Monday, 9 October 2017

Advancing the scholarship of teaching and learning

I recently obtained a PhD and the title of my thesis is:  Advancing scholarship of teaching and learning during professional development of new lecturers at higher education institutions. In this study, induction programmes and scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) at higher education institutions in Australia, America, the UK, Sweden and South Africa were explored through a literature study. The research study focused on the introduction of SoTL in the professional development of new lecturers as preparation for the higher education institutional context. The thesis is available via the following link
My reading on the topic of induction programs indicates that the need for induction programs arises from the fact that most higher education institutions (HEIs) globally still do not require an educational or teaching qualification for appointment.
Induction programs are necessary to prepare newly appointed academic staff for the higher education teaching-learning context. It is imperative that consideration is given to timeous contact with newly appointed academic staff. Induction programs in South Africa have been criticised for occurring too late. Just yesterday I was reminded by a colleague that newly appointed academic staff had enquired why they didn't get to know about certain strategies, resources or required skills beforehand. It would have made their lives so much easier if they had been informed before assuming duty.

At Oxford University (United Kingdom) it is compulsory that new appointees spend a half day in training and in consultation within the school or faculty that they are appointed in to become au fait with the learning and teaching methodologies that are preferred in a disciplinary field or classroom context (large numbers of undergraduate students with a diversity of backgrounds, laboratories).

Certain skills may be required before entering a classroom i.e use of the institutional learning management system (LMS) or any other specific educational technology available in the lecture rooms.
The literature indicates that an institutional induction or orientation is standard practice at most HEIs. However, some appointtees may assume duty after this institutional induction and therefore have to wait until the next semester to attend an induction with the result that they may have lost out on essential information or skills. I came across an institution where an academic developer makes contactwith a new appointee as soon as they arrive during the semester so that the lack of attendance at an institutional induction is alleviated. An alternative to this is an online induction if an academic developer is not available for a face to face session.
 I therefore recommend that that knowledge and skills be considered that will prepare newly appointed academic staff for the context that they are entering. Besides educational technology skills, an overview can be given on relevant institutional policies (assessment, scholarship of teaching and learning, student feedback, study guides etc).
In the initial induction session therefore an overview should be given of what to be aware of and then after assuming duty professional knowledge and skills can be broadened and deepended over a series of sessions spread over the semester since it takes time for professional growth to take place. Induction programs generally suffer from an overload of information and become counter productive.

Schalk Fredericks
North-West University

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