The chapters in this book have been written by colleagues who not only have the courage to teach and explore their inner landscapes of teaching (sensu Palmer, 2017), but also have the courage to talk about it and share their experiences and reflections with others. Teaching is, ironically, often viewed as a very private activity – an intimate space shared only with our students. As such, teachers may feel isolated from their teaching peers in a way that is not evident within the research environment where peer review and dissemination of findings are seen as the norm. The development of peer observation schemes helps break down these barriers; but to get the most out of these interventions, teaching colleagues first need the space to reflect and a lexicon to help them articulate the essence of their teaching practice to colleagues. The application of map-mediated interviews placed within the framework created by the pedagogic frailty model are explored within the chapters of this book and provide a mechanism to help achieve this.
We rightly concentrate on the development of our students’ academic literacies, helping them to become part of their own disciplinary communities (e.g. Gourlay, 2009; Hallett, 2013). However we must also recognise the potential of this approach to create disciplinary silos among staff, not only between disciplines but within them (e.g. Rowland, 2002) as subject areas evolve and become realigned (Kinchin, 2018). It is evident here that although we have authors from a wide range of disciplines, the combination of concept mapping methodology and the pedagogic frailty framework allows academics to talk across disciplinary lines about teaching in a more scholarly way than would otherwise be the case.
A number of the chapter authors have applied the principle of conceptual exaptation (Larson et al., 2013) to repurpose disciplinary concepts to help explore and articulate their evolving view of teaching. A similar approach has been taken within my own research area of neuroscience (e.g. Ardila, 2016), albeit using different terminology. As a neuropsychologist specialising in the assessment of psychosocial outcomes and the evaluation of community-based rehabilitation after brain injury, I have explored issues of individual differences in vulnerability (or frailty; e.g. Powell et al., 2004) and the powerfully enabling influences of community networks on the individual’s development of skills, confidence, and social roles (e.g. Powell et al., 2002). From my understanding of the interrelated roles of individuals and communities in that context, it is but a small step to appreciate the concept of pedagogic frailty and its influence on systemic functions of the university and the teachers operating within it.
This book demonstrates that academic development need not operate within a deficit model of professional practice. Some of the chapter authors are highly experienced practitioners who have received recognition for their excellence in teaching (e.g. as National Teaching Fellows or Senior Fellows of the HEA) and have demonstrated a high degree of personal agency within their practice. And yet they all have something to gain from continued reflection on practice. It is anticipated that the benefits of these reflections will also be felt by the academics who work alongside the chapter authors – helping them to appreciate how their perceptions of the teaching environment mesh with those of their colleagues.
Teachers often experience conflicting tensions as they undertake a variety of roles within higher education. Brookfield (2018, p. 13) describes how ‘our lives as teachers often boil down to our best attempts to muddle through the complex contexts and configurations that our classrooms represent’, with teachers reporting their work to be ‘highly emotional and bafflingly chaotic’. The approach described in the chapters of this book attempts to support teachers in their quest to deal with this complexity and to reduce feelings of chaos.
Whilst the model of pedagogic frailty originated from pilot studies and subsequent developments at University of Surrey (Kinchin et al., 2016), it is interesting to see that the idea has resonated with colleagues working in other institutions, both in the UK (Jarvis, 2018) and overseas (Kostromina et al., 2017; de Benito et al., 2017). An earlier volume (Kinchin & Winstone, 2017) focused on the development of the underpinning theory of pedagogic frailty and resilience. This volume offers a more practically focused look at the ways in which colleagues may explore their own teaching using the model. It is anticipated that the case studies presented here will resonate with colleagues’ teaching experiences in Higher Education more generally and provide a useful tool to promote reflection on practice.
BrookfieldS. (2018). Pedagogical peculiarities: An introduction. In E. MedlandR. WatermeyerA. HoseinI. M. Kinchin & S. Lygo-Baker (Eds.) Pedagogical peculiarities: Conversations at the edge of university teaching and learning (pp. 1–16). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
de BenitoB.LizanaA. & SalinasJ. (2017). Using concept mapping for faculty development in the context of pedagogic frailty. Knowledge Management & E-Learning9(3) 329–347.
HallettF. (2013). Study support and the development of academic literacy in higher education: A phenomenographic analysis. Teaching in Higher Education18(5) 518–530.
JarvisJ. (2018). Is teaching systemically frail in universities and if so what can we do about it? LINK3(2). Retrieved from http://www.herts.ac.uk/link/volume-3-issue-2/is-teaching-systemically-frail-in-universities-and-if-so-what-can-we-do-about-it
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KostrominaS. N.GnedykhD. S. & RuschackE. A. (2017). Russian university teachers’ ideas about pedagogic frailty. Knowledge Management & E-Learning9(3) 311–328.
PowellJ.HeslinJ. & GreenwoodR. (2002). Community based rehabilitation after severe traumatic brain injury: A randomised controlled trial. Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry72193–202.
PowellJ. H.Kitchen N.HeslinJ. & GreenwoodR. (2004). Psychosocial outcomes at 18 months after good neurological recovery from aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage. Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry751119–1124.
RowlandS. (2002). Overcoming fragmentation in professional life: The challenge for academic development. Higher Education Quarterly56(1) 52–64.