Back to search

FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Formation and Competence Building of University Academic Developers Formation and Competence building of University Academic Developers

Alternative title: Universitetspedagogers danning og kompetanseutvikling

Awarded: NOK 6.9 mill.

The starting point for this research and competence building project, was public universities' societal mandate and their responsibility to educate highly qualified professionals who know how to contribute to the good of society. Another premise was that project participants at two Norwegian, two Swedish, and one North American public tried out principles of deliberative communication as a pedagogy to promote public good in their work with educational leaders and teachers. Deliberative communication/attitude was also used as a research approach in combination with a reflexive, critical friend and insider ?outsider approach. A core interest in the project has been to develop more insight into how the principles of ?deliberative communication? (building on the acceptance of diversity, tolerance and respect for different perspectives with the aim of negotiating ?legitimate compromises?) as a pedagogy in teaching and leading and it might be lived out in university pedagogical courses and consultation work. Deliberative communication was also tried out as a research approach within the project group. Seven of the project team members have held the dual role of university academic developers and researchers, while three of the participants have held the role of researcher only. We have researched each other's practices, and used the 'insider-outsider' method in combination with 'critical friends' who have conducted pre-conversations before action, video recordings of various practices and post-conversations based on video recordings. In addition, vice-chancellors for education, director of studies, deans, department heads and heads of academic development units and their academic developers have been interviewed about their university?s mission and the roles and responsibilities of academic developers to contribute to fulfill this mission. Most significant contributions of the project is the development of new theory on leadership (deliberative leadership) in combination with the empirical findings on the formative influence of political governance and local university managements? interpretation of their university?s mission on higher education and its actors? agencies. The research has not aimed at developing any ?best practice?, but rather to gain more insight into the formation of university academic developers? agency and the relational dynamics of leading and teaching practices when leading and teaching in ?webs of commitments? when the aim is to contribute to making higher education as and for public good. A key finding is that deliberative communication building on the acceptance of diversity, tolerance and respect for different perspectives with the aim of negotiating "legitimate compromises" is demanding, yet absolutely necessary, in a time of increased complexity and competing demands for higher education institutions when the purpose is to contribute to uphold democratic values and strengthen society's collective values. The project also shows that the responsibilities of academic developers are changing dramatically and their work can be described as a growing ?web of obligations?. They are expected to lead educational quality work and engage as ?brokers? in the tensions created between different expectations from politicians, institution leaders, university teachers and students in addition to their traditional work of mentoring individual teachers to improve teaching. However, the findings also identify major local differences. Universities 'different orientations to and university leaders' implicit leadership theories affect the expectations to academic developers? work, thus also their roles and responsibilities, status and working conditions. Such differences significantly affect the individual academic developers? formation and agency to live out their educational responsibility. This requires a high degree of awareness of what change academic developers may make, and how they can negotiate ?legitimate compromises? in both vertical and horizontal relations. Findings from the project have been disseminated at several national and international conferences and core result were published during the project period in several international journal. A substantial publication is the co-authored book Leading Higher Education As and For Public Good - Rekindling Education as Praxis, published on Routledge in March 2020. The project was formally concluded with an international on-line (due to Covid 19) day conference 29 April 2021 (originally planned as a physical conference on 7 May 2020), but the research continues with ongoing publications, and has led to new research projects focusing on strengthening the quality of education and developing sustainable management and teaching practices.

Ved at prosjektet setter nettopp samfunnsansvaret og hvordan lede og undervise på inkluderende måter og behovet for å fremforhandle legitime kompromisser i komplekse institusjoner på bærekraftige måter, i sentrum, vil dette bidra til en danning for ansatte og studenter i høyere utdanning som øker bevisstheten om hvordan jobbe på måter som er mer bærekraftig, demokratisk og kollektivt orientert. Formidlingen fortsetter i uformelle som formelle fora, og de av oss som er ledere av ulike sentre med ansvar for å lede utdanningskvalitetsarbeid, har gjennom prosjektet utviklet ny forskningsbasert kunnskap om muligheter og potensielle hindringer for dette, men også strategier for å lede mer kollektivt for å bidra til at høyere utdanning blir et gode for alle studenter (og ansatte) og som bidrar til at studentene lærer hvordan bidra til mer bærekraftige samfunn i fremtiden

The starting point for the project is how universities may teach values, beliefs, and moral responsibilities to upheld the public good. Universities are entrusted with responsibility to provide society with highly skilled professionals, citizens, and leaders, to work for both individual and public interests. However many universities are under pressure in ways that might emphasise economic over moral and social dimensions. Many universities have in recent years established a professional position of academic developers in order to support university teachers and leaders in developing high quality education and learning environments. Situated between institutional leaders, who articulate their visions and goals for a university, and their academic teaching colleagues, academic developers are in a unique position to influence the formation of their teaching colleagues and in turn students, and ultimately their universities. Despite a growing investment in academic developers, there is a dearth of research on how academic developers enact their university aspirations and there is a lack of studies on the values and dispositions that academic developers seek to cultivate when working with university teachers and leaders. This project will answer to the call by studying and advancing academic developers' capacities to support university staff responsible for education in their endeavour to transform the universities' societal mandate into practice. It will particularly pay attention to how academic developers reflect upon the values underpinning their work, and it will support them to enhance their awareness of the formation that they - as well as their colleagues and students undergo during studies and work in universities. The project will also develop knowledge on how uiversity's priorities influence the formation and competence building of their staff and in turn students.

Funding scheme:

FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren