Collaborative Knowledge Exchange for Learning Impact
Project Lead: National University of Ireland, Galway
Project Partners: Dublin City University, University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College
Heads of School/Department, Deans, Associate Deans and other middle/senior management staff play a crucial role in higher education in shaping practice, influencing policy and in making a real impact ‘on the ground’ with students and colleagues. Such posts typically carry a large level of responsibility and a remit that spans research development, curriculum planning, teaching administration, HR management, contracts, financial planning, and much more besides. Whilst training is available, much of it focuses either on administrative systems or on generic management skills. In addition, such staff are extremely time-poor and have very limited scope for embarking on new formal qualifications or large scale training commitments. Yet, in terms of ‘championing the digital’ and leading the enhancement of teaching & learning, this call rightly identifies such staff as absolutely crucial in moving beyond the stage of individual experimentation and initiative, towards systemic change.
So how to square the circle? We surveyed all such post-holders in the lead institution, with a proposal to develop a flexible, ‘light touch’ (but high impact) initiative, built around establishing a network of enquiry/experience, informed by high level guest speakers and podcasts, a small number of meetings, and the provision of practical tools, the agenda shaped by consultation and collegiality. The response was overwhelmingly positive (15/16 Heads of School, 4/5 Deans). The appeal of a flexible, pragmatic and responsive strategy was contrasted by some respondents with the alternative of formalised ‘off the shelf,’ compulsory management training. The approach was also felt to be particularly well suited to the topics under consideration. We propose to develop this collegial model across the partner institutions, nuancing the approach to suit local contexts, sharing resources, materials and contributors. We will also exploit the available outcomes of relevant National Forum research projects, policy documents and our own extensive, international connections and experience.