Unpacking (in)formal learning in an academic development programme: a mixed-method social network perspective

Rienties, Bart and Hosein, Anesa (2015). Unpacking (in)formal learning in an academic development programme: a mixed-method social network perspective. International Journal for Academic Development, 20(2) pp. 163–177.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2015.1029928


How and with whom academics develop and maintain formal and informal networks for reflecting on their teaching practice has received limited attention even though academic development (AD) programmes have become an almost ubiquitous feature of higher education. The primary goal of this mixed-method study is to unpack how 114 academics in an AD programme developed internal (within their programme) and external (outside their programme) learning and teaching relations. A secondary goal is to highlight the affordances of social network analysis (SNA) methods in conjunction with qualitative approaches for academic developers to understand the (in)formal learning processes in their AD programme. The quantitative results indicate that participants maintained 4.84 relations within their AD programme and 3.17 external ties. The qualitative results indicate that most academics developed a range of emotional, academic, and professional support links, which were mostly outside the AD context. Participants needed an outlet to share their feelings, challenges, and frustrations about their teaching and their experiences on the AD programme. These feelings were shared with people they trusted, primarily close friends and colleagues. This study provides a social perspective on the formal and informal relations of AD, and argues that SNA techniques can help academic developers to make these relationships visible.

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