Engaging Research-Focused Staff in Higher Education in a Course in Teaching and Learning

There are some broad strategies that are already in place aimed at attracting research-focused staff to various formal and informal teaching and learning courses in many Higher Education institutions. For example, potential participants are exempted from a course module based on existing qualifications they possess; using a diploma course in teaching and learning as a prerequisite to a Master’s degree and/or linking the certification received by staff after completing a course in teaching and learning to professional status and a qualification such as fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

While these are pitched at the programme level and help to make the course attractive, the main strategy for keeping staff engaged in a course of study is to create a climate conducive to learning and their needs.

Firstly, creating a climate conducive to learning and participants’ needs involves a number of things. However, critical to this process is attending to the interests of the participants. As much as possible, gather information on past and present participants’ perceptions of the course and their research concerns and interests. This is important for a number of reasons. Engaging in this activity allows the teacher to

Get to know each participant and facilitate the building of relationship between teacher and participants.
Plan activities and utilise materials that are culturally and contextually relevant which makes it easier for participants to visualize learning transference in their respective contexts.
Present information on which there is some interest.
The insight participants will leave with from this data gathering exercises is that adults always appreciate being a part of their own development.

Secondly, creating a climate conducive to learning and the needs of the participant also includes finding out what they hope to gain by participating in each module and /or the entire course. This is best done during the first session of each module and via open discussion where appropriate questions could be asked. A variation on this approach is to ask them what they already know about the module or topic to be explored and what they would like to know.

Having gained their responses incorporate these in the lesson plans. During subsequent lessons prepare for, and discuss the areas or concerns raised by participants. What you will find is that ascertaining what participants’ would like to know and addressing these will allow them to become more attentive during the presentation. This is especially so, when their area of concern is being addressed. Also critical is involving them in developing and evaluating the curriculum by getting their feedback via feedback sheets given at the end of each module.

Finally, actively involve participants during lessons. This is very important because adult learners love to participate in the learning process (Jarvis, 1996). There are a variety of methods to be used such as: Reflection-on-practice and Reflective Journaling. These allow participants the opportunity to think critically and question their goals and values which guide their work, the context in which they teach, and assumptions they make about teaching (Zeichner and Liston, 1996). Action research. Participants could design and implement potential case studies/projects/research based on their teaching situation and publish the findings in relevant reputable journals. This contributes to the development of a scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL).

Problem base learning. Participants collaborate in the learning process using problem-based techniques to address issues/problems. Project based learning. Participants work in groups using multi-source information and creating authentic products or solutions. Professional Portfolio development. This allows participants to examine and articulate their personal instructional theory, and can be useful in accessing fellow status such as fellow of the Higher Education, Research Development Society of Australasia (FHERDSA) or fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

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