Professional development in higher education: Organisational perspectives and educators’ experiences

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Research topic/aim
In 2022 a new educational academy started at a large University College (with programs in nursing, teacher education, engineering etc.) having a strategic aim of hosting professional development (PD) for the educators. In this context the following research questions have been examined:
1)What possibilities, challenges and tensions are identified by stakeholders at the University College concerning the initiation of the new educational academy?
2) What kind of PD activities are designed for associate professors and what experiences and outcomes do they emphasize?

Theoretical framework
PD in higher education (HE) has a growing awareness internationally and organizational strategies can be determent for educators’ professional learning. A great deal is known about criteria for PD like the importance of duration, experiments in own practice, and peer collaboration, and there is some previous research about PD for specific groups. However, there is a need for more knowledge about the dynamic relationship between organizational structure and human agency and the research aim is – based on social learning theory (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2020) - to examine the new academy as an organizational frame, and the wider implications regarding PD for educators in HE.

Methodological design
The research is designed as a sequential mixed method study. Referring to research question 1 the qualitative data included document analyses, an interview with the leader of the academy and three semi-structured focus group interviews with stakeholders sampled to represent variation. Regarding research question 2, the experiences from the associate professors were analyzed based on their open reflections in a mainly qualitative questionnaire.

Expected conclusions/findings
Leaders and educators in the focus groups are positive towards the new educational academy emphasizing that PD for associate professors until now have been very scarce. Worries related to boundaries between the academy and other organizational units were raised in the focus groups, foreseeing also tensions due to the large variation in educational cultures across programs. In 2023 so-called laboratories for associate professors were initiated, in the first round under six headlines: Web based professional educations, The hybrid learning room, Informatics in professional education, Experimenting with digital technology, Feedback, and Lecturing. The PD design is informed by the research-based criteria in terms of (some) duration and a focus on educators’ (collaborative) experiments in own practice. The predominant focus on informatics and technology however mirrors top-down demands and the possibility for external founding of PD in this specific area. Findings from the qualitative survey with thematized reflections will be discussed in the light of value creation (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2020) both immediate, what might be transformative, and strategic.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2024
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2024
EventNERA 2024: Adventures of Education: Desires, Encounters and Differences - Malmö University, Malmo, Sweden
Duration: 6 Mar 20248 Mar 2024


ConferenceNERA 2024: Adventures of Education: Desires, Encounters and Differences
LocationMalmö University
Internet address

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