Creating Sustainable Learning Environments for Academic Staff.

Webster-Wright, Ann (2008). Creating Sustainable Learning Environments for Academic Staff.. In: Jeffery, P. L., Changing Climates: Education for Sustainable Futures. AARE 2008 International Education Research Conference, Queensland University of Technology, QLD, Australia, (). 30 Nov to 5th Dec, 2008.

Author Webster-Wright, Ann
Title of paper Creating Sustainable Learning Environments for Academic Staff.
Conference name AARE 2008 International Education Research Conference
Conference location Queensland University of Technology, QLD, Australia
Conference dates 30 Nov to 5th Dec, 2008
Proceedings title Changing Climates: Education for Sustainable Futures
Publication Year 2008
Sub-type Fully published paper
Editor Jeffery, P. L.
Language eng
Abstract/Summary Universities are centers of learning, focused on student learning yet concerned with the continuing learning of academic staff. In a changing higher education climate, academics are challenged to reframe many of their understandings about how they teach whilst working with increasingly complex competing pressures. The empirical phenomenological research presented in this paper focuses on understanding and supporting academic learning in ways that lead to sustainable outcomes for the academics, students and university. This research investigated the experiences of a diverse range of academics as they continued to learn about teaching within the contemporary university environment. Supporting academics’ learning is usually described within the paradigm of “academic development” as a subset of the broader practice of “professional development’. There is increasing critique of many of the commonly didactic, short-term practices used within these approaches. Critiques range from questions about the sustainability of changes in practice from professional development, to critical stances against assumptions underlying the notion of “developing” professionals through “transferring knowledge” (Gravani, 2007; McWilliam, 2002).Whilst there is increasing research into alternative approaches to support learning (e.g. communities of practice, action learning networks or mentoring), a dichotomous divide remains between everyday learning (from colleagues and practice) as informal, and organised professional programs (facilitated by an academic developer) as formal. The construct of Authentic Professional Learning (APL), developed through phenomenological analysis of the diverse learning experiences researched, transcends this dichotomy; describing continuing learning as a rich, diverse, multilayered experience with underlying commonalties clustered around notions of understanding, engagement, interconnection and openness. This paper reports on the development of sustainable learning environments for academics based on an APL pedagogy that respects academic agency whilst addressing academic accountability. Accountability is stressed in the contemporary context with an increasing focus on quality assurance. Academic learning can have a powerful impact on student learning outcomes through changes in the quality of teaching practices (Brew & Sachs, 2007). Yet, whilst important, student outcomes are not the only consideration. Research indicates that organisational changes are sustainable only when the process has meaning for staff involved (Alvesson & Sveningsson, 2008). Support for the continuing learning of academics needs to value this process of “meaning making” by respecting academics’ agency to direct their own way of learning (Katz, Sutherland, & Earl, 2005). I argue that APL is essentially a self-directed agentic activity that can’t be mandated or controlled, but can be shaped and supported in ways that lead to sustainable and accountable changes in practice.
Subjects 130103 Higher Education
130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
Keyword Academic development
Professional development
Higher education
Social sustainability
References Alvesson, M., & Sveningsson, S. (2008). Changing organizational culture: Cultural change work in progress: Routledge. Brew, A., & Sachs, J. (Eds.). (2007). Transforming a university: The scholarship of teaching and learning in practice. Sydney: Sydney University Press. Gravani, M. (2007). Unveiling professional learning: Shifting from the delivery of courses to an understanding of the processes. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(5), 688-704. Katz, S., Sutherland, S., & Earl, L. (2005). Toward an evaluation habit of mind; Mapping the journey. Teachers College Record, 107(10), 2326-2350. McWilliam, E. (2002). Against professional development. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 34(3), 289-299.
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: Institute for Teaching and Learning Innovation Publications
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Created: Wed, 10 Feb 2010, 10:22:45 EST by Dr Ann Webster-Wright on behalf of Teaching & Educational Development Institute