University teacher development program impact beyond graduation: More than changing the individual.

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 40: Curriculum Transformation

June, 2017, 455 pages
Published by
Ruth Walker & Simon Bedford

The common contexts, purposes and evaluation models of university teacher development (UTD) programs all reflect an expectation that the influence of the program will endure and spread once participants graduate. Such programs are expected to have impact beyond the individual participant and to affect the academic practices of participants’ colleagues, departments and institution. Evaluation of these programs has focussed primarily on the endurance of program outcomes associated with individual participants’ conceptions and approaches, rather than influence on practices in the context of the academic community and institution. Consequently, evidence of this kind of impact is limited. This paper evaluates the impact of UTD programs on both individuals and the organisations and communities in which they work through a close examination of one such program. We explore the experiences of nine participants from various countries working in their home institutions following completion of a discipline-specific Masters of Education program. The program’s philosophy and structure closely mirrored centrally run UTD programs, offering modules in student learning, scholarship of teaching and learning, evaluation, assessment and curriculum design.

Impact studies of UTD programs traditionally report on changes in individual participants’ conceptions. This study shows that those changed conceptions influence participants’ work and, to varying extents, become shared public property amongst participants’ colleagues and workgroups. Participants shared their ideas with colleagues, in their workgroups, in instances of strategic citizenship (such as committees) and instances of scholarship (such as conferences). The ideas shared are often participants’ critical reinterpretation of existing teaching, assessment and curriculum practices. Generative, reflective dialogue, particularly the re-interpretation of the premises of existing practices, can engender a collective sense of valuing teaching and supporting innovation in organisations. In many cases, however, it may lead to contestation with participants reporting on their own contesting and resisting of existing routines and of having colleagues contest and resist their ideas and actions. To unravel this underexplored aspect of program impact this study uses a hermeneutic approach to analysing interviews as texts to examine how practice, as a collective entity, bridges individual actions and organisational culture. This approach to interpreting impact will inform curriculum transformation within professional development programs and better equip participants in such programs to foster innovation in the teaching and curriculum design practices located in their workgroups.

Keywords: practice, capacity building, professional learning