Facilitating a reflective, collaborative teaching development project in higher education : relections on experience

Weeks, Patricia Ann (1994) Facilitating a reflective, collaborative teaching development project in higher education : relections on experience. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

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A rapidly changing social, educational, political and economic context has meant that there are calls for teaching processes in universities to change from the traditional didactic, lecture method to a more problem-based, student centered active approach to learning, in order to promote and encourage the development of creative, analytical, flexible, lifelong learning skills in graduates.

In Australia in recent times there has been an emphasis placed on improving the quality of teaching in higher education. Recently teaching in higher education has been nominated by the Government as an area of national priority. Many universities have responded by establishing Academic Staff Development Units part of whose brief is to assist with the improvement of university teaching practices.

University lecturers are well trained in their own disciplines but it is unusual for them to have received any pre-service formal education in teaching methodology. This study was based in and limited to the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) where teaching is a valued part of the mission, and an Academic Staff Development Unit (ASDU) was established to provide support and assistance to lecturers. Part of the brief of the unit is to provide programs, courses, projects and individual consultation to assist lecturers to make changes and improvements to their teaching practices.

This study explored the processes involved in encouraging lecturers to join and sustain their involvement with a voluntary collaborative, cross faculty teaching development project (TRAC) which promoted an alternative method of teaching development. This teaching development project offered academics an opportunity to move out of the traditional forms of teaching development by becoming reflective practitioners (Schon, 1983, 1987). The fact that some lecturers were becoming involved and making improvements to their teaching practice by reflecting on and researching their own teaching suggested a need to focus on the processes required to foster and sustain this involvement.

The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine my process of facilitation in the teaching development project. The study is descriptive and interpretive, it was designed to reveal the processes involved in facilitating the project. Narrative inquiry was used as the mode of research in this study as it was an appropriate means of understanding an experience in which the researcher was an active participant and for capturing the complexity of improving teaching in higher education. As facilitator of the project the researcher kept a journal and data was collected through a series of unstructured conversations with lecturers involved with the TRAC project.

Observations were made of group meetings and the documents relating to the reflective, collaborative teaching development project were collected. This study aimed to add to the literature on the role and concerns experienced by the facilitator of a teaching development project in higher education. By engaging in reflective inquiry, the researcher learned more about her role and responsibility as a teaching developer and the potential promise and possible pitfalls of helping others engage in studying their teaching practice in higher education. She came to understand more about engaging in reflective practice.

The narrative highlighted the processes involved in facilitating a university-wide collaborative, reflective teaching development project for lecturers in higher education, which was aimed at improving the quality of university teaching. By giving a detailed analysis of the individual experiences of the facilitator the study provided a portrayal of the barriers to change and the discussion extended to the implications for supporting lecturers in their quest to become "reflective practitioners" or "teacher-researchers" of their own lecture rooms, laboratories, tutorial rooms and studios in order to improve their pedagogic practice.

This study has not aimed to portray a "perfected" process of facilitation, but rather to explore various processes involved in one particular situation. Inquiry into teaching in higher education increasingly focuses on how students learn. While there are many reports in the school sector of teachers examining their own teaching practice, we read very little information about self-reflection either among lecturers or among teaching developers in higher education. The narrative focused on the exploration of my daily practice. The emerging portrayal was characterised by complexity. In this study, I observed that for lecturers to venture beyond the security of former patterns of teaching, to extend their vision and to engage in the change process to improve their teaching practice, I had to create the opportunities and provide support for lecturers whilst they became involved in questioning their teaching practice. I had to provide a 'safe haven' as they entered into a process of thinking, talking and writing about their experiences as lecturers. I found for many lecturers, telling their stories (either through writing or talking) and sharing their concerns with colleagues produced a remarkably fresh and personalised awareness of the experience of being a lecturer.

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ID Code: 36482
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Hansford, Brian & Johnston, Stuart
Additional Information: Presented to the School of Curriculum and Professional Studies, Queensland University of Technology.
Keywords: College teaching Australia, Education, Higher Australia, thesis, doctoral, HERN
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Patricia Ann Weeks
Deposited On: 22 Sep 2010 13:05
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2017 04:24

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