Models of the Educator in Higher Education: A Bibliographic and Conceptual Map

This research project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, award no. R000222794. It ran initially from December 1998 to November 1999, at the School of Continuing Education, University of Leeds.

The project grew out of our experience as adult educators in HE, and our curiosity about the apparent arrival in universities of a 'new' specialism - teaching and learning in HE. As continuing education specialists, it was not clear to us why higher education pedagogy should be seen as a separate field of work.

The preparation of university academic staff for their teaching role has become a matter of increasing concern for UK higher education institutions in recent years; it has gained political significance and become the focus of policy discussion and intervention. This is occurring within the context of broader policy debates on 'lifelong learning' and the 'knowledge society'. The introduction of teaching quality assessment, the establishment of the Institute for Learning and Teaching, and the accreditation debates and proposals that have accompanied these initiatives, have also given impetus to the drive towards more formal and systematic preparation and development for university teachers. The amount of provision made has grown enormously over the last ten years. However, debates and arguments about theory, context and purpose, which are so familiar in the pedagogy of adult, further and school education, seem to be largely absent in writing on teaching and learning in HE. In comparison to these sectors, and to the situation in various other countries, the 'education of higher educators' (EHE - we are seeking a more elegant term) in Britain remains at a relatively early stage in its development. In research terms it is even less developed, in that there have been relatively few attempts to contextualise it, or to link pedagogic practice with the wider purposes of higher education. Despite this, attempts are now being made simultaneously to improve teaching quality and to enhance the professional status of university teaching.

Our intention on this project was to examine the ideological and theoretical assumptions evident in the growing literature. Much published work in the field focuses on methods and techniques in university teaching, and on the organisation of teacher education courses, rather than on the conceptual framework within which such activities are promoted. We therefore tried to map the implicit 'models of the educator' in the literature of EHE and in the claims made about 'good practice' and 'effective teaching' in higher education, drawing on parallel developments in related educational fields - especially adult education. The project was intended to provide the groundwork for future research, and to promote a cross-sectoral 'conversation' among the various sectoral strands of teacher education, on the assumption that there were pedagogic lessons to be learned from such an exchange.

The research has been productive, although (as often happens) the project grew as we worked on it, particularly as we discussed it with other practitioners and researchers in the various sectors. Having identified a number of models and related themes within the literature, we were drawn increasingly to a re-consideration of how the 'communities' of, for example, adult educators, HE teaching and learning specialists, etc., develop, reproduce themselves and interact, and the implications of this for what constitutes pedagogic knowledge. The differences between approaches in adult education and in the emerging specialism of higher education pedagogy are striking, and have important implications for the experience of students in the context of lifelong learning, widening participation and the 'inclusive' university.

A number of papers have arisen from the project (see below), and we are currently organising the transfer of the project bibliography (covering pedagogy in adult, higher, school and medical education) to the British Education Index. We are hoping to be able to build on the work completed so far through further research, focusing on how pedagogic identities are developed and sustained in practice. Some of the papers can be accessed through The British Education Index.

Project Publications

  • J. Malcolm and M. Zukas (2000) 'Constructing pedagogic identities: versions of the educator in adult and higher education', Proceedings of 41st Adult Education Research Conference, University of British Columbia, AERC
  • J. Malcolm and M. Zukas (2000) 'Becoming an educator: communities of practice in higher education' in I. McNay (ed.) Higher Education and its Communities SRHE/ Open University Press - in press
  • J. Malcolm and M. Zukas (2000) 'Bridging pedagogic gaps: conceptual discontinuities in higher education' International Journal of Teaching in Higher Education - forthcoming
  • J. Malcolm and M. Zukas (1999) 'Thinking there is new land', in B Merrill (ed.) The Final Frontier: Exploring Spaces in the Education of Adults, Warwick, SCUTREA pp 194-198
  • J Malcolm and M Zukas (1999) 'Models of the educator in higher education: problems and perspectives', paper presented to the 19th Annual Conference of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education: Creating Collaborative Learning for the 21st Century, University of Calgary
  • M. Zukas and J. Malcolm (1999) 'Models of the educator in higher education', paper presented to British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Sussex