We had a variety of thought-provoking sessions on NAPP (the New Academic Practitioners Programme at UCT) today. Jeff Jawitz started off the full-day workshop by mapping out some of the dimensions of diversity present in our classrooms and encouraged us to think through how we might address these challenges. I enjoyed reading various lecturers’ comments about their experiences of dealing with diversity in their own disciplinary contexts, some very different to my own. I found the table below to be a useful framework for thinking about what we do as reflective practitioners and how diversity plays a role across these levels.
I read an interesting article (The game of higher education – what’s the best way to play it?) which compares Higher Education to a game: “you struggle with the feeling that the higher education system is a game, the rules of which are difficult to navigate and set by others?” It made me think of the NAPP (New Academic Practitoners) programme I’m doing at UCT with fellow early career academics. Many of us agreed that the induction provided by the university through HR is not enough and that NAPP is essential. During the programme we had a discussion around what we expected when starting our new roles but didn’t get and for many, including myself, mentoring came up. On the one hand, we are thrown into the deep end and expected to swim (without having had training on things like convening courses, developing course outlines, etc) but on the other hand, one is being trusted with new responsibilities which can be scary and exciting.
So, what does self-leadership mean for academics? We have conceptualised it in two ways. First, self-leadership means a proactive approach to getting the most out of ourselves and those with whom we interact. Note that the responsibility is on us to take the initiative and not be purely selfish in our intent. Second, self-leadership entails an outward-looking mindset – being conscious and careful in sharing our ideas and opening up our networks. (Joy & Saunders, 2014)
Self-leadership in the way they are using it is not anti-social nor individualist. I have been proactive in seeking out people who can assist me with particular things. Interestingly, I think the people I have sought out as mentors have learnt things from me in the process. Knowledge collaboration is always at work in these interactions. One is not necessarily seeking a power relationship (authority implied by ‘mentor’) but a form of collaboration and information exchange that results in instances of informal professional development. Sometimes these become more formalised over time, such as when you meet to discuss a shared interest and later co-author an article on this topic. Whether it’s getting someone to show you the ropes or share insights on climbing the ladder it is never these things alone. There is always more to it. Acknowledging this dynamic is forward looking.
I did this presentation as part of the June 2012 New Academic Practitioners Programme (NAPP). I introduce staff and postgraduate students to ePortfolios so that we can develop our teaching practice and research identities. Becoming a reflective practitioner involves quite a mindshift firstly, and then secondly we have to think about how we can use the affordances of a blogging or other platform to practice the kind of reflection and evidence sharing involved in this process. ePortfolios are in and outward facing, formative and summative, a process and a product. Once we understand this dynamic we can apply it to our purposes, goals, audience, etc. Maintaining an ePortfolio can even be part of one’s professional development plan. I welcome feedback on ePortfolios and professional development as well as how various forms thereof can be used for learning and curriculum innovation with students.
See the notes section of this PowerPoint presentation for URLs of sources. Download presentation here.
Additional reading to scaffold doing critical reflection for your professional development & developing your practice: