understand how recent epistemic shifts in specific professional fields were instantiated in assessment tasks in professional courses. We focussed on assessment tasks as these tasks give insights not only into what and how students learn, but also into what counts as “job-ready” graduates. Our detailed case studies came from five courses – in pharmacy, nursing, social work, school counselling and education. Our results show that the epistemic shifts varied in their transformative scale and in the ways they became incorporated in assessment tasks: from implicit incorporation of an ongoing flow of small shifts into established professional tasks, to introduction of new professional epistemic practices. The analytical framework we have constructed helps depict what is actually changing in students’ epistemic practices when assessment tasks are redesigned and what kinds of new epistemic capabilities students will consequently develop.

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Insights into the dynamics between changing professional fields and teaching in higher education

  1. 1. The University of Sydney Page 1 Insights into the dynamics between changing professional fields and teaching in higher educationLina Markauskaite and Peter Goodyear Acknowledgements: ARC Grant DP0988307 Dr Agnieszka Bachfischer Centre for Research on Learning and Innovation Earli Tampere, 2017
  2. 2. The University of Sydney Page 2 Today 1. Context 2. Intellectual roots 3. Study design 4. Results & few examples 5. Final notes Link to eBook
  3. 3. The University of Sydney Page 3 Dynamics in professional fields 20th century • Technical knowledge • Craftsmanship • Artistic creativity 21st century • Data-driven • Evidence-based • User-focused • Process-oriented • Collaborative… (After Nicol & Piling, 2000) http://www.yr-architecture.com/an-architects-expertise
  4. 4. The University of Sydney Page 4 Dynamics in professional fields “…There is a significant push, not only in Australia, but internationally, to reduce the amount of remuneration pharmacists receive for dispensing a medicine, and instead, remunerate them for improving quality use of medicines or health outcomes.” “So it’s a major paradigm shift within the profession.” “So it’s a different type of thinking…” (Pharmacy lecturer) Epistemic shifts – changes in how professionals are expected to work with knowledge
  5. 5. The University of Sydney Page 5 Questions 1. What kinds of recent epistemic shifts in professional fields were seen as important for preparing professionals? 2. How these shifts were instantiated in the concrete assessment tasks that students did in preparation for profession?
  6. 6. The University of Sydney Page 6 Expert cultures, practices and resourcefulness Individual resourcefulness & expertise Epistemic, knowledge-generating practices Professional fields & expert cultures
  7. 7. The University of Sydney Page 7 Theoretical perspective: Objectual practice We should look for foundations of enduring professional practices, discovery and innovation in objects and artefacts (After Nicolini, Mengis, & Swan, 2012)
  8. 8. The University of Sydney Page 8 Method: “Cognitive-cultural archaeology” Study design Professio ns Pharmacy Nursing Social work School counseling Education Sample 20 professional practice courses Data Course resources Interviews (1-3 per course) Methods Epistemic interviewing Thematic analysis Analysis of course designs How have assessments been redesigned over recent years? Procedure 1. Analysis of interviews 2. Identification of epistemic shifts 3. Tracing changes in assessment tasks One course per profession
  9. 9. The University of Sydney Page 9 Analytical categories Core epistemic aspects 1. Knowledge-base 2. Epistemic skills 3. Epistemic values (After Shulman’s “Signature pedagogies”, 2005) Epistemic relations to external environment 1. Formal infrastructure 2. Workplace context 3. Boundary crossing 4. Professional epistemic agency (After Knorr Cetina, 2015; Nerland, 2012)
  10. 10. The University of Sydney Page 10 Results: Epistemic shifts in professional fields Profession Shifts School counselling Numerous small changes in regulations Social work Introduction of new practice standards Teacher education (visual arts) Significant change in expert knowledge (new arts epistemic practices) Pharmacy A major “paradigm shift” in professional values Nursing A large transformation in professional epistemic culture
  11. 11. The University of Sydney Page 11 Case: School counseling Professional field  “There’s a lot of policy and procedure. But you have to know it…” Assessments  We burn them a CD on which we have the policies and it’s something – I forget the number, it might 200. There’s so many.”  “…there are fairly accepted ways of doing things…” Notations: ✓✓ – explicitly articulated in assessments, ✓– present, but expressed only indirectly, ✔– have been changed during the recent change Professio n Core epistemic aspects Epistemic relationships Kn. base Epistemi c skills Epistemi c values Formal infrastr. Work context Boundar y crossing Prof. agency School counsellin g ✓✓ ✓ ✓ ✓✔ ✓✓ ✓✓
  12. 12. The University of Sydney Page 12 Case: Social work Professional field  “…there are now national practice standards for social workers...” Assessments  “So these [learning outcomes] are going to be radically re- written before next year.”  “It’s different language more than anything. It’s not different in terms of its intent nor the ground that it covers…” Professio n Core epistemic aspects Epistemic relationships Kn. base Epistemi c skills Epistemi c values Formal infrastr. Work context Boundar y crossing Prof. agency Social work ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✔✔ ✓✔ ✓✓ ✔ Notations: ✓✓ – explicitly articulated in assessments, ✓– present, but expressed only indirectly, ✔– have been changed during the recent change
  13. 13. The University of Sydney Page 13 Case: Nursing Professional field  “practice thinking, critical inquiry and clinical decision making skills”; “effectiveness of patient centred care” Assessments  “so I wanted them to create [nursing guidelines] with evidence of what is the best”  “… it’s not just clinical skills … you need evidence behind what you’re doing…” Professio n Core epistemic aspects Epistemic relationships Kn. base Epistemi c skills Epistemi c values Formal infrastr. Work context Boundar y crossing Prof. agency Nursing ✔✔ ✔✔ ✔✔ ✔ ✔ ✔✔ ✔✔ Notations: ✓✓ – explicitly articulated in assessments, ✓– present, but expressed only indirectly, ✔– have been changed during the recent change
  14. 14. The University of Sydney Page 14 Summary: Changes in assessments Professio n Core epistemic aspects Epistemic relationships Kn. base Epistemi c skills Epistemi c values Formal infrastr. Work context Boundar y crossing Prof. agency School counsellin g ✓✓ ✓ ✓ ✓✔ ✓✓ ✓✓ Social work ✓✓ ✓✓ ✓✓ ✔✔ ✓✔ ✓✓ ✔ Teacher education ✓✔ ✔✔ ✔ ✔✔ ✓ ✔ Pharmacy ✓✓ ✔✔ ✔✔ ✔ ✔ ✔✔ ✔ Nursing ✔✔ ✔✔ ✔✔ ✔ ✔ ✔✔ ✔✔ Notations: ✓✓ – explicitly articulated in assessments, ✓– present, but expressed only indirectly, ✔– have been changed during the recent change
  15. 15. The University of Sydney Page 15 Main insights: Standards vs. value and skill driven epistemic change 1. Professional learning is shaped by diverse changes in professional fields: from standards, to values 2. The link between the changes in professional fields and in teaching practices is not straightforward 3. Some shifts that look “radical” have small implications on the ways students learn (and vice versa) 4. Influential changes reshape core epistemic aspects: epistemic values, skills, and knowledge-base
  16. 16. The University of Sydney Page 16 If you are interested... Email: Follow our website: https://epistemicfluency.com Lina.Marakauskaite@sydney.edu. au

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