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Academic Leading with a Focus on Student Learning
University of Borås, Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT. (PAUS, RCIW)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1424-6063
University of Borås, Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT. (PAUS)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8945-2235
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Academic Leading with a Focus on Student Learning

Few people would deny that universities are becoming increasingly complex educational environments due to significant changes in the nature of academic work (e.g., digitalisation of work and learning, educational administration, changing faculty values[1]) and to changing societal expectations. Those in university leadership roles face challenges and opportunities amidst this complexity, especially regarding responsibilities associated with student learning. The capacity of leaders and managers to respond is arguably affected by the arrangements and practices embedded within their own universities. Understanding these challenges and opportunities, and how current arrangements and practices contribute to or limit them, is central for finding sustainable ways of meeting educational responsibilities and supporting leading for student learning.

This paper explores one university’s efforts to enhance academic leading with a focus on student learning, and to understand the site-based arrangements and practices affecting the practices of leading. These goals underpinned a series of four seminars on ‘Academic leading – with a focus on student learning’ developed for staff in management positions. The seminars were inquiry-focused, generating participant artefacts (e.g., diagrams, PowerPoint presentations, notes) that were used to inform seminar discussions. This material was also analysed to form the basis of this paper. Both the seminars and analysis were theoretically framed by the ‘theory of practice architectures’ and ‘ecologies of practices’[2]. According to the theory, practices are shaped by three kinds of overlapping arrangements: Cultural-discursive arrangements such as discourses and languages affect what is possible to say in and about practice (e.g., deficit discourses, critical discourses, discipline-specific discourses, languages). Material economic-arrangements – material, technological, financial, organisational, and other resources – affect what it is possible to do in practice (e.g., buildings, schedules, workload calculators, funding). Social-political arrangements are arrangements that affect the ways in which it is possible for people to relate to others (and things and places) in practice (e.g., organisational rules, mandates, solidarities, hierarchies). These arrangements form the practice architectures of practices like leading, teaching, and learning. 

The analysis highlighted, from a cultural-discursive perspective, the need for explicitly focussing on the learning environment in everyday activities, and for clear articulation of goals and visions on both institutional and departmental levels. These are important for the emergence of shared understandings needed for growth in the area of student learning. From a material-economic perspective, analysis also pointed to the need for opportunities (i.e., time) for staff to reflect in organised ways on their practice and engage in professional learning activities, and for managers to engage in strategic development. This means looking closely at minimising activities and reorienting arrangements that take up time that could otherwise be spent on developing good pedagogical work (e.g., administrative tasks). From a social-political perspective, the analysis emphasised the need for building trusting, productive staff relations within and between departments, academies, and administration.

The paper invites discussion of the issues raised and consideration of how these issues resonate with educational environments in other universities and how they are being, or might be, addressed. It raises the question of how we can more effectively and sustainably support leading for student learning given the challenges and complexities of academic environments, by creating new practice architectures or by reorienting existing ones that constrain leading and professional learning in unhelpful ways.

[1] Slaughter, S., and Leslie, L., L.  (1997). Academic Capitalism. Politics, Policies and the Entrepreneurial University. Baltimore, Maryland USA: John Hopkins University Press.

[2] Kemmis, S., Wilkinson, J., Edwards-Groves, C., Hardy, I., Grootenboer, P., & Bristol, L. (2014). Changing practices, changing education. Singapore: Springer.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
Keywords [en]
academic leading, student learning, practice architectures
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
Teacher Education and Education Work
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hb:diva-15163OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hb-15163DiVA, id: diva2:1253492
Conference
Forskning om Högre Utbildning, Lund 2018
Available from: 2018-10-05 Created: 2018-10-05 Last updated: 2018-10-17Bibliographically approved

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Langelotz, LillMahon, Kathleen

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