Academic practice and values

The articles in this issue illustrate a range of roles and responsibilities that higher education staff take on within their broad remit of academic practice. As the Higher Education Academy completes its consultation on its review of the UK Professional Standards Framework this is a good time to consider the roles of staff in teaching and learning. The collection of papers here clearly demonstrate the roles of staff in and designing and evaluating methods and resources for both teaching and support of learning. These are familiar roles which we expect of all teachers.

The papers in this issue demonstrate their authors’ professional values as well as these familiar roles. Sarah Stevens shows the importance of being prepared to reconsider the choices made previously to the extent of challenging the accepted orthodoxy of how teaching is conducted within the discipline, demonstrating her ‘commitment to incorporating the process and outcomes of relevant research, scholarship and/or professional practice’. Donna Hurford and Andrew Read expand our notion of academic practice even further talking explicitly their professional commitments to collaboration such as through engagement with professional networks and dialogue.  Whatever the exact shape of the revised Professional Standards Framework, it will continue to be based on professional values such as those we have seen here. I hope that by reading and contributing to BeJLT we, as a community of higher education teachers, can promote our professional values and make them more visible.

Sarah Stevens opens the issue on familiar ground with a paper describing the rationale behind choosing particular teaching methods for students within the final year of the Architecture degree at Oxford Brookes University. This exploratory investigation demonstrates the value of collecting student feedback in evaluations of established pedagogic approaches. In this case Sarah finds that whereas the rationale for the critique is well established as supporting constructive learning, students report that the ‘crits’ generate anxiety and promote strategic approaches to learning. This study is a useful reminder of the need to evaluate not only new teaching methods, but to be prepared to revisit our assumptions for established methods.

Patrick Baughan’s reflects on the creation of StudyWell, a suite of interactive online resources for students at City University, which has been created to support students as they develop strategies for ‘positive study skills’, ‘plagiarism prevention’ and ‘academic honesty’. Like many universities around the world which have drawn on Jude Carroll’s holistic approach to plagiarism prevention (Carroll 2007), these student-focused resources complement course teams’ work in designing out plagiarism by ‘designing in’ effective study strategies. As well as demonstrating what is becoming established practice in institutional approaches to academic conduct, this paper shares an approach to the familiar issue of how to draw together advice and guidance for students into a single, accessible, web-based resource.

Donna Hurford and Andrew Read share a model for collaborative research and writing developed from their experiences of working together. In this paper they take ethnographic approach to retrospectively analysing the records of their everyday practice.  They note that there are aspects of our practice (such as collaborative writing) which lack a critical framework and aim to create a model which might be of use to others in understanding their professional collaborations.

In my previous Editorial, I wrote about the review of BeJLT which was undertaken earlier this year and the changes in Editorial Board membership and article types. A further change is that from this issue on, we will be moving to a ‘by paper’ publishing model. This means that papers will become live on the BeJLT website as soon as they are ready, reducing the time taken to publication. If you would like to receive notifications when new papers become available, please register to join our Mailing List. We are also exploring ways of making better use of social media and hope to have something to report on that next academic year.


Rhona Sharpe, Editor

Rhona Sharpe

Professor Rhona Sharpe is Head of the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development at Oxford Brookes University. Her interests are around developing and tutoring online courses, developing learners for a digital age, and  pedagogic research. Rhona is one of the co-founders of ELESIG (Evaluation of Learners' Experiences of e-learning Special Interest Group), a Senior Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association, a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a National Teaching Fellow. She is Editor of the Brookes eJournal for Learning and Teaching.

Posted in Editorial

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