Educational development as an ongoing conversation of mutual exploration
In struggling with the implication that educational developers work to “develop” others, Cranton (2006) articulated, “it is [instructors] who develop; it is I who provide suggestions, resources, and activities for that journey”. In this journey, I see myself not as a guide but a fellow traveller. My work is a dialogical activity of meeting others where they are at, learning about their teaching ambitions, and building on where we might go together through conversation. As part of Western’s TSC Curriculum Team, I offer resources and activities that serve as a starting point for ongoing conversation for curriculum development and review. I offer my expertise of curriculum theory, design, and the cyclical review process but predicate my success on facilitating rich dialogue that addresses the contextualized needs and goals of my collaborators.
I am an interpreter and advocate of educational literature
While I take an approach of mutual development, I also embrace my expert position as an interpreter, advocate, and producer of educational literature. There is always a scholarly basis for what I do and it is my responsibility make this an explicit part of my practice. As an interpreter, I offer insights based on what I study and learn. As an advocate, I consolidate information to improve access and inspire curiosity. As a producer, I engage in various collaborative research initiatives to investigate important questions related to the scholarship of teaching and learning.
My work on developing a rubric for evaluating eLearning technologies, co-authored with Gavan Watson, is an example of my literature informed practice. The rubric combines practice knowledge with literature-based evidence to offer a holistic framework for evaluating eLearning tools on technological, pedagogical, and social measures. I now regularly apply this rubric to my practice, through consults, resource development, and scholarly dissemination.
I tinker with messy, iterative challenges
As an educational developer, I regularly feel as though I am presented with “the problems of real-world practice” that do not present themselves as well-formed problems, “but as messy indeterminate situations” (Schön, 1987, p. 4). In this context, my creativity skills and ability to adapt, learn quickly, and grow have flourished. Most importantly, I play.
I engage in my practice with, what Thomas & Brown (2011) call, a playful attitude and a questing disposition: I imagine, experiment, test, and tinker. I explore a multitude of resources and avenues with the belief that the solutions I seek are experimental, innovative, and constantly evolving. This approach is best exemplified in my eLearning consultations. With a plethora of technologies available and complex situational factors to consider, the answers instructors seek to integrating technology into their teaching are rarely straight-forward. I often begin with a discussion of their intended learning outcomes and goals. We then test and tinker together to find the best fit between technologies and teaching practice. I find this approach works effectively to help instructors weigh their options and develop competencies for practical use and application of technologies in their teaching.
I value and model thoughtful integration of technologies for teaching and learning
I hold educational technologies to high expectations – I believe technology should not just enhance teaching and learning it should redefine and transform it (Puentedura, 2010). I aim to model this belief through my own use of technology. For instance, I’ve developed and lead a workshop on Open Educational Resources built largely from open content. The design of this workshop allows me to not only model potentials and effective use of OERs, but it also enables me to ‘go meta’ and offer perspectives from first-hand use of the materials.
I am alert to emergent fissures of opportunity for change and continuous improvement
Increasingly, Educational Developers are being called upon to act as change agents. For me, this means aiming to be the type of change agent who is alert to the emergence of fissures that reveal possibilities for change (Land, 2014). For instance, in 2015 I developed an Award for Online Teaching that will celebrate Western’s eLearning leaders and support the development of community across campus. However, I take further inspiration from Debra Dawson (2016) who advocated: don’t be satisfied being a change agent, aim to be a change leader. I strive to be an instigator of new initiatives that challenge the stories we tell ourselves about university education and what is possible.
Dawson, D. (2016). Christopher Knapper lifetime achievement award presentation. Annual Conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Empowering Learners, Effecting Change. June 21-24, 2016, London, ON.
Land, R. (2004). Educational Development: Discourse, Identity and Practice. New York, NY: Open University Press.
Nilson, L. B. & Miller, J. E. (2009). Ethical guidelines for educational developers. In L. B. Nilson & J. E. Miller (Eds.) To Improve the Academy Vol. 27. (pp. xxxvii-xxli). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Puentedura, R. (2010). SAMR: A contextualized introduction. http://hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/01/15/SAMRABriefContextualizedIntroduction.pdf
Schön, D.A. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner. London: Temple Smith.
Thomas D. & Brown, J. S. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change. USA: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.