It ain’t what you do but the way that you do it….

Posted on Updated on

ISSOTL conference venue
ISSOTL conference venue
“…And that’s what gets results!” Fun Boy Three with Bananarama (1982).

OK, maybe I am showing my age with such a teenage influence but this was one of the quotes I used in my talk at ISSOTL yesterday whilst reflecting on the effectiveness of our recent teaching and learning transformational changes at Abertay. The importance of creating the right climate and culture to support successful change in HE is the subject of this short post.

A number of the talks at the conference have talked about organisational change and although they have been coming at things from different angles (type of institution, technology enhanced learning, pedagogic research etc), there have been striking similarities where change has been successful. For me the number one consistent message has been the importance of creating the right environment and this necessitates the right culture for systemic transformation. The need to draw on and develop evidence and theory are important elements for but getting the process of change right is more important when it comes to successful implementation, impact and sustainability. Within that context, the importance of listening to and working with colleagues is vital. Without their involvement, buy-in and ideas for enhancement, the greatest strategy in the world is going nowhere. This has been a key feature of Abertay’s approach.

L for Listen was the first of Professor Geoff Scott from the University of Western Australia’s 4 Ls approach to successful change in HE; the others being Link (taking a coherent approach), Leverage (working with the innovators and champions) and finally Lead. At Abertay, Professor Olivier and myself have been advocating a 4 Ps approach: Purpose, Principles, Practice and Policy. The words are different but the notions and underlying philosophies are very similar.

Katarina Mårtensson (Lund University, Sweden) talked about the importance of creating meso-level organisational structures, strong communities of practice and building capacity in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Again, these have been important features of Abertay’s approach with the creation of short-life working groups (e.g. to develop the new Abertay Attributes), new T&L grants (ATLEF), the new Going for Gold CPD scheme and our monthly T&L seminars which act as both networking opportunities to share good practice across the institution but also provide important fora for the development of new University initiatives and policies such as our assessment principles, academic calendar etc.

Other speakers talked about the tensions between research and teaching and the mismatch in their perceived status amongst both academics but also University Executives. Effecting systemic positive change organisations with such cultures is significantly more challenging. I truly believe that this is much less of an issue at Abertay where competence and professionalism in both research and teaching is expected of all academic staff rather than it being a case of either/ or.

Changes at Abertay over the last few years have been fundamental, extensive and fast-paced. Indeed some colleagues may have felt that they have been involved in a bit of a tsunami of change over the last three years but the evidence of the positive impact on students’ learning, experience and attainment is becoming clear. The fact that many of the speakers who talked about successful change in HE resonated with what we have been trying to achieve has been very affirming and the opportunity to present our ongoing story to a global audience of scholars has been a privilege.

Thank you to all the new colleagues I have met at ISSOTL this week for your interest and feedback but most importantly thank you to all my colleagues back at Abertay for all their continued hard work which is now gaining international recognition.

Alastair Robertson,
Director of Teaching and Learning Enhancement
Abertay University


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s