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  5. Diverse starting points and destinations: exploring and designing better support for HE teachers across disciplinary boundaries

Diverse starting points and destinations: exploring and designing better support for HE teachers across disciplinary boundaries

Project leader(s): 
Jane Roberts
Theme: 
Faculty: 
LTI
Status: 
Current

Evaluation of OpenPAD has shown that, although OpenPAD graduates speak highly of the scheme and its developmental benefits, some potential participants have chosen not to engage as they perceive the practitioner inquiry methodology to be obscure and of limited relevance. There is some anecdotal evidence that these criticisms are, to some extent, derived from disciplinary standpoints and identities. Although such criticisms are not unique to STEM, those in STEM disciplines who base their disciplinary research on positivist epistemology and quantitative methods may be unconvinced by the claims of practitioner inquiry (PI) to be a valid methodology for both scholarship and professional development.

There is a considerable academic literature on the changing nature of academic identities in the twenty first centuries but surprisingly little has been written, within this work, about the professionalization of teaching and the impact of this on the professional identity of academics. One exception to this is the work of Land and Meyer (2010), who have proposed that their theory of threshold concepts, which is now widely used in enquiry into student learning, can also be used to explain the difficulty that disciplinary specialists have in transcending their primary professional identity in order to interpret the world through the lenses of other disciplines. The model they propose is that successive acquisition (mastery) and internalisation of threshold concepts over years of study and research forges strong disciplinary identities within communities of practice which are self-contained and bounded. The nature of thresholds is the traverse from safety to the unknown and this journey is associated with risk.

Professionalization of teaching implies that academics develop a professional identity as a teacher in parallel to their primary disciplinary identity and therein lies its challenge.  This project will investigate and evaluate new approaches to supporting STEM and other academics to engage with professional recognition and other forms of academic development.

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