Tom Delahunt, from the School of Nursing at Canterbury Christ Church University participated in our Navigating Health and Social Care Teaching event. This CPD opportunity is specifically designed with new academics in mind. Tom is currently undertaking his Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) as part of his HEA fellowship journey. Tom shares his reflections on what new to teaching in Health and Social Care means to him and his academic practice.
Early on you may find yourself with an ambivalent appreciation of academic institutions - I did. I think two things were at play here. Firstly as a new health academic, the process of transition from clinical excellence to novice educator is a tricky identity dilemma. Secondly I became acutely aware that I was influenced by my own student experience with borderline dyslexia.
The terms used on the university corridors, within curriculum planning meetings and as part of learning and teaching strategy are endless. Pedagogy, andragogy, epistemology, ontology, constructivism, and phenomenography - the list continues and at times a phrase book is needed (or even the HEAtoZ)! But as a new academic your immediate concern is what these really mean for your own teaching and the learners you are working with. In truth, I am unable to decode some of the terms and have difficulty engaging with some topics but what I do have in my control is the ability to better understand me as a learner during my PGCAP. This has prompted me to think about other learners and the ideas around inclusive learning environments and blended learning theory (as a starting point of course!)
I will admit at this stage I had not appreciated the depth of the challenge that comes from working within and manipulating a learning environment that responds to styles of teaching and learning. Biggs (2001) discusses the nature of quality as value for money, as fit for purpose and as transforming. He suggests the first two are more a process of place, stature and funding. He asserts that the learning within these environments is limited to attainment of publicly recognisable standards. The transformation is more about a cognitive movement, a deeper learning. This looks at quality in terms of how it transforms the interaction with the real world problems and the culture of the institution itself.
As part of my HEA fellowship journey I am undertaking the PGCAP within my institution. This programme is an ideal context to put pedagogic ideas into testable hypotheses within my teaching practice. Here’s one that I am currently tackling: Hypothesis: Nursing needs to engage in the nature of nursing as a therapy, and therefore the first-year nursing student needs to be able to recognise and feel content, confident with themselves ahead of developing a professional identity.
It is ideal to develop themes of learning though constructive alignment over the topic of study or content of the module. Biggs (1996) talks about teaching methods and the assessment being systematically aligned to the nominated performances of understanding.What does this mean to me and the nature of my methods and developing understanding of how to facilitate learning?
This question is easy when you have a grasp of your own professional identity…but as I alluded to my professional identity has been blurred with the move into academia. It is very difficult to see your role in a system and delivery model that is so unfamiliar. Give me a patient and I have a canvas I understand and I can predict responses and feel comfortable with the process of advanced practice and consultation. This I brought into the class room initially as a sessional tutor but now I am delivering on behalf of the university as a member of full-time staff. It suddenly felt different and unfamiliar; the students no longer felt like my peers but like clients.
In her Ted talk ‘the power of yet’, Dweck (2014) describes the fixed mindset and clarifies that it is often as a result of negative feedback from others regarding learning. Within Dweck’s studies she was able to take children who were in schools that would consider academic failure as inevitable to a place where they were out-performing peers having been moved to growth mindsets. I need to continue to explore and reflect on my own learning processes to inform my “transition” to academia.
The professional transition has felt like an entirely new beginning. It has meant that professional and personal reflections going back to my own formative education were needed in order for me to understand my own learning style.
In the work of McArthur-Rouse (2008) it is clear that often the nature and challenges of the transition can lead to a very deep and real imposter complex. These concerns and feelings need to be unpacked and a forum for that would be ideal: as Garrison, (2007) suggests, a learning community is “a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in purposeful critical discourse and reflection to construct meaning and confirm mutual understanding”.
It’s vital for all new professionals entering academia to feel that they are ‘not alone’ and in this symbiosis a rich and valuable discourse can develop.