Creating allowable personal and professional identities: the impact of changing contexts on SoTL activities and structures

Hills, Laura and Swithenby, Stephen (2012). Creating allowable personal and professional identities: the impact of changing contexts on SoTL activities and structures. In: ProPEL: Professional Practice, Education and Learning International Conference, 9-11 May 2012, University of Stirling.



From 2005 to 2010 the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs), a UK government-funded initiative to improve the quality of higher education teaching and learning in England and Wales, oversaw a vast expansion of activities related to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Concurrent to the existence of the CETLs, there has been increasing institutional recognition of SoTL as a valid professional activity for HE teachers, including greater opportunities for personal and professional development and promotion. The demise of the CETL initiative in 2010 and the recent radical funding changes within UK HE, have generated uncertainty about the durability of SoTL as a mass movement within HE. They also present challenges for the future development of the personal and professional identities of HE teachers which involvement in SoTL has brought about.

At the Open University UK (OUUK), the development of and support for the scholarship of teaching and learning has, to a great extent, mirrored the national context. One of four CETLs at the OUUK, the Centre for Open Learning in Mathematics, Science, Computing and Technology (COLMSCT), was succeeded in 2010 by the internally funded eSTEeM initiative. Both initiatives share the purpose of bringing academics together to develop new approaches to distance teaching and learning within the STEM subjects. The purpose of this paper is two-fold:
• to examine the effect of participation in the scholarship of teaching and learning on the personal and professional identities of those involved;
• to identify how changes in institutional and the external environmental contexts have affected perceptions of these personal and professional identities

This paper draws on a number of informal and formal sources: qualitative interviews with COLMSCT Fellows and eSTEeM project leaders, final and interim reports by Fellows and project leaders, internal COLMSCT and eSTEeM documentation and Open University strategic statements. These strands of evidence are brought together to identify whether the changing context is more or less favourable to the transformation of personal and professional identities through involvement in SoTL, and what the prognosis is for future development. The paper concludes that there has been a shift between externally and internally funded SoTL initiatives in how the development of personal and professional identities is perceived by both the individual and the institution. In particular, it argues that external funding provides an environment for innovative leadership and potentially greater outputs and dissemination of SoTL activity. However, it is also the case that perceived proximity of internally funded initiatives to the departmental and institutional strategy makes involvement more relevant and acceptable. In both cases, the value that individuals ascribe to their personal identities as HE teachers reflects the dominant discourse within the sector, with a rhetoric of individual excellence moving to one of strategic alignment.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Item Actions