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Lin Norton, Bill Norton, David Evans, Olga Ververi , Kathrin Wagner,

Is it mentoring or is it research? A new approach to integrating leadership, academic development and SOTL in the first year of university teaching. Lin Norton, Bill Norton, David Evans, Olga Ververi , Kathrin Wagner, Tingting Yuan and Zoe Zontou.

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Lin Norton, Bill Norton, David Evans, Olga Ververi , Kathrin Wagner,

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  1. Is it mentoring or is it research? A new approach to integrating leadership, academic development and SOTL in the first year of university teaching Lin Norton, Bill Norton, David Evans, Olga Ververi, Kathrin Wagner, TingtingYuan and Zoe Zontou ISSOTL 2012

  2. What is the best way to engender conceptual change about teaching? Formal taught PGCert programme underpinned by SOTL? (Simon & Pleschová, 2012): • positive impacts of such programmes on university teachers’ conceptions of teaching & learning (Rust, 2000; Prosser et al, 2006) • usually in the direction from teacher-focused to student-focused (Trigwell and Prosser, 2004; Gibbs & Coffey, 2004).BUT… • Conceptual change takes time (Cilliers & Herman, 2010; Postareff et al, 2007, 2008). • Gap between theory and implementation (Fanghanel, 2004; Norton et al, 2010, 2012; Smith 2011). • Little evidence of direct link between such programmes and student learning outcomes (Prosser et al, 2006) ISSOTL 2012

  3. Engendering conceptual change cont. An alternative approach is by experience on the job, typically supported by experienced subject mentor. • Actual teaching experience engenders the change (Åkerlind, 2003, 2004). • Importance of context (Gibbs,2010; Mathieson, 2011). • Influence of academic culture on disciplines and departments (Becher & Trowler, 2001; Knight &Trowler, 2001). • Informal relationships in communities of practice (Remmik et al, 2011). ISSOTL 2012

  4. The research approach • I have deliberately blurred the boundaries of researcher with that of mentor to establish a relationship of trust which not only produces research outcomes but also offers on-going SOTL support to those who take part. • Instead of being a ‘neutral’ interviewer collecting data, I have capitalised on my years of experience of working in learning and teaching to actively mentor the participants by introducing SOTL concepts and approaches when it was appropriate. • I have done this in the context of the mentees’ own issues/concerns that they raise spontaneously though emailed reflections ISSOTL

  5. Rationale Based on: • Mathieson's (2011) sociocultural argument that we should be engaging new academics in considering the complex contexts in which they work and how they can develop a sense of agency. • Brew’s (2010)examination of the role of SOTL in developing academics’ capacity for critical reflection in a context of continual change. • Räsänen’s (2009) emphasis on practical activity and preparing academics for praxis. ISSOTL 2012

  6. The research study • Phase One- five postdoctoral teaching fellows at the end of their first year of lecturing • Data: interviews in which they were asked about their reactions to how future postdoctoral teachers might respond to this different approach of combining the role of researcher with mentor. • Phase two- five postdoctoral teaching fellows at the start of their first year of teaching at Hope (3 in Education, 2 in Creative Arts); four out of the five were taking the PGCert • Data: Emailed reflections; Interviews (45 mins based on their issues); Open-ended questionnaire ISSOTL 6

  7. Phase One findings • Highlights: • Research students; new learning experiences; support of other post docs; tutor/seminar groups, relationships with students; inspiration from colleagues; PGCert; inspired by mature students; being valued by senior colleagues, • Lowlights: • Concerns about tenure; disengaged students; blaming the lecturer culture; teaching subjects not your own; lack of control in day to day planning; trying to champion students’ cause; disagreements with colleagues; too high a burden of responsibility • Three one word descriptions of the first year of teaching: • ‘Bewildered’ • ‘Surviving’ • ‘Nervous’ ISSOTL 2012

  8. Views on the proposed mentoring project • Positives: • ‘I think I would have jumped at the chance to have a mentor’ • Deeply ethnographic approach • Need help developing your research profile • Need help understanding institutional/managerial systems • Need help to cope with challenges • Cautions: • Avoid it being too demanding • Avoid it becoming a ‘moaning’ session • Self selected sample bias • Relies on establishing trust ISSOTL 2012

  9. Phase two interview findings Content analysis showed that I talked about 50% of the time- general advice is to allow respondent to talk most of the time (Brenner, 2006; Boyce & Neale, 2006; List, 2007). Five broad categories constructed: • LN typical interview: “I thought it would be really good if we could catch up and see how things have been going for you….”, • LN SOTL/pedagogical: “You can get them to think about discuss, talk, perhaps think what’s the best thing they learned or what’s the thing they don’t still know about? Those sort of things help, rather than expanding the content to fill the whole…” • LN mentoring/support : “I know, I can understand that anxiety because you think, well, if they all did miserable dissertations that were really, truly awful, you know, who would they look at, but me?” • Mentee typical interview: “I think it’s like anything, it’s the start-up, it’s the first couple of months, if you can get beyond that, it’s – you seem to absorb the culture of it all, you know”. • Mentee pedagogical: “I think it's very, very important at the beginning of the year, and that's what we will do for next year, that the seminars will have a very clear structure and there will need to be a certain amount of writing workshops and similar things”. ISSOTL 2012

  10. Mentee A • Key: • General interview LN • SOTL LN • Mentoring LN • General interview Mentee • SOTL Mentee • Mentee’s emailed reflections • Flexibility of office hours; pressure to do research; demands of PgCert; teaching in areas outside one’s expertise; highly supportive colleagues. My SOTL themes Expertise & knowledge; learning facilitation; ‘stuffing the curriculum’; learning how to learn; tensions between PGCert and practice; philosophy of teaching; marking ISSOTL 2012

  11. Mentee B • Mentee’s emailed reflections • Positive & supportive boss;teaching with other peoples materials; enthusing students; effects of marking assignments on teaching; how much you should demand of students; enjoying building academic relationship with students; how much you should chase students who don’t keep to deadlines My SOTL themes Encouraging students to speak in seminars; importance of continuing to learn as an academic; setting high expectations; feedback; effects of PGCert; fitting in with colleagues’ L&T approaches ISSOTL 2012

  12. Mentee C • Mentee’s emailed reflections • Getting to know the teaching role; nervous about teaching large classes; whose responsible for attendance problems?research expectations; good relationship with colleagues; enjoying 1-1 tutorials; need to develop knowledge of L&T theories My SOTL themes PgCert; developing your pedagogical thinking; learning facilitation; students’ lack of confidence; marking criteria; preparing for big lectures; teaching observations; improving attendance ISSOTL 2012

  13. Mentee D • Mentee’s emailed reflections • Insufficient time to adapt to teaching role; fatigue; research expectations; sense of pride in teaching development; welcoming environment; developing teaching style; experimenting with different lecture structures; PGCert demands; marking expectations. • My SOTL themes • Teaching outside expertise; • reflecting on teaching approach; pleasure in students development; learning facilitation in lectures; • active & passive learning; setting students’ expectations; student groupwork; authentic assessment; ‘bite-sized’ learning; retention. ISSOTL 2012

  14. Mentee E MY SOTL themes Interacting with students; passive students, student confidence; teaching outside specialism; assessment & marking standards; lecturing approaches.; PPT limitations; knowledge, autonomous learning; teacher as expert; subjective marking; student as customer; pedagogical values; preparing others teaching materials; pedagogical reflection • Mentee’s emailed reflections • Loving the dialogue with students;transition from school teaching to HE teaching; teaching outside one’s specialism; pressure to publish; enjoy working with colleagues; concern about tenure; desire to develop own module ISSOTL 2012

  15. Conclusions from interviews • Difficult to show conceptual or developmental change in course of a year • Content analysis is a broad brush approachso unable to show any rich meanings at this stage • While I was talking to five very different people, with their own issues, I was able to introduce some common SOTL perspectives: • Role of subject knowledge and expertise • Teaching as information transmission or learning facilitation • Subjectivity of marking; pros and cons of assessment criteria • Taking account of the student perspective (learning how to learn) ISSOTL 2012

  16. Conclusions from emailed reflections • The plan of regular monthly emails or reflections on ‘critical incidents’ did not work (so this aspect of on-going mentoring did not happen; although I have been asked for help with draft research papers) • Reduced to reflections just before each scheduled interview • Largely individual narratives but some common concerns: • Pressures to do research • Demands of PGCert • Teaching outside one’s subject expertise • Knowing how much is your responsibility and how much is it the students? ISSOTL 2012

  17. The open-ended questionnaire • Given at the end of the first year although two post docs (B and C) only half way through their first year. • Three questions: • Awareness of SOTL? • Key events that raised awareness of SOTL? • Advice for new colleagues in their first year? ISSOTL 2012

  18. Responses to Q.1. • To what extent have you become aware of the scholarship of teaching and learning (sometimes known as the pedagogy of teaching) in your first year? • Themes: • Throughout due to PGCERT (x4) • Through taking part in the mentoring project • Contextualising through practice • Challenging the dominant pedagogical paradigm • Little knowledge of pedagogy in HE practice ISSOTL 2012

  19. Responses to Q.2. • What were the key events or points that made you more aware of this pedagogy (e.g. PGCert, mentoring interviews with Lin, talks with colleagues etc.)? • Themes: • PGCert (x 4) • Course evaluation • Mentoring study • HEA seminars (x 2) • Observing colleagues teaching • Practice and self-reflection • Pedagogical literature mentioned in mentoring study • Talking with colleagues • Feedback from students and trial and error ISSOTL 2012

  20. Responses to Q.3. • What advice would you give to a colleague who was just starting their first year of teaching? • Themes: • Strategic plan • Stay calm • Look for supportive colleagues/mentors ( x 3) • Study HE literature (x 2) • Take PGCert • Go to CPD workshops and seminars • Observe colleagues’ teaching • Be open about your difficulties- not failure but opportunity to learn • Importance of publishing research ISSOTL 2012

  21. A two way dialogue, so what did I learn? • That generic ‘outside’ mentoring is difficult to establish due to mentees’ workload and commitments. • It is possible to have deep conversations about SOTL in the context of teaching issues that mentees raise. • I have learned more about how the different disciplines are taught and assessed. • I have been challenged about some of my own assumptions about teaching including: • teaching as learning facilitation, • constructivism, • the role of the teacher as expert, • knowledge, and how we should view it, • differences between the sectors in terms of students’ attitudes and approaches. ISSOTL 2012

  22. Future directions • I hope that by having asked mentees to be research partners as well as participants that there may be further opportunities for discussing SOTL and for all of us to reflect on our own practices and assumptions. • I deeply respect the talent, motivation and wisdom of the mentees I have worked with from both phases and hope that the relationship we have built will enable them to approach me as an informal mentor whenever they feel the need. • I plan to extend the research through the more traditional route of a questionnaire approach to ‘new’ faculty in other institutions ISSOTL 2012

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