I was lucky to attend a session at the SEDA conference in November led by Shân Wareing and Sally Brown on this very topic. I hadn’t known what to expect when I arrived but it certainly wasn’t two interesting and amusing role-plays between a PVC and a head of a learning development unit followed by us having to take part in our own role-plays on various scenarios. This engaging session had already got me thinking about issues around articulating exactly what is we do and having to support that in case we are asked to justify what we do and offer. This is something I am now trying to embed much more in what I do and how I organise my work.
Having watched Shân and Sally’s video one aspect I felt particularly drawn to was the idea of modelling. One of the things I requested when I took up the post of Head of Learning and Teaching was that I wanted to keep a small amount of discipline teaching (rather than just teaching the teachers) and module leading. I am involved in a level 5 module in the first semester and a level 6 module in the second semester. I have already seen the benefits of this both when working with academics and senior managers. Being able to put examples on the table from my own practice has really helped. Staff seeing that I am fulfilling the requirements of policies and strategies I have found has helped me to take these staff with me.
In the chapter that Brown and Wareing (2016) contributed to Advancing Practice in Academic Development they suggest ‘if you can be courteous and constructively make it clear to people what they are being asked to do and why, a surprising number of people may be willing to cooperate with you’. I would agree with this from my own experience. They also recognise that this relies on effective communication, which is not always easy. Having recently introduced a number of new initiatives at an academic update at the start of the year meant I learnt this the hard way, I thought everybody had understood changes we had made to feedback forms and processes but what has happened in practice has demonstrated otherwise. As a result I am looking at developing a range of communication methods, such as a monthly newsletter sent to academic staff and senior managers, in the hope of reducing miscommunication in future and increasing our chance of smooth sailing.
Brown, S. and Wareing, S. (2016) Academic development and senior management, in: Popovic, C and Baume, D. (Eds) (2016) Advancing Practice in Academic Development, Routledge, Abingdon, UK.
Shan Waring (2016) S Brown and S Wareing SEDA July 2016 0 Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUwJh6h7zHg [Accessed 26 January 2017]