Academic development: Leading by example with an authentic and practical approach to curriculum design
Academic developers work with colleagues from every discipline to facilitate learning about teaching, learning and assessment. Boud and Brew (2013) called for academic development to be significantly ‘closer to everyday practice’ while also recognising development involves extending notions of what ‘practice’ is. Moreover, Loads and Campbell (2015) called for greater authenticity of academic development: questioning and challenging custom and practice within disciplines in higher education. So how do academic developers, tasked with redeveloping their mandatory Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP), create an authentic and practical programme? Especially one that extends the scope of teaching practice, transforms curricula and assessment and meets strategic objectives around developing student literacies, graduate attributes and strengthening engagement in continuing professional development (University of Glasgow, 2015, 2021).
This good practice example showcases the curricula design process of redesigning a cross-institutional PGCAP programme at a UK university, to one that has a strong focus on everyday academic practice, while also adopting authentic learning activities and practical assessments to unlock the creative pedagogical potential of early career academics, and build their confidence. The aim of the redesigned curricula being to encourage collaboration across disciplines, reflection, and learning beyond ‘normal’ and customary practices within disciplines.
This paper also discusses the results of a mixed methods survey of academic colleagues (as students) studying the PGCAP, exploring their perceptions of the programme’s authenticity, its practicality, as well as the value of learning activities and assessments and, importantly, the impact on their practice.
In terms of implications for practice, this paper encourages readers to consider how they could develop their own curriculum, introduce greater authenticity, and move away from deficit models of academic development.
- How can you create a safe environment to enable your early career academics to collaborate outside of their normal disciplinary groups and enculture themselves in an interdisciplinary academy, designing and developing teaching, learning and assessment environments and activities that are innovative, collaborative and meaningful all the while learning about these concepts for their own development, as well as their students’ experiences?
- Can you introduce modelling pedagogies that illustrate how to design a course using a wide range of learning and teaching approaches, that highlight the importance of meaningful assessment and feedback literacy, and how critically reflecting on learning and teaching facilitates genuine educational development?
- While all courses on the PGCAP are underpinned by theory, there is a careful balance between how that theory works in practice, and what that practice can look like for the individual, not only in their discipline, but also in line with the expectation of the institution they work for. We believe that all of the time that our students spend completing Phase 1 of the PGCAP can be taken directly into their classroom; our survey results support this claim to a great extent and from a number of perspectives around effective academic practice. Consider how you can explore and interrogate your own academic development opportunities through a lens of meaningful, authentic and practical learning?
McEwan, M. P., Pate, A. C., & Wilder-Davis, K. (2023). Academic development: Leading by example with an authentic and practical approach to curriculum design. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.53761/22.214.171.124