AuthorsHolland, Fiona G.
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractThis study explored the complexity of working and teaching within one English post -1992 university from the perspectives of thirteen members of academic staff. Work relationships, work load and perception of the management’s support of teaching were investigated via semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) as a theoretical framework. This method offered a way to analyse and interpret the experiences of lecturers working in Higher Education by maintaining a focus on the academics’ own words. Previous research using IPA has been established within health and counselling fields (Smith et al, 2009) and its use within educational settings is emergent (Creanor, Trinder, Gowan et al, 2008; Biggerstaff and Thompson, 2008). The academics interviewed mostly entered higher education with no formal teacher training and many found their initial time in the role to be stressful and poorly managed. Support mechanisms (induction, mentoring, team teaching, teacher training courses) were described as being areas that could all be improved. The dramatic metaphorical language used to describe their entry into the HE system vividly depicted these challenges. The capturing of this highly expressive language offered new insight into understanding the lives of lecturing staff. Participants expressed their working lives with multiple references to the language of war, battle and struggle. Aspects of both vulnerability and tenacity were present in the findings, with the responses to challenges being expressed in both positive and negative ways. Most participants found that the levels of university bureaucracy impeded their teaching effectiveness; they battled with time management and felt tension between the levels of control, audit and freedom within their roles. This was somewhat ameliorated by the satisfaction they gained from teaching their students. The majority described students as consumers who were increasingly demanding and had varied abilities which created challenges for the lecturers. Traditional HE lecture-based techniques were perceived to be less effective in engaging students and most participants actively tried new methods of teaching, despite having little knowledge of theoretical aspects of learning to support this work. Few had experienced formal observation mechanisms and there were mixed responses about the level of support they received from their colleagues around teaching and its associated administrative tasks. The interviewed academics did not perceive that teaching was overtly valued by their superiors as their efforts remained largely unrecognised by those in senior management. Insights into the complex lives of the lecturers gave the researcher scope to create initiatives to promote positive change and make recommendations to senior management that could foster further improvements. In light of the data collected, the induction processes were changed to include more consistent mentoring, peer teaching observation groups (peer learning circles) were coordinated and staff development was organised to facilitate enhanced support for lecturers.
CitationHolland, Fiona G. (2012) Teaching in higher education: working without a map, University of Derby
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