Improving learning in higher education: Engaging academics in teaching and learning through a transformative fusion epistemology

Kathrine Galloway, Peter Jones

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractResearchpeer-review


The contemporary focus on quality in higher education (Ramsden, 1998; Hoecht, 2006) arguably reflects anincreasingly managerialist approach to education (Ramsden, 1998; Marginson & Considine, 2000) and,perhaps, a shift towards a more instrumental view of the educated citizen (Crowley-Cyr, 2008; Hoecht,2006). Indeed, a critique of this paradigm reveals the potential for a transactional approach to the role of anacademic, with a growing focus on reporting against KPIs as the primary means of academic accountability(Neyland, 2007). The managerialist epistemologies privileged in this dynamic do not sit comfortably with theworldview or professional identity of many discipline-based academics.Such an approach to higher education also has inevitable consequences for approaches to teaching andlearning and the relationship of discipline-based academics to the scholarship of teaching and learning(SoTL). Where institutional teaching and learning activities become identified with managerialist discourse,rather than adopt such transactional approaches, academic staff may simply become disengaged fromteaching and learning insofar as it challenges their discipline identity. It has, however, become clear that anacademic’s immersion in their discipline – its culture and epistemology - is insufficient to demonstratequality teaching and to provide a foundation for contemporary standards of student learning outcomes(Boyer, 1990). In addition, contemporary global concerns with education for sustainability (TalloiresDeclaration, 1990) and the internationalisation of curricula (Martin, 1999; Qiang, 2003; Altbach & Knight,2007) require academics to engage in thinking that may be outside their traditional discipline fields(Shephard & Furnari, 2012). In this context, such concepts represent an interface of discipline knowledgeand the SoTL – yet also bringing their own discourse.These unfolding dynamics challenge us to do a number of things. As academics we must avoid capture bymanagerialism, but also move beyond an identity that is focused solely on discipline scholarship. We muststrive to become discipline-informed scholars in learning and teaching (Boyer, 1990; Ramsden, 2003),adopting what the authors call a ‘fusion’ epistemology: a blend of discipline and educational discourses.This paper builds on Boyer’s proposal for a diverse academic role incorporating ‘the scholarship ofdiscovery…of integration…of application and… of teaching’ (Boyer, 1990) to describe the process ofdevelopment of an academic identity reflecting engagement in such a fusion epistemology. It does so byidentifying stages in the evolution of academic identity from discipline professional to scholar in disciplinelearning and teaching based on observation and reflection on the authors’ own journeys as academics. Indoing so, the authors develop an understanding of the transformative pathways to a more comprehensiveprofessional identity as a discipline scholars of teaching and learning, informed by the quite disparateepistemologies of discipline and education. They conclude with observations about the means by which tobuild capacity to improve engagement in the SoTL in the academy – with a focus always on supportingstudent learning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventNew Trends on Global Education Conference - Kyrenia , Cyprus
Duration: 24 Sept 201226 Sept 2012


ConferenceNew Trends on Global Education Conference
Abbreviated titleGEC'12


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