Torgny Roxa

  • Barriers to communication on teaching and learning among university teachers

    Torgny Roxå and Katarina Mårtensson, Lund University

    Conceptual paper

    Themes: faculty development methods and/or strategies, diversity and inclusivity, graduate outcomes, course and programme design, teaching methods

    Monday 7 September 2009, 15.45 - 16.45 in room G60

    Introduction
    Talking to colleagues about their teaching can be like ”speaking to them about their personal hygiene”, a group of university teachers exclaimed (Handal, 1999), it is just impossible. An alternative answer was formulated by another group of university teachers: “No, it is not culturally accepted.” Teaching and learning cultures, thus, influence what is acceptable to talk about, and what is not. Further, they govern the way things are talked about and consequently the meaning constructed during conversation. To influence these processes in higher education is vital if teaching and learning (T&L) is to be developed further.

    Background

    Teachers’ conceptions of T&L are linked to quality in student learning (Prosser & Trigwell, 1999). These conceptions vary, partly by discipline, but also by cultural context (Lindblom-Ylänne et al., 2006). T&L cultures have been discussed as teaching and learning regimes (TLR) (Trowler, 2009, Trowler & Cooper, 2002). Different TLRs support different conceptions. As in all cultural phenomena everyday talk and communication are the processes where meaning is constructed and maintained (Ancona et al., 2009). In the case of university teachers these conversations take place back-stage (Goffman, 2000) among a few selected colleagues, within significant networks (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009). Consequently, cultural change is dependent on displacements in the conversational patterns wherein meaning in relation to T&L is constructed and maintained by university teachers.

    Discussion
    Academic teachers are reluctant towards engaging in critical conversations with colleagues (Becher & Trowler, 2001), still this is vital if ruling TLRs are to be challenged. This conceptual paper explores barriers to critical conversations on T&L among teachers. A vital component of the exploration is trust, especially as one possibility, mistrust is the other, to lower complexity during conversation (Luhmann, 2005).

    We explore barriers on three levels and relate them to each other: Individual (Marton & Booth, 1997), Socio-cultural (Säljö, 2000, Wenger, 1999), and Discursive (Foucault, 1993, 2008). 

    • Teachers may not individually have an enough complex understanding of T&L in order to initiate a conversation. (Individual teachers may lack knowledge, understanding, and vocabulary to reflect on T&L.)
    • The socio cultural context may inhibit or even punish conversations on T&L. (Violating local norms could effect status, professional identity, and perception of Self negatively.)
    • The available discourse on T&L may appear irrelevant and/or poor making it useless as building blocks in a conversation. (A shortage of shared intellectual tools, perspectives, and value-systems drastically raises the complexity within any conversation with colleagues not known.)

    During the session these perspectives are elaborated and related to each other. We will also consider faculty development approaches like pedagogical courses, communities of practice, and institutional strategies/policies as examples of measures taken on each level. The presentation will end with a discussion about strategies to promote conversations on T&L among university teachers.

    References:

    • Ancona, D., Kochan, T., Scully, M., Van Maanen, J. & Westney, E. (2009) Managing For the Future. Organizational Behaviour & Processes South Western CENGAGE Learning).
    • Becher, T. & Trowler, P. (2001) Academic Tribes and Territories (Buckingham, The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press).
    • Foucault, M. (1993) Diskursens ordning (L'ordre du discours) (Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposium).
    • Foucault, M. (2008) The Archaeology of Knowledge (L'Archéologie du savoir) (London Routledge).

    • Goffman, E. (2000) Jaget och Maskerna 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life 1959' (Stockholm, Prisma).

    • Handal, G. (1999) Consultation Using Critical Friends, New Directions for Teaching and Learning, (79), pp. 59 - 70.

    • Lindblom-Ylänne, S., Trigwell, K., Nevgi, A. & Ashwin, P. (2006) How Approaches to teaching are affected by discipline and teaching context, Studies in Higher Education, 31(3), pp. 285-295.

    • Luhmann, N. (2005) Förtroende - en mekanism för reduktion av social komplexitet 'Vertrauen. Ein Mechanismus der Reduktion sozialer Komplexität' (Riga, Daidalos AB).

    • Marton, F. & Booth, S. (1997) Learning and Awareness (New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.).

    • Prosser, M. & Trigwell, K. (1999) Understanding Learning and Teaching. The experience in Higher Education. The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press).

    • Roxå, T. & Mårtensson, K. (2009) Teaching and Learning Regimes from within. Significant Networks as a locus for the social construction of teaching and learning., in: C. Kreber (Ed) The University and its Disciplines. Teaching and Learning Within and Beyond Disciplinary Boundaries. (London, Routledge).

    • Säljö, R. (2000) Lärande i praktiken (Stockholm, Prisma).

    • Trowler, P. (2009) Beyond Epistemological Essentialism: Academic Tribes in the21st Century, in: C. Kreber (Ed) The University and Its Disciplines – Within and Beyond Disciplinary Boundaries (London, Routledge).

    • Trowler, P. & Cooper, A. (2002) Teaching and Learning Regimes: Implicit theories and recurrent practice in the enhancement of teaching and learning through educational development programmes, Higher Education Research & Development, 21(3), pp. 221-240.

    • Wenger, E. (1999) Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).