Researching academic development

The case study is nearly done and being in that final stage (I have done all the easy bits and left with all the ones that take a little more thought) I am procrastinating and ended up reading Chapter 12: Researching Academic Development instead. It has made me think I must try and write some of my work up – and writing the case studies have made me see where some of the issues are which will need to be addressed before I can do that.

My career in academia started with biological sciences research. Very focused on quantitative data and also the pressure to publish was high. My own personal experiences during my PhD emphasised to me the benefits of the advantages of growing research from previous findings published in the literature (not falling in to the same pitfalls that others have before us). Having spent the early part of my career in veterinary and medical skills the idea of evidence-based practice was also instilled in me very early.

As I moved from a discipline specific role towards one that was focused around academic development and improving learning and teaching I still wanted to disseminate findings from my practice. However, one of the challenges for me was moving from something that was very numbers driven to something that was qualitative instead. One of the things I found interesting when reading Sutherland and Grant (2016) was how many of even the survey studies only provided descriptive statistics and had not done further statistical analysis.

One of the areas I have been concentrating on this week as I work towards completing my case study is on how we monitor and evaluate our academic development activities. Couple this with my recent involvement in our institutional TEF submission I have very much been thinking about how we measure impact of interventions to improve student learning. Although I recognise that not every intervention would be suitable for writing up as a publication I think that if we perform robust evaluation of what we are doing we should be able to convert that into a relevant publication.

Just like in medicine or veterinary practice making use of the evidence from publications can only improve the service academic developers provide to the institution and the academics within it but should also have an impact on student learning as a result. Reading this chapter has spurred me on to get some of my work that has only been disseminated within the institution written up for publication. I am also going to make use of the very pertinent advice to new academic developers at the end of the chapter. It may be aimed at new academic developers but it is a useful reminder to us all.


Sutherland, K. and Grant, B. (2016) Researching academic development, in: Popovic, C. and Baume, D. (Eds) (2016) Advancing Practice in Academic Development, Routledge, Abingdon, UK.


Reflections on Learning and Teaching

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