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Looking at ‘Development in the disciplines’

5 February 2012

Chapter 9, by Caroline Baillie, in A guide to staff and educational development, ed. Kahn & Baume

How well did this text mirror your own situation? And what were the gaps or points of contention?

I read Baillie’s history of recent trends in educational development from an Australian perspective and from my own career experience.

1. The 1980s – I was an undergraduate at a large university, where generic advice on learning was available, but only through the student assistance centre.

2. In the early 1990s, I worked in an Educational Services unit where the lead academics had left their discipline-specific teaching to the side, and brought to the unit the talents they had in ‘process’ – project management, quality control, quality feedback, technical communication, networking, empathy, etc. We were focussed on distance learners, and rarely extended our help and insights to on-campus teaching sessions, although they did let us help with course design and curriculum mapping.

The other academics in the team were instructional designers, and their research focus was on electronic tools.

3. In the late 1990s I was a tutor at the same large university, and experienced a wonderful opportunity in professional development when I was directed to complete a three-day course on ‘principles of learning and teaching’. Great facilitators, focussed and relevant and inspiring topics, and the opportunity to meet  new tutors from across all faculties.

4. I continued to work for the Educational Services unit into the late 1990s, and was able to ‘intern’ with the science faculty who were developing electronic lab sessions: the focus was on the tools, rather than the teaching staff, but there was certainly a more sophisticated level of learning analysis happening because of the expense and complexity of developing these tools. The project team was large, as e-learning materials development in those days typically required a number of specialists.

Baillie’s history mentions UK funding entities that I haven’t heard of, although I do no the TLTP acronym.

5. Today – the career educational developer. I don’t know whether my academic subject will be educational development, but I would like to research more into the materials development side of higher and other education.

Working from within the discipline

pp. 147 ff.

This week I had to clarify for Human Resources that a new staff appointment was not in the Learning and Teaching Centre but a new Centre for Learning and Teaching Health. In universities and in my work publishing for government, I have seen this cycle repeat – a centralised unit of skilled staff is under-resourced, so a wealthy branch of the organisation hires its own specialists to avoid any bottlenecks or under-servicing. There are frustrating issues of duplication of effort and multiplication of work systems, which can only be combatted by a huge commitment to good communication and, sadly, quality, lengthy documentation.

In publishing it is easier to track who is responsible for what, but the trace on staff development is harder to analyse. If a Health Sciences lecturer is able to make significant innovations and improvements in a unit, will that be due to LTC or CLT4H?

Where this working from within the discipline should be particularly effective is charted in Baillie’s Figure 9.1 (p. 148), with national networks. This should also extend to the OER and sharing of learning designs, under the axiom ‘Don’t re-invent the wheel’.

One Comment leave one →
  1. pennyjw permalink*
    5 February 2012 11:26 am

    Related links for Caroline Baillie:


    Engineering, social justice, and peace

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