The role of context in decision making about professional learning by lecturers at a research-intensive university

Herman, Nicoline (2015-12)

Thesis (DEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The professional learning of academics for the teaching function inherently is a change imperative and it has become an important enterprise in the delivering of high quality student learning within the changing higher education landscape. The influence of context on the decision making of academics about becoming involved in the process of professional learning for teaching was explored in this study in order to inform the practice of professional learning practitioners. The landscape of higher education has changed extensively across the world over the past few decades. In South Africa, these changes have been the result of international changes as well as national imperatives and associated institutional policies. The changes include larger student numbers; a higher level of state intervention; a discourse of performativity and managerialism; and the marketization of knowledge. Within this new landscape, academics have been confronted with a number of old, and some new issues concerning how they view their roles, set their allegiances, and identify with their work. Being a university lecturer, however, is but one of the roles of the academic – a role which is not necessarily highly valued and for which most are not adequately prepared. Professional learning, as the continuous learning of professionals, is usually the ambit of institutional centres for teaching and learning and the practitioners of professional learning employed in these centres. At Stellenbosch University (SU), the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) was established in 2003. As professional learning practitioners at SU, we have constantly been reflecting on our work, and this PhD, funded by the NRF, forms part of this reflection. In this study, the concept of ‘professional learning’ is defined as the continuous learning of academics and is an interlinked and sequential three-stage process similar to the three phases of decision making. The concept of ‘context’ is defined as a ‘contextual spiral’ culminating in the daily reality of the academic as big-C-Context. The daily reality of the academic emerges at the intersection of the professional and personal spheres of the life-world through the interplay of various personal and professional considerations. The concept of ‘decision making’ is defined as a trade-off between alternatives with an opportunity cost attached to such a choice. The case study design implemented in this research made use of qualitative and quantitative data gathered from permanently employed members of the academic staff at the institution in an attempt to determine the influence of context on the decision making of lecturers for participating in professional learning for teaching. The findings of the research indicate that intrinsic motivation is important for decision making and the emerging individual context is mostly experienced as a constraint to the decision to participate in the process of professional learning for teaching. Creating an enabling environment where care for the wellbeing of academics is evident would raise the level of intrinsic motivation and could indeed be a wise step in the pursuit of reaching institutional goals and aims in relation to the teaching function and high quality student learning. Although the findings of this study is specific to Stellenbosch University as a research intensive higher education institution, it could also contribute to the growing body of knowledge in the field of the professional learning of academics, as well as inform other professional learning practitioners within higher education.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Professionele leer van akademici vir hulle onderrigfunksie is inherent ‘n veranderingsinisiatief en dit het 'n belangrike aspek in die lewering van hoë gehalte studenteleer binne ‘n veranderende hoër onderwys-landskap geword. In hierdie studie word die invloed van konteks op akademici se besluitneming om betrokke te raak by die proses van professionele leer vir onderrig ondersoek, ten einde die werksaamhede van professionele leer-praktisyns toe te lig. Die hoër onderwys-landskap het oor die afgelope paar dekades wêreldwyd aansienlik verander. In Suid-Afrika het hierdie veranderinge, as gevolg van internasionale verandering en nasionale imperatiewe en verwante institusionele beleide, plaasgevind. Hierdie veranderinge behels groter studentegetalle, 'n hoër vlak van staatsingryping, ‘n diskoers van prestasie en die bestuur en die bemarking van kennis. Binne hierdie nuwe landskap word akademici gekonfronteer met bestaande en nuwe kwessies rakende hulle siening van hulle rol, die bou van vertrouensverwantskappe en hoe hulle met hul eie werk identifiseer. Om 'n universiteitsdosent te wees is egter maar een van die rolle van die akademikus – 'n rol wat nie noodwendig hoog geag word nie en waarvoor die meeste nie voldoende voorbereid is nie. Professionele leer, as die voortgesette leer van professionele persone, is gewoonlik die verantwoordelikheid van institusionele sentrums vir onderrig en leer en die professionele leer-praktisyns in diens van hierdie sentrums. Die Sentrum vir Onderrig en Leer (SOL) aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch (US) is in 2003 gestig. As professionele leer-praktisyns aan die US, dink ons voortdurend na oor ons werk en hierdie NRF-befondste doktorale studie vorm deel van hierdie nadenke. Die konsep ‘professionele leer’ word in hierdie studie as die voordurende leer van akademici gedefinieer en is 'n onderling-verbinde en sekwensiële drie-fase proses soortgelyk aan die drie fases van besluitneming. ‘Konteks’as konsep word gedefinieer as 'n 'kontekstuele spiraal' wat in die alledaagse leefwêreld van die akademikus kulmineer as die groot-C-konteks. Die daaglikse realiteit van die akademikus kom na vore by die kruising van die professionele en persoonlike sfere van die leefwêreld deur die wisselwerking van verskeie persoonlike en professionele oorwegings van albei hierdie sfere. Die konsep van 'besluitneming' word gedefinieer as die opweeg van alternatiewe met ‘n geleentheidskoste verbonde aan so 'n keuse. 'n Gevallestudie-ontwerp is vir hierdie navorsing benut. Beide narratiewe en numeriese data wat van permanent aangestelde akademiese personeellede by die instelling versamel is, is gebruik in ’n poging om die invloed van konteks op die besluitneming van dosente vir deelname aan professionele leer vir onderrig te bepaal. Die bevindinge van die navorsing dui daarop dat intrinsieke motivering belangrik is vir besluitneming en dat die konteks wat by die instelling na vore kom meestal ervaar word as beperkend tot die besluit om aan die proses van professionele leer vir onderrig deel te neem. Die skep van ‘n omgewing wat die welsyn van akademici op die hart dra behoort die vlak van intrinsieke motivering te verhoog en sou inderdaad 'n wyse besluit wees ter ondersteuning van gestelde institusionele doelwitte met betrekking tot die onderrigfunksie en hoë gehalte studenteleer. Alhoewel die bevindings van die studie spesifiek op Universiteit Stellenbosch as 'n navorsingsintensiewe hoëronderwysinstelling betrekking het, kan dit ook bydra tot kennis op die gebied van professionele leer van akademici en belangrike inligting verskaf aan ander professionele leerpraktisyns in hoër onderwys.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/97890
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