As an educational developer, I belong to the “profession dedicated to helping colleges and universities function effectively as teaching and learning communities” (Felten, Kalish, Pingree, & Plank, 2007, p.93).
That I am drawn to the above definition means it resonates with my approach: one that is centered on helping and is attentive to community.
My work as a senior educational developer focuses on supporting faculty members in their career growth and progression. In that capacity, I coach, consult, plan, implement and evaluate programs, facilitate, and provide input into guidelines and policies. My aim is to provide helpful help (Schein, 2009) that will enhance teaching and learning on campus. My ultimate goal, however, is to augment the wellbeing of educators as this is something I care deeply about and which deserves much attention (Mudrak et al., 2018).
In my role as helper, I am keenly attentive to academic culture, which I define as the established norms, behaviours, structures, and rituals that exist on campus, in faculties and within the departments, and which have an important influence on all processes. Consequently, in my work, I engage in humble inquiry1(Schein, 2009), asking questions that help us uncover aspects of context and culture that need to be taken into account as we address an issue. For example, when I work within a department to create and implement their peer review of teaching policy or program, I inquire into relevant needs and goals and past events that might shape and/or have impact upon their peer review process. Then, as I consult with individuals from the department, we can make reference to—and build upon—this shared knowledge and understanding. I recognize that the people who best understand the complexity of the problems/challenges they are undertaking are also the ones who have the in-depth knowledge of their micro-culture2 (Roxå and Mårtensson, 2015).
In one-way or another, all my work within and outside the centre, is collaborative. I adopt a collaborative approach with individuals and within teams. Collaboration is one of my core values and also a core value (Educational Developers Caucus, nd) of the professional community to which I belong and actively participate in. Collaboration allows me to share, learn, build relationships, and discover.
The academic environment has been described as an “organized anarchy”3 (Kezar, 2001, p. 71) in which individuals typically operate in siloes, driven by their values (Kezar, 2001). Within this context, academics often feel isolated from their colleagues (Cox, 2013).
The above aspects of academia disturb me and, thus, in my educational developer role I help people achieve or strengthen their sense of belonging, endeavour to connect people with shared values to one another, and aim to foster trust and interaction among those who have similar goals for enhancing teaching and student learning. In these ways, I work to build community, where community is defined as “a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together” (McMillan and Chavis, 1986, p. 9, cited in Rovai, 2002). At the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, one program I recently facilitated involved bringing together a small group of educators who are involved in the First Year Experience for a “mastermind group”; the format I designed allowed for peer learning, and sharing and addressing challenges.
Scholarship and Reflection
I am curious and inquisitive and deeply enjoy learning and sharing. I love to read and build my understanding of educational development from the research and experience of others so that I can, as relevant, apply these new/modified/enriched understandings to my practice. In addition, I grow through a regular reflective practice and when my colleagues and I passionately discuss and consider our work. I actively share about educational development via informal and formal means and write a blog.
Why I Stay
My educational development practice has grown and evolved thanks to the colleagues I collaborate with, regular self-reflection, and other scholarship I engage in; and–-of course–-through practice.
Like many others, I came to educational development by chance (McDonald, 2010); my decision to stay, however, has been intentional. I stay because I believe the work of educational developers matters to the individuals and communities in higher education. I also stay because this work fuels my love of learning, continually. And so, I am energized as I grow my skills in coaching, process consulting and facilitation, my knowledge of how the brain works, my understanding of program evaluation…and the list goes on! Finally—and possibly most importantly—I stay because the professional values and ethics of educational development align with my own personal values of fostering positive relationships, proceeding responsibly and with integrity, and treasuring growth.
- Humble inquiry is used in process consultation and is a term derived from the work of Edgar Schein. Schein defines it as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions, to which you do not already know the answers, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.”(Schein, 2013, p. 2). For a good summary of humble inquiry, see here.
- Microcultures is a “unifying term for culturally formed organizational entities like workgroups, workplaces, programme boards, departments, sub-departments, disciplinary communities, and the like.” (Roxå and Mårtensson, 2015).
- Organized anarchies “have inherently ambiguous goals, unclear technology, and fluid participation, and are uncertain, unpredictable, and nonlinear (Birnbaum, 1991 cited in Kezar 2001 p.71).
Cox, M. D. (2013). The impact of communities of practice in support of early-career academics. International Journal for Academic Development, 18(1), 18-30.
Educational Developers Caucus of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (n.d). Values. Retrieved from http://www.stlhe.ca/constituencies/educational-developers-caucus/edc-values/.
Felten, P., Kalish, A., Pingree, A., & Plank, K. (2007). Toward a scholarship of teaching and learning in educational development. In D. Robertson & L. Nilson (Eds.), To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development, Vol 25 (pp. 93–108). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kezar, A. (2001). Understanding and facilitating organizational change in the 21st century: Recent research and conceptualizations. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, 28(4). doi:10.1002/aehe.2804
McDonald, J. (2010). Charting pathways into the field of educational development. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 122, 37-45. doi: 10.1002/tl.396
Mudrak, J., Zabrodska, K., Kveton, P., Jelinek, M., Blatny, M., Solcova, I., & Machovcova, K. (2018). Occupational well-being among university faculty: A job demands-resources model. Research in Higher Education, 59(3), 325-348.
Roxå, T. and Mårtensson, K. (2015). Microcultures and informal learning: a heuristic guiding analysis of conditions for informal learning in local higher education workplaces. International Journal for Academic Development, 20(2), 193–205. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1029929
Rovai, A. (2002). Building sense of community at a distance. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/79/152
Schein, E. (2009). Helping: How to offer, give and receive help. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Photo credit: Bramante Staircase by Nikos Koutoulas (CC BY)
Updated: March 2020