Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Developing our teaching doesn’t normally generate the kind of rewards that developing our research brings forth; that can sometimes makes pedagogic inquiry a dissuasive experience. It needn’t be so, in this case. This blog is about getting something back from the time and effort we invest as a result of looking at Multimedia Learning (MML) methods as both means and end. The end is pedagogic, but that process can also become the means to developmental ends; I’m referring to the pedagogic research as a means to furthering our Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It can work for us, as much as we work for it. I see two levels at which our own engagement with pedagogic inquiry can help us, with some overlap between the two. The first concerns promotion within your institution. The second is external. This might include elevation to the various Fellowships of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) as was, or to the equivalent appointments in the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA), or whatever the equivalent is where you are.
Passing probation, surviving PDR and getting promotion – all elements of CPD - are increasingly dependent on evidence of good/ best/excellent practice in pedagogy, depending on institutional vernacular and emphasis. That’s no bad thing. Judging from the number of times I’ve seen university employees deliver the most dreadful learning and teaching experience, some kind of review process is a reasonable development, and many people benefit from career support at one point or another. But our professional development structure tends to emphasise disciplinary research and it is for this that we are mostly recognised, acknowledged and rewarded. This inevitably leaves us little time – and sometimes less motivation - to develop our teaching in line with how institutional CPD is evolving. This blog aims to help us make our interest in pedagogic inquiry work for our own ends, in addition to the ends of pedagogy for our students.
CPD for internal recognition almost always identifies such an emphasis as evidence of conformity with best practice. The act of trying something new out is a handy definition of innovation, and where you can place it in a wider assessment context, you have evidence of integrated, continuous, rigorous application of innovation. I’ll be looking at how we might make initial, sometimes quite informal and tentative investigations into sustained and substantial pedagogic development later in this blog, but for now it’s enough to think of it as quite a natural progression we are already both familiar and comfortable with if we are professional researchers. For those on teaching-only contracts, it is not a great leap of logic to establish a testing regime to determine utility and validity of a chosen pedagogic approach. Start small, and build up.
Approach and context
Another element of internal CPD is evidence of contextualization – of being aware of the relationship of what we are doing, to what has already been done and recorded in the peer-reviewed press. This sounds a lot like what we would do in our disciplinary research, but according to Cotton et al (2018), such inquiry into pedagogy will be treated less seriously even if we take rigorous measures. Pedagogic research will remain the ‘Cinderella’ of the academy until such endeavours are ‘viewed inherently as research… rather than as scholarship’ of teaching and learning. But we shouldn’t let such a view put us off. We may not be ready, or willing, to make the move from the seemingly less-valued idea of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) to full-on pedagogic research for REF submission, but we don’t have to - and we can choose to at any later point we might choose. SoTL is clearly outlined at the University of Edinburgh, where they usefully identified 3 elements:
Relating your own inquiry to the established work of peers in apposite literature
Determining the effect of your teaching innovation on your students’ learning
Disseminating your findings for wider professional consideration