by Catherine Bates, Peter Manifold, Sinead McCann – TU Dublin
We’d like to share our tips for how to support staff to implement teaching innovation in higher education. These tips were co-developed at an online workshop on this topic at the Polytechnic Summit (PS2021) conference. As workshop participants and facilitators we explored what might work when designing supports for academic staff to innovate within their teaching.
We started with a brief case study of TU Dublin’s piloting of programmes to support lecturers to incorporate community engaged research and learning into their teaching, as part of this CIRCLET Erasmus+ project[i]. We then filled in a series of unfinished sentences[ii], reflecting on supports or initiatives which we have been involved in (either as coordinators or participants) that focused on innovation in teaching. Drawing on these reflections, we collaboratively developed a set of ‘dos and don’ts’, and turned these into simple principles to guide the development of effective supports for teaching innovation. We agreed to share this learning by co-writing this blogpost, and we hope it will be useful to you, reader.
In the space of just an hour we developed three simple principles which we would recommend to anyone designing supports for academic staff, particularly those with a focus on teaching innovation.
1/Find out what staff want to learn to do, and facilitate that.
Academic staff have lots of ideas for what they want to try in their teaching, so make sure to facilitate learning on how they want to innovate rather than focusing on your own ideas (if they differ from those of your colleagues).
Tips for achieving this principle include:
- Create space for people to communicate, brainstorm, be creative, reflect, and share.
- Be open to what arises
- Be supportive, and listen to the issues and challenges that staff identify
- Don’t reject suggestions too quickly
- Model what you’d like them to do when they interact with students (definitely no checking of your phone during the discussions!)
2/Don’t work alone – form a community!
Fostering and encouraging peer interaction is a great way to help staff to explore, try out, implement, and improve teaching innovation. Having your own peer group which focuses on supporting staff to do teaching innovation can also help you to better support this.
- Set clear guidance for group/peer interaction
- Find ways to make the interactions enjoyable, even fun
- Create moments for reflection, and provide effective prompts to encourage reflection
- If you’re offering accredited training to colleagues, when designing assessments make sure that the learning process is as valued as the outputs, to really encourage creativity and experimentation, and facilitate peer learning
3/Make the process accessible
Try to accommodate the full variety of learning styles when facilitating discussion, training or peer learning, to maximise everyone’s ability to participate, contribute and learn.
- Use the principles of universal design[iii]
- Show a wide variety of exciting examples of innovation
- Don’t make assumptions, ask questions instead
- Use technology in a way that enables and supports the goals of the session – start with the goal, then choose the technology, not the other way around (no matter how shiny, appealing and new the technology is!)
We don’t claim that these principles and tips are comprehensive, or cover all aspects of supporting staff development with a focus on teaching. We do know, from reflecting on our experience, that we have found them to be helpful, and we enjoyed developing them together. We invite you to see them as food for thought, and we wish you luck in supporting staff to implement teaching innovation.
(Thanks also to the other workshop participants, who shared ideas and learning but chose not to include their names as co-authors.)
Featured image by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash
[i] Explore this website and learn more about the CIRCLET project!
[ii] The unfinished sentences we used for the reflection are taken from work by Partners Training for Transformation (www.trainingfortransformation.ie)
[iii] See a short introduction to Universal Design for Learning here: http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.XuuT32hKi71