Academic Cultures Moira Peelo, Lancaster University
Access to what? Inherent in the design of this project are questions about whether making universities accessible is the same as making teaching and learning fully accessible to all students? Access to opportunities for personal development and change over the time of a degree, with the intention of entering a graduate career
This project… contributes to understanding the social context of teaching & learning by: Giving insight into students change and development over the course of their degrees Allowing us a sense of the various academic cultures that shape student experience – their universities, their departments and their areas of study
Complex data Phenomenographic research opened the door to work which allows us to explore learning from a student perspective. Avoiding the bland findings of recent customer satisfaction approaches and into a more complex analysis. Contextualising student experience within their degree scheme – including interviews with those who teach – & in personal development over time
Academic cultures? Becher (1989) summarised his thesis: the ways in which particular groups of academics organize their professional lives are intimately related to the intellectual tasks on which they are engaged (p.1). We can see this reflected in teaching styles, assessment exercises, styles of writing, questions asked – the cluster of tacit assumptions surrounding study of specific subjects
Macro- & micro-level access Thinking about student and staff experiences of teaching allows us to reconceptualise access away from the macro-level of policy construction, to micro-level interactions within degree schemes. How students negotiate needs and preferences within the variety of discourses in a system of mass higher education.
This is how we teach… D. described himself as not liking practicals too much anyway, and additionally had picked out a gap in this traditional method of teaching that added to his difficulties – the gulf between demonstrators technical knowledge in lab work and their inability to link this to assignment requirements
The course organiser just relied on the laboratory staff to tell us what we needed to know. They know a lot about their particular piece of equipment or what they are doing, but they dont know how to fit into what the assignment is. … So that is pretty hopeless. Int. 2, Year 3, p.19
Organizational structure of teaching Clarification - spelling out tacit knowledge Freeing up energy to spend on subject matter rather than organizational issues Questioning as teachers how much our style reflects the demands of subject matter – or habit
Student meets teaching style All subjects have essential elements - one dyslexic student illustrated the process of negotiating language challenges during a year abroad: What I have found works well, is to choose the courses where the lectures use visual aids, such as power point, as it is a bit like watching a film with subtitles, in that you have twice as much chance of understanding what is going on…(J. email, 3.11.05)
Macro- and micro- levels Policies provide a macro-level framework for promoting equal opportunities in education. Students study particular subjects, in particular departments, in particular institutions. It is at this micro-level that access to formal and informal learning occurs.
Extending notions of access Accessing opportunities for change and development is closely linked with learning to negotiate the various academic cultures in which a student studies Hence, better understanding the social context for teaching & learning is a necessary step to genuine widening participation