Congruous with the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the University of Salford have noticed, that Higher Education (HE) is under scrutiny from stakeholders as never before, particularly in terms of the value and quality of HE, and demonstrating excellence and success in student centred learning and teaching. Furthermore, the HEA acknowledge that the way that teaching excellence is defined can vary considerably depending on professional context in HE.
Working within the School Health & Society /School of Health Sciences at the University of Salford and being health and social care professionals, student centred teaching and learning is synonymous with patient and client centred care. Coming from a health and social care discipline, defining teaching excellence is not difficult for us - everything that we do should contribute to excellent patient/client care: doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. Importantly however is the need for our definition or a definition of teaching excellence to be agreed by all those who have a vested interest in developing the current and future health and social care workforce. Stakeholders include students, academics, practice partners and the wider university
We read with interest Stephanie Marshalls report Rising to the challenges of Tomorrow (HEA 2017), particularly a key challenge identified around the area of teaching and learning with the need to address university barriers such as structures and processes, and organisational cultures that may traditionally have valued research more highly than student education.
Given the unanimous position by respondents in Stephanie’s report that teaching excellence has to be a priority Stephanie poses the question on how best to support staff in rising to the meeting of this challenge (she does raise further challenges in the document). One way is to foster a culture of quality and enhancement, through dialogue and collaboration.
Here at Salford we have set up an Educational Research and Scholarship Cluster.
This cluster sits within the Centre for Applied Research in Health, Welfare and Policy (CARe) and our objectives include in part to enhance student learning and experience through innovative approaches to teaching and learning and through staff development. Our aim to rebalance a university culture that is perceived to value research more highly than student education.
Taking on board the findings from Stephanie’s report reading barriers, structures and systems that support teaching and learning coupled with our vision to empower staff and students to engage with educational research and scholarship we are attempting to cultivate Communities of Practice (CoP) and have identified potential CoP Key areas:
- Practice learning and simulation,
- Clinical and academic leadership
- Inter-professional education
- Research informed teaching
- Book writing
What are communities of practice?
Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope (Wenger-Trayner 2015)
The realities of cultivating CoP’s is proving easier said than done, therefore drawing on the HEA community (National Teaching Fellow and Principal Fellow Higher Education Academy) a call out was made for experience or information around methodologies to evaluate the cultivation of COP’s. We are at the stage where as a cluster there are emergent CoP’s and we are interested in capturing or evaluating how our CoP’s are socially cultivated (emerge), how they are sustained and impact from the CoP’s on the student experience and leadership development of the group. Generating this type of evidence supports a HE culture of outcomes based education and indeed can help demonstrate the value and quality of HE in relation to the health, social care and society agenda. CoP’s may also provide the systems and reduce the barriers that impact on student success.
The response was amazing and offered are CoP methodologies through current and completed PhD, resources such as websites and books, and ideas around consultation with experts in the field. We have also been invited to share our work at a forthcoming conference around practice learning. We are now reviewing the information provided and then will plan our methodology to evaluate. Our approach will not only help us as an organisation to demonstrate student excellence but also engage staff who are not necessarily those who engage in research and or evaluation. Our approach will address the global challenges through generating a body of evidence around education based outcomes, whilst at the same time having fun!
Reviewing the responses from the PFHEA and NTF community what is evident is the need for not only strong leadership when creating CoP’s but to foster followership; be willing to allow people take risks and using the analogy from one respondent:
“Sow the seeds in fertile ground and nurture over time, rather than use fully grown plants and expect them to survive.” (Richard Cure Head of Dentistry Studies, The University of Warwick).
This analogy makes sense to us and there has been a certain nativity in terms of trying to run before walking with us now recognising the need for nurturing the green shoots that have popped up from the most unexpected places and people.
A parting question for discussion and feedback:
What would your methodological approach look like that would demonstrate impact when cultivating Communities of Practice- Impact from whose perspective?
For further information contact Dr Jacqueline Leigh email@example.com