We have undertaken to develop the module on learning and teaching theories for the Induction program.
One of the reasons for our interest in this particular topic was that both of us have had extensive experience in assisting applicants for Learning and Teaching grants and awards, and in preparing and mentoring staff for Higher Education Academy Fellowships. In both these mentoring roles, we have found that most applicants have little knowledge of the higher education literature, and the long history of educational research, principles of teaching, and how students learn. Nor can staff readily call on theory to support their learning and teaching approaches and practices. At best, there may be a single reference in applications to Biggs and Tang (which is of course, a standard text in higher education), or a brief reference to Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, as an argument for ‘social learning’.
As teaching academics, we need to be ‘double professionals’ who know about not only the seminal work in our discipline field, but also how that discipline is best taught. There are specialist journals in teaching particular disciplines and professions, and the module on Scholarly Teaching directs your attention to such journals, but there is a rich literature in learning and teaching in general, and if you are to think reflectively and deeply about your practices for teaching students effectively, you should have some knowledge of this literature, and the significant theories that shape or have shaped our current pedagogies. We would have liked to have included a lot more in our module but it was not feasible given the limited amount of time participants will have to spend on each module.
Our module so far consists of some learning activities, video sections, some links to several short documents, and an MCQ, to ‘test’ that you have a very basic knowledge of the education theorists. It also, as a stretch activity, includes making a voki, to encourage participants to use a free app that may open up a world of new technologies that can be used to engage students in this digital world. The voki activity is at the icebreaker level. It starts to get participants thinking about articulating their first thoughts about their philosophies of teaching. Participants will need to continue to grapple with the development of their teaching philosophies and may need some other form of professional development, like mentoring to fully develop written artefacts.
We would welcome any comments you have for the scope of the module, and any resources we might consider essential.
Sue Bolt and Yoni Ryan