The role of the institute for learning and teaching in higher education in supporting professional development in learning and teaching in higher education

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This article was downloaded by: [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee]On: 07 October 2014, At: 05:50Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: MortimerHouse, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UKTeacher Development: An international journal ofteachers' professional developmentPublication details, including instructions for authors and subscription information: role of the institute for learning and teachingin higher education in supporting professionaldevelopment in learning and teaching in highereducationCaroline Bucklow a & Paul Clark aa Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education , York, United KingdomPublished online: 19 Dec 2006.To cite this article: Caroline Bucklow & Paul Clark (2000) The role of the institute for learning and teaching in highereducation in supporting professional development in learning and teaching in higher education, Teacher Development: Aninternational journal of teachers' professional development, 4:1, 7-13To link to this article: SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (the Content) containedin the publications on our platform. 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Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Development, Volume 4, Number 1, 2000 7 The Role of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in Supporting Professional Development in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education CAROLINE BUCKLOW & PAUL CLARK Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, York, United Kingdom ABSTRACT This article explores the concept of professionalism in teaching and the facilitation of learning in United Kingdom higher education. Examination of the sociological literature on professionalism and the activities of currently established professional bodies suggest that the control of standards of performance and control of the right to practise are the defining characteristics. A consideration of the present and projected situation in higher education suggests that regulation by a professional body of the right to practise will become increasingly difficult to implement. However, the articulation of professional standards of performance, for an increasingly varied student population, poses a significant challenge for the membership of the newly created Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (the first professional body created in this area), whose results will benefit both the higher education community and the external stakeholders in higher education. The establishment of a professional body for people engaged in teaching and the support of learning in higher education is one of the most challenging outcomes of the Dearing Report (the report of the National Committee of Enquiry into Higher Education, published in 1997, which was the first officially-sponsored systematic examination of higher education in the United Kingdom since the early 1960s) (NCIHE, 1997). The challenge is threefold to engender a sense of common purpose and understanding across the academic and learning support communities as to what it might mean to be a professional in this field, to demonstrate that membership of a professional body is the best means for the community to develop and demonstrate this understanding and, finally, to use this sense of professionalism to ensure high quality in the learning experience of students in higher education. Downloaded by [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] at 05:50 07 October 2014 Caroline Bucklow & Paul Clark 8 To observers from other professions, these goals might seem laudable if somewhat modest. Early experiences of trying to engage with individuals who might become members of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILT) suggest, however, that there is little consensus in the higher education sector about what characterises teaching as a professional activity and some suspicion that attempts to professionalise teaching will undermine academic freedom. To understand why this should be so, it is useful to explore the characteristics of recognised professions and to consider the extent to which factors that have led to the establishment of professional bodies to support them are relevant to the current state of higher education in the United Kingdom. The concept of a profession is one that has been extensively explored in the sociology literature, with little agreement on how professions may best be defined. Certain themes, however, provide a useful starting point for an exploration of the appropriate role for a professional body for teachers in higher education. These include as characteristics of professionals: x the possession of valued expertise; x adherence to standards of practice designed to benefit the recipients of the service; and, as a property of the professional group or profession, x the desire and ability to control access to an occupation. These elements were summed up by Freidson (1973) as follows: Professionalization might be defined as a process by which an organized occupation, usually but not always by making a claim to special esoteric competence and to concern for the quality of its work and its benefits to society, obtains the exclusive right to perform a particular kind of work, control training for and access to it and control the right of determining and evaluating the way the work is performed. (p. 22) Mcdonald (1995) emphasises also the aspects of social closure: The occupation and its organisation attempt to close access to the occupation, to its knowledge, to its education, training and credentials and to its markets in services and jobs ... Exclusion is aimed ... at the upward social mobility of the whole group. (p. 29) On this understanding of professionalism, it can be argued that the transition from an open occupation to a closed profession involves a number of key stages. First, those wishing to establish the profession identify a domain of specialist knowledge and expertise of which they seek to take ownership. Next, the newly defined professionals implement a range of measures that define how others can gain entry to the field. Finally, the profession seeks the acceptance of its claims by the clients for the professional services on offer, or by the state, to provide legitimacy for the profession. Frequently, the measures used to control entry to the profession focus on the establishment of qualifications, which are deemed necessary to practising within the profession. Downloaded by [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] at 05:50 07 October 2014 THE INSTITUTE FOR LEARNING AND TEACHING IN HE 9 Legitimacy is often based on the assertion of some form of public interest that is best served by restricting practice to a group of qualified professionals. Teaching in pre-16 education in the United Kingdom already has many of the hallmarks of a profession. There is a clear domain of knowledge relating to the development of learning in children and the associated methods of supporting knowledge acquisition. Access to teaching posts, at least in the state sector, is restricted to those with a recognised teaching qualification. A wide range of stakeholder groups (government, parents, teaching unions, pressure groups) help to legitimise the claims to professional status by reference to the public interest served by keeping education in the hands of the appropriate specialists. In teaching, as in many other professions, the legitimacy accorded by public opinion is supported by legislation and a close (if sometimes uncomfortable) relationship with the state. In higher education in the United Kingdom, there is no received view of the requirements of a professional approach to learning and teaching. A different pattern has emerged, which may in some ways be explained by the different expectations of the function of universities as providers of education. As Griffiths (1996) notes: the professionalisation of teaching in higher education has always been a difficult concept, with the argument tending to focus on the fact that teaching is only one aspect, however important, of an academics role. Contributors to this debate emphasise the interdependence of teaching and research, and conclude that the two roles should not be separated for the purposes of staff training. The argument is sometimes taken further by those who view research as the most important function of the academics role and see any attempt to raise the profile of teaching as somehow undermining the resources for research. (p. 6) This comment highlights the fact that there is already a strong sense in which academics identify themselves as professionals. However, their frame of reference is most often related to their academic discipline and focuses on research and scholarship rather than on the teaching role. This is hardly surprising, given the traditional role of universities in producing graduates destined for a relatively narrow range of professions, together with an elite group of individuals to carry on the academic tradition. It is still less surprising in view of the recent emphasis given to research as the basis for promotion in higher education (driven in turn by the importance of a strong research profile for attracting funding). One effect of this focus on the academic discipline has been the acceptance of the implicit assumption that expertise in a professional domain (signalled by possession of a relevant research degree and refereed publications) carries with it the ability to educate others. While the traditional model may have been adequate for an education system designed for a small and relatively homogeneous section of society, it is less successful in addressing the needs of a more disparate student body whose aspirations may depart significantly from the traditional pattern. At the same time, changes in Downloaded by [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] at 05:50 07 October 2014 Caroline Bucklow & Paul Clark 10 the external environment are tending to undermine the ability of the existing academic communities to define and control access to the knowledge domain, which has traditionally been seen as the source of their expertise. The United Kingdom higher education system has changed substantially over the last 10 years and these changes have been reported and commented upon in numerous publications (for example, Watson & Taylor, 1998). Amongst the changes are some that express changed expectations of the outputs and processes of higher education and expand the range of demands on pedagogic expertise, moving away from those skills that are immediately allied to research. They also drive the need for higher education teachers to become professionals in all aspects of teaching and learning facilitation. Four of the changes are listed and commented upon as follows: x increasing diversity of student profile; x students as clients; x expectations of vocational training in all courses; and x new and different modes of teaching and learning support (using communications and information technology [C & IT]). The growing diversity of the student profile, and the increased level of delivered satisfaction that paying students will come to expect, imply that higher education teachers will have to understand the range of learning needs and styles in their classes and be able to deliver to them. The concept that students in higher education attend courses to receive whatever concept of education the teacher happens to have in mind will be increasingly less tenable. In particular, the growing requirement that all courses interweave the explicit development of transferable skills with the academic content places new pedagogic demands on many academics, especially the capacity to evaluate students acquisition of skills, to assess them effectively and to deliver remedial support for non-achieving students. Finally, all the processes of teaching, facilitating student learning, recording student progress and communicating with students are being transformed through the increasingly sophisticated application of C & IT. As well as changing the processes of education, C & IT is helping to transform conceptions of what the ends of higher education should be and how and by whom it should be delivered. Examples of the types of transformation now coming into view are: x student group learning as an everyday activity using proprietary or public networks and Internet-based resources; x global delivery to individual students of course material, assessment, tutorial support and student interaction over the Web; x ready access for students to enormous ranges of information and learning resources on the Web; x outsourcing of all on-line course delivery and administration processes to specialist private companies, leaving only the academic conception and content to be provided by the educator; and Downloaded by [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] at 05:50 07 October 2014 THE INSTITUTE FOR LEARNING AND TEACHING IN HE 11 x investment by private companies. It is reasonable to expect that all of these present features of higher education will become increasingly important in future years. None of them look to be decreasing in impact or susceptible to reversal. All of them demand that teachers in higher education become more skilled, master a wider variety of conceptions and techniques of learning facilitation and recognise that the mastery of an academic discipline is only one, and probably not the dominant, motive for most students participation in their courses. Faced with these challenges, the higher education sector may have little choice about whether it embraces teaching and the support of learning as its new professional domain. The main question is whether it is willing to take collective ownership of the issues and develop a new professionalism, which addresses the need to integrate an understanding of a field of academic enquiry with an understanding of pedagogical issues. The establishment of the ILT as a professional body organised by, and responsible to, those who teach and support learning in higher education offers a unique opportunity for the membership to influence the ways in which this concept of professionalism develops. This expected expansion of the required mastery of teaching conceptualisation and delivery, and its continual updating, is at the heart of the concept of the professionalisation of teaching and learning support that inspired the Dearing recommendations, and animates the programme of the ILT. It is important to recognise that changes in the higher education environment may make it inappropriate for the ILT to attempt to construct a professional organisation using the social closure model described earlier. Such a model can only operate where there are effective means of controlling entry to the profession and regulating the market. Information-intensive businesses operating in a global market have few barriers to entry by which new entrants can be deterred or excluded, as the proliferation of services delivered via the Internet demonstrates. The reasons for this are discussed extensively in the literature on the impact of IT on global business (for example, McFarlan, 1984; Porter & Miller, 1985; Venkatraman, 1991). As the learner population is offered better access to information through communications technology and develops more autonomy in choosing when, where and how to learn, it will become harder to ensure, by a process of social closure, that learning is mediated by a select group of appropriately qualified teachers. If learners have the ability to choose, using learning and communications technologies, who their teachers will be, it is likely that they will choose to learn from those who are able to deliver effective, well-designed education programmes that are flexible enough to meet the needs of people attempting to combine work with education and personal commitments. Like other global businesses, education will need to adapt to the new conditions by becoming more aware of the needs and objectives of its learners and by ensuring that those involved in teaching and learning support have access to the most relevant knowledge and tools to help them provide learning experiences that meet those needs. Downloaded by [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] at 05:50 07 October 2014 Caroline Bucklow & Paul Clark 12 Similarly, it is inappropriate for the ILT to try to establish professional status for its members by excluding from practice those who choose not to become members. Arrangements of this type work best in an environment in which the scope of professional expertise is relatively well defined and stable, where there is a clear understanding of where the boundaries of the profession can and should be drawn and where it is possible to demonstrate the benefits of expecting all people working in the profession to adhere to a single standard. These conditions do not seem to apply in higher education, particularly at a time when the boundaries of the profession are being extended to include groups who provide professional expertise that contributes strongly to the development of effective learning environments, but who do not come from an academic teaching background and whose role has only recently begun to be recognised. These groups include information specialists, language and learning technologists, providers of specialist student support services, and many others. The concept of the multidisciplinary teaching team is of increasing importance in higher education and is difficult to capture within the traditional model of professional body regulation. The establishment of a continuing professional development (CPD) system to ensure that ILT members remain in good standing is a key element of the development. Handled properly, CPD systems provide opportunities for participants to ensure that they avoid professional obsolescence and develop new ways to respond to changes in the external environment and the expectations of stakeholders in the system. The need to remain in touch with developments in professional practice and the knowledge base has encouraged many professional bodies to insist on evidence of CPD as a requirement for remaining in good standing. Often, the requirement stems equally from the responsibility to protect the public interest and from concerns to protect the employability of their members. Conclusions The development of the concept of professionalism in teaching and learning facilitation in higher education involves both the elucidation of the concept itself as well as gaining acceptance for its implementation across the sector. Traditional views on the professionalism and the activities of professional bodies contain two basic dimensions: the maintenance of standards of performance amongst the practitioners of the profession and the restriction of the right to practise to the members of the associated professional body (with the associated right of the membership to control entry to that body). The present and expected future rate of change of all aspects of higher education learning and teaching (including global delivery) suggest that the social closure function of other professional bodies is not appropriate to a professional body such as the ILT. In the area of standards of performance, the present situation suggests that a key feature of professional ability in learning and teaching in higher Downloaded by [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] at 05:50 07 October 2014 THE INSTITUTE FOR LEARNING AND TEACHING IN HE 13 education is that of being able to engage constructively with change, rather than that of possessing a static complement of skills. One of the biggest changes that has to be taken on is that of moving from a uniform style of broadcast teaching to engaging with, and delivering to, a variety of expected learning outcomes, even within a given class. Continuing improvement through reflective practice and habitual professional development will also be a central feature of the need to meet continuously changing expectations and possibilities. The ILT has been created both to represent professionalism in higher education and to elaborate its meaning. With such a fluid concept lying at the centre of the ILTs activities, it will be both a challenge and an adventure for its membership to debate, explore and elaborate the central ideas of the professional teacher and learning facilitator. Both the higher education learning and teaching community and the external stakeholders will profit from this challenging exercise. Correspondence Caroline Bucklow, Director of Accreditation, Institute for Learning and Teaching, Genesis 3, Innovation Way, York Science Park, York YO10 0PA, United Kingdom ( References Freidson, E. (Ed.) (1973) The Professions and Their Prospects. Beverly Hills: Sage; quoted in S. Goodlad (Ed.) (1984) Education for the Professions, p. 7. Guildford: Society for Research into Higher Education. Griffiths, S. (1996) The Professional Development of Academic Staff in Their Role as Teachers. Sheffield: Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals/Universities and Colleges Staff Development Association (UCoSDA). Macdonald, K. (1995) The Sociology of the Professions. London: Sage. McFarlan, F.W. (1984) Information Technology Changes the Way You Compete, Harvard Business Review, MayJune, pp. 98103. National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (NCIHE) (1997) Higher Education in the Learning Society. London: HMSO. Porter, M.E. & Millar, V.E. (1985) How Information Gives You Competitive Advantage, Harvard Business Review, JulyAugust, pp. 149160. Venkatraman, N. (1991) IT-induced Business Reconfiguration, in M. S. Scott Morton (Ed.) The Corporation of the 1990s: information technology and organisational transformation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Watson, D. & Taylor, R. (1998) Lifelong Learning and the University: a post-Dearing agenda. London: Falmer Press. Downloaded by [University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] at 05:50 07 October 2014