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"Learning to lecture": situating the knowing and learning of higher education teaching

Russell Warhurst
Leeds Metropolitan University

Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, 
11-13 September 2003


This paper considers how new higher education lecturers at a research intensive university, recruited on the basis of their research track record and potential, learn the fundamentally different activity of higher education teaching. As one participant remarked:

- "They more or less appoint you off the street, you know, I mean it's, the - what do they
appoint you on, they appoint you on your publications and your research record which has
absolutely nothing to do with what you are doing in relation to the students" (S. Accountancy)

It is asserted that the provision of a formal teaching development programme in the case study university, in line with current practice at all UK HEIs, is of far less importance in enabling new lecturers' learning of teaching than learning derived from the experience of teaching, from social mediation in the work context, and from assuming the identity of higher education teacher, that is, from being situated in a knowing context.

The paper presents an understand of academics' learning to teach using situated cognition and situated learning theorising, but points also to the importance of individual experiential learning and socially mediated learning through mentoring, in enabling novice academics to because effective higher education teachers.

Research approach

During the spring and summer of 2003, 29 new academics at a research intensive university participated in multi-method research exploring their teaching activity and thinking and the influences on these. Participants in the study logged key teaching activities each week, identifying factors that prompted the use of a particular approach or technique. Follow-up in-depth, semi-structured interviews have enabled the researcher to work with participants in further exploring the nature and effectiveness of their teaching approaches and techniques, and to consider the processes most effective in enabling their learning to teach.

As analysis of the participants' documentation and dialogues with the researcher has only just begun this paper takes a largely theoretical perspective but incorporates supporting evidence from this initial analysis of the new lecturers' experiences and perceptions.

Teaching development in UK higher education

The formal development of new academics' teaching capability is a recent phenomena in research intensive universities where academics have been perceived, and rewarded, primarily as professional researchers, and not for their teaching competence per se. Showing a degree of interest in teaching might even mark the individual as a struggling researcher (Henkel, 2000: 35; Trowler and Cooper, 2002: 229). Contrary to the evidence demonstrating limited synergies between teaching and research, research intensive universities continue with the assumption that research achievements correlate with teaching potential (Andresen, 2000: 25-7; Knight, 2002: 46). This assumed correlation, combined with a pervasive transmission model of pedagogy and, until recently, the recruitment of able and willing students, meant that teaching development activity was neglected (Laurillard, 2002: 11; Wareham, 2002: 86).

Increasing student numbers and the concomitant diversification of student backgrounds combined during the 1990s, with accountability demands, to create pressure for teaching enhancement. Support at the policy level came through government reports in 1997 and 2003 recommending teaching development structures and establishing accreditation procedures, for both new and established higher education teachers. Although the subject of more controversy in higher education teaching than in school teaching, criteria of higher education teaching have been established at a national level by the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in the form of "outcomes and values". Teaching development units running courses accredited against the national criteria are now found in all British higher education institutions and most institutions require new academics' participation (Gibbs, 1998: 233; ILTHE, 2003: 1).

Three models of teaching development for new academics are evident. Most provision can be characterised as traditional in-service course provision with inputs on educational theory and teaching principles and with assessment designed to promote the application of theory in practice. A portfolio of evidence mapped against the teaching criteria and with mentor supported reflection is another typical approach (Rust, 2000: 255; MacDonald, 2001: 154). An inquiry led, problem centred, approach characterises more recently validated programmes. In all cases, provision focuses on developing the individual's competence although in the case of the latter models, within the disciplinary practice context.

How teaching is learnt is predicated on the conceptualisation of teaching as an activity

Two contrasting conceptualisations of teaching influence perceptions as to how teaching should be learnt. If teaching is conceptualised as a complex professional craft, then extensive reflective, experiential, learning, or formal study of the research knowledge base, will be accepted as necessary. However, the pervasive conceptualisation of higher education teaching among both novice and established academics is of a straightforward, natural, activity requiring the acquisition of simple pedagogic techniques and routines learnt incidentally through experience or formally through instructional techniques training (Harvey and Knight, 1996: 120-121; Grisoni, 2002: 47-49).

Reified knowledge, formally delivered, fails to enable accomplished teaching

Both the traditional instructional techniques training, and the more recent, lecturer education programmes, essentially deliver propositional knowledge through formal learning experiences. In making the case here that the knowing of teaching is rather more complex, and is learnt mostly through experience or through engagement in socially situated practice, the contribution of such formal training or education to accomplished teaching, needs first to be assessed.

In numerous evaluation studies, the traditional model of teacher education involving the transmission of established, codified, knowledge for retention in memory and subsequent application in practice, has been found to be ineffective (see for example, Putnam and Borko, 2000: 6). Similar findings are emerging in the case of in-put led higher education teaching development courses (see, for example, Rust, 2000: 254-255; Malcolm and Zukas, 2000: 59-60; Coffey and Gibbs, 2000: 387-388; Knight, 2002: 23).

Critique of course based approaches to the professional development of lecturers is hardly likely to emerge, however, from the lecturers themselves, when, as in the case study University, truly innovative approaches to higher learning are thin on the ground. Only one of the 29 participants in the current study expressed any degree of negativity about the fairly traditional, model one, form of educational development programme that they had been or were students of. It can be assumed that graduates of a course are less likely to be critical than current students, but, that the majority of participants in this research are current students of the course makes the lack of critique an interesting finding of the research in itself.

Educational critiques of such formal, course, based teacher learning, suggest that the reified knowledge, and the modes of knowing, developed by the individual differ from the personal knowledge and situated knowing required to engage in the social defined activity of teaching, Schön's "swampy lowlands of practice". The cognition required to effect a transfer from the former mode and context to the latter activity is rarely addressed (Eraut, 2003).

Lecturer learning in classrooms but not educational developers' classrooms

To understand the knowing of teaching, a focus on the individual teacher and their formal learning, as is implicit in teaching competence frameworks and most formal courses for teaching, gives at best a partial account. To paraphrase Lave (1997), to study learning the last place to look is in school or university classrooms. However, in the case of the lecturers, it is argued below, that it is very much in university classrooms that lecturers really learn to lecture although, not, of course, in the educational developer's classroom.

Individual experiential learning through reflected practice

Personal trial and error experimentation and problem solving are found to characterise much of the learning about teaching in both schools and universities (Little, 1990: 172-173; Boice, 1992: 58; Murray and MacDonald, 1997: 346). Since Schön's Reflective Practitioner, published in 1984 the process of reflecting in and on action have been the orthodox account of experiential learning, of how experience is reified into transferable generalisations and personal theories (Wesley and Buysse, 2001: 115; Knight, 2002: 29). Virtually all participants in the current study evidenced personal learning through trial and error and examples of reflection in, on, and for teaching (Cowan, 1998: 36-39) are commonplace in the lecturers' teaching records and in their interviews. However individual experiential learning and learning through reflected practice, while undoubtedly important, are not the focus of this current paper which proposes that, on the basis of the emerging evidence from the case study University, ideas of situated knowing and situated learning, provide a more robust understanding of the learning of higher education teaching.

The social learning of teaching: learning through guidance

Social learning theory represents a step towards a situated understanding of the knowing and learning of higher education teaching and such, social learning, theorising has been highly influential in the design of all forms of initial lecturer development programmes.

Social learning theory provides a useful way of understanding the learning of new higher education teachers. While similar to experiential learning theories in centring work experience in learning, social learning theory emphasises the role of "proximal guidance" (Billett, 2001: 21) such as that derived from the traditional apprentice "master" or the contemporary mentor.

Social learning theories emphasise the role of a proximal guide in enabling learning to be derived from experience through various mediational mechanisms. The proximal guide undertakes a range of conscious and unconscious pedagogic activities summed up as the 'scaffolding and fading' approach. The proximal guide ensures that the learner undertakes challenging, but achievable, tasks, models appropriate work behaviour, instructs, assists performance, guides practice, elicits learner explanations, and provides feedback. In the case of work, such as teaching, where much of the knowing lies beneath the waterline of observable performance, and where personal experience can pass by unreflected with the pace and pressure of the work, the explication or challenge provided by another can be vital in enabling novices' learning (Billett, 1999: 155-156). Social learning theories are not, however, dissimilar to experiential learning theories in centring both experience and the processes of individuals' knowledge acquisition or construction (Guile and Young, 1999: 112).

The mentor is seen as the key learning resource in school based initial teacher education and in in-service higher education teaching development. Empirical research reveals, however, that in both sectors, the potential contribution of mentoring to the pedagogic learning of the novice teacher is rarely realised (Edwards and Protheroe, 2003: 228; Boice, 1992: 107). Studies show that such guidance generally involves merely low level "training" interventions such as the guide showing the "correct" way to teach and offering hints and tips (Handal and Lauvas, 1988: 65; Hart-Landsberg et al., 1992: 31). Mentoring, as frequently enacted, involves no more than the transmission of low level propositional teaching knowledge rather than the deeper exploration and critical evaluation of established practice with a view to co-constructing new meanings (Edwards, 1998: 55-56).

Overwhelmingly new lecturers in the case study university reported that the potential for socially mediated learning through their allocated mentors simply wasn't happening; responding to the researcher's question, "can you say something about the influence of your mentor or the mentoring process on your teaching", the following comments are typical:

- "We don't tend to discuss teaching at all really" (A. Life Sciences)
- "I have to say my mentor was useless . . . he would listen and he would say, 'well
just keep your head down'" (A. Management)
- "I asked him if there was anything that I could have done better and, er, he said,
'no, no, it was fine'" (B. Accountancy)
- "Of completely no importance whatsoever. It is slightly irritating" (P. Design)
- "Very much a one way process . . . in me telling him what I've done so that he can
write a report to the head of department" (P. Mechanical Engineering)
- "I would say the mentoring was not what I was expecting at all. Well, based on
my previous experience of a mentor in another organisation" (T. Psychology)

- "I found that he was rather a negative example rather than a role model"
(W. Computing)

The current study is thus showing the limitations of social learning through the proximal guidance of mentoring, in a context where mentors are neither motivated to enable learning about teaching and where, in any case, the mentors' knowledge, or knowing, of higher education teaching is likely to be largely tacit and un-reflected.

A fundamental limitation of social learning theory lies in the assumption that the knowledge of practice is an explicit entity acquired through transmission from one individual to another individual or that it is capable of development by the individual's in vitro effort. If the knowledge, or, more correctly, the knowing, of practice is, as is argued below, conceptualised as more or less situated, then its learning needs re-conceptualising too.

A) Situating knowing in practice

Broader social influences, not merely proximal guidance, on individual's learning, and learning within social entities are both widely accepted in the learning literatures. However, that knowledge and knowing might be social phenomenon, as asserted by situated cognition theorists, has only recently been more generally considered. The situated cognition perspective does not restrict social and cultural influences to the process of learning but extends these influences to its products such that 'ways of knowing are social' (Cobb, et al., 1997: 151). That there is no knowledge without a knower is the essence of the established constructivist understanding of knowledge (Cochran-Smith and Lytle, 1999: 274) and extending this, the situated cognition perspective asserts that as intelligent work practices are mostly the outcome of collaborative performances, the knowledge of such practice is thus sustained by a community of knowers (Pea, 1993: 74; St. Julien, 1997: 261). A 'community is an essential condition for the existence of practical knowledge', and expertise amounts to the on-going, collaborative and discursive construction of tasks and solutions (Gherardi, 2000: 41). Theories of situated cognition locate knowing in the cultural, historical and institutional contexts of the groups who manifest the knowing.

Practice communities carry the knowing of practice

Situated cognition theorising proposes that accomplished performance is a social achievement, an outcome of an interacting system of persons and artefacts. Knowing does not exist as an abstract, objective, entity capable of individual possession, but exists only within a practice and only among co-participants in that practice setting. Knowing is best understood as residing within the relations between cognitive agents and situations and thus 'it is not meaningful to try to characterise what someone knows apart from situations in which the person engages in cognitive activity' (Greeno, Smith and Moore, 1992: 100). Workplace knowledge, in the situated perspective, thus exists socially, distributed among participants, and 'is not something that we can claim as individuals . . . this competence is experienced and manifested by members through their own engagement in practice' (Wenger, 1998: 137). Knowledge is constituted in the settings of practice and thus knowledge is an activity, extant only in the context and culture in which it is developed and used (see, Lave, 1997: 32).

To situated cognition theorists collective knowing is not simply the sum of individual pieces of knowledge, or acts of knowing, but is, rather, an holistic enactment. 'Shared knowledge differs significantly from a collective pool of discrete parts', cognition in practice may involve neither party having a decisive "piece" of knowledge and the cognition that is achieved together is an 'indivisible product' not the property of any one individual (Brown and Duguid, 2000: 106). Thus cognition in groups is distributed over, not divided among, participants. Knowledge and skill in practice settings are defined and validated by established members of the practice community and the quality and depth of an individual's understanding can only be determined in an appropriate social environment (Darrah, 1996: 31).

Academic "communities" as practice communities

A potentially significant limitation of the situative approach to knowing in understanding accomplished teaching is the almost universal finding of isolation and low levels of collaboration in both school and higher education teaching. Empirical studies consistently fail to find identifiable teaching communities or the existence of meaningful dialogue among teachers other than the provision of hints and tips and the swapping of gossip about pupils and students (Bennett, 1998: 3). Isolation and loneliness typify new teachers' and academics' experience of work (Boice, 1992: 2; Taylor, 1999: 121; Barkhuizen, 2002: 94-95).

Feelings of isolation have certainly characterised the entry into higher education teaching of most academics in the case study university:

- "When I first started off . . . it was a case of you had to probe and ask questions and
then you felt like you were a little bit useless because there was no feedback . . .

there was total isolation so - erm, but that's just the way it is" (A. Management)

- "It is very friendly, and it is, but there is no real dialogue I think, actual dialogue of
what we are doing on an everyday basis it is just, you know, being friendly, but
that's about it" (N. Management)

- "Kind of sink or swim attitude and I basically had to find a lot of the material
out myself . . . figuring out what precisely I should teach and the structure and
methodology of how I should go about teaching" (D. Engineering)

- "I tend to suffer alone" (S. Life Sciences)

Situated knowing in independent academic work

Acceptance of the fact that in contrast to many professions, higher education teaching is not characterised by interaction among practitioners, does not, however, negate the possibility of situated knowing or learning. Numerous case studies have found, for example, that individuals' cognitive performance is considerably more effective when situated in a real world environment than when the same individual takes a test replicating the same cognitive skill. There is widespread acceptance that 'cultural resources' are an integral component of effective cognition (see for example, Greeno, 1998: 7). Even when the individual is thinking in physical isolation, this activity is always socially structured, mediated, by cultural artefacts, particularly the socially shared language that enables thinking. Thoughts and actions are 'deeply embedded in a cultural context', involving 'culturally informed and laden tools' (Salomon and Perkins, 1998: 16). Thus, everything academics do 'bears the marks of the disciplines and departments' in which they are based and independent thought is grounded in common experiences (Bennett, 1998: 21).

The situated knowing of higher education teaching

A situated cognition understanding of the practice of teaching asserts that the knowing of teaching exists in the specific contexts of schools, universities and departments. Evidence of the complexity and uniqueness of each teaching activity supports such a situated understanding of teaching cognition. Research in both school and higher education teaching reveals the power of situated knowing felt by new teachers and academics, who report being constrained to conform by the milieu of their new departments (Knight and Trowler, 2000: 74; Barkhuizen, 2002: 99; Edwards and Protheroe, 2003: 239). Knight and Trowler (2000) found that although virtually all their newly appointed lecturer respondents had previous teaching experience, these lecturers felt that their learning about teaching derived from such experience was 'rarely directly transferable to new contexts' (74).

Teaching knowledge is subjectively constructed through participation in a specific school or departmental setting such that a teacher's cognition or behaviour has less to do with her or his individual biography and more to do with the social organisation of the workplace (Rosenholtz, 1989: 4). The knowing of teaching should be conceptualised as a social process whereby the new teacher is shaped by the dynamics of social practice, social structure and history. The knowing of teaching is thus dialogical, pedagogy being discursively produced from the experiences of the teachers in a particular milieu with certain teaching approaches validated and possible alternatives screened out (Trowler and Cooper, 2002: 230-231). Thus teaching competence exists only in the actual context of performance and cannot be conceptualised in an abstract way.

One methodological approach to accessing the situated knowing of teaching in the case study university, was to questions new academics regarding the extent to which they perceived that colleagues and students had expectations about specific teaching methodologies. Although a refined analysis of participants' statements has yet to be undertaken, over half of participants affirmed directly their perception of strong expectations, usually experienced as constraints. All participants made less direct statements from which the inference can be drawn of pervasive expectations, usually of traditional teaching methodologies. Typical statements made concerning colleagues' expectations are:

- "I think that there's a lot of tradition about how civil engineering has been taught .
. . things have always been done this way" (D. Environmental Engineering)

- "There is even a systematic expectation er, the way that the undergraduate modular
programme is set up, we have three hours of 'lecturing' per week . . . they are
scheduled in lecture theatres" (I. Business)

- "People come in (to the lab) and see what you are doing and say 'I wouldn't do it
that way'" (P. Physics)

- (commenting on colleagues' teaching approaches) "this is the way I was taught it
so this is the way I will teach it" (R. Chemical Engineering)
- "I think there's an institutional expectation of teaching . . . about what is an
acceptable method to teach" (T. Psychology)

And typical statements by the new academics' of their perceptions of student expectations are:

- "I think they expect lectures; I think once they get into something else then they are
not so bad but it takes them a long time to get into it. They expect to go to a lecture
and just listen to you and so many people do that, that if you do something different
it is really hard work for them and for you" (H. Computing)

- "I think the type of approach I have taken to teaching they have enjoyed, but they
haven't taken it 100% seriously because I have not stood and talked to them . . . the
students themselves complain if they are not talked to" (L. Management)

- "There's a very strong expectation of what should be done and the way it should be
done . . . the students, if you put them in a situation where you are asking different
things of them than what they would be used to, erm, it would be tough going" (P.
Mechanical Engineering)

- "The students complained . . . 'can you not just lecture us like your colleagues' and
I said 'well I think everyone should be free to teach as they want'" (V. Languages)

Furthermore, the artefacts of practice, such as the physical and web architectures of higher education teaching, embed the cognition of teaching. Knowing is realised through the interacting socio-technical system of the work environment. Artefacts prescribe, constrain and afford particular cognition, and thus particular work practices. One participant was not untypical in expressing a desire to use alternative teaching methods but:

- "Within the lecture structure, you know, in LT 3 or 4 or whatever, it is just very
difficult to change the medium of imparting information" (K. Management)

B) Situating learning in practice: learning through participation

Knowing exists in activity: learning is engagement in activity

If significant elements of the knowing of higher education teaching are socially and physically situated, then experiential and socially mediated learning theories offer only partial explanations of how accomplished teaching is achieved. Experiential and social learning theories, in essence, replicate the perspective of traditional, cognitive, learning theory that separates the known, as a reified entity, a product called knowledge, from the knower. The transmission process is thus the focus.

Experiential learning theory has, however, established that the knowledge constructed through experience is of a different type to formal knowledge and is of a type wholly interconnected with action, with cognition. Going further, situated learning theory suggests that if what is known is conceptualised as enacted social practice, as a collective process of knowing, the doing of cognition, rather than a product, then learning happens through situated participation in that practice and knowing and learning are inseparable (Law, 2000: 349). As Blackler (1995) notes, 'by focusing on knowing rather than knowledge, the distinction that is conventionally assumed between knowledge and learning is avoided' (1038).

The mechanisms of situated learning

Paradigmatically distinct from established socially mediated learning theories, situated learning theory emphasises the need to understand the nature of and functioning of social groups, how meaning is constructed and contested in such groups, how newcomers progressively participate in the work of the group and how engagement shapes an individual's identity (Edwards and Protheroe, 2003: 230; Moule, 2003).

Community, collaboration, interaction and dialogue support situated knowing enabling situated leaning

When knowing is conceptualised as realised practice, constructed among participants, the focus in understanding learning becomes understanding socially situated practices and the integration of the new lecturer into such practices. Distributed knowing implies learning not merely from the proximal guidance of a mentor but from all participants in an activity such that new academics' develop their knowing through interaction with colleagues, administrators and, importantly, from students. Knight (2002) asserts that being an effective higher education teacher is a social as much as an individual accomplishment. In one setting it is easy to be a good teacher because 'normal practices sheepdog everyone into teaching well. In those departments it would take a perverse talent not to teach well'. However, in other milieu 'it takes grit to teach well, (and) it is easy to get by with information peddling' (1-2). Additionally, universities' physical and virtual infrastructure carries some of the knowing of teaching and is thus also implicated in the new academics' learning to teach.

A substantial literature on school improvement confirms the importance of collaborative communities of teachers in enabling both the learning of new teachers and the generation of new situated knowing (see for example, Hodkinson and Hodkinson, 2002: 6). A similar higher education literature is now emerging (see, for example, Knight and Trowler, 2000: 72). In the general workplace learning literature it has, also, been asserted that physical or virtual "communities of practice" provide a vital framework for both newcomers socially mediated and situated learning and for knowledge creation through evolving practice (see for example, Wenger, 1998).

The extent and quality of dialogue is a key defining element of a community and enables the co-construction of knowledge, supporting situated knowing. Similarly, interactional quality enables both newcomers' learning and the expansive learning of established members. Studying patterns of interaction, distinctive language forms, and the stories told within groups, provides access to their shared and valued knowing, and indicates the potential for situated learning (Thomas, Kellogg and Erickson, 2001: 879). Becoming able to talk effectively within the community, using the right language in the correct way, is a key situated learning process.

Although, at times, isolation was experienced by many participants in the current study, as noted above, both the teaching record logs and interviews reveal virtually all participants seeking or receiving straightforward teaching advice on an almost daily basis. Such advice could generally be classed as low level, being concerned with teaching techniques or procedures. These conversations, on occasion however, led on to deeper one to one, or even group, dialogues about the very nature of learning and teaching in the subject. The evidence points to more fundamental learning dialogues arising from the prima facie "simple" requests, or naïve questioning, of established academics by their new colleague.

Virtually all participants provided examples of informal teaching conversations but formal discussions of learning and teaching were rarely recounted even upon prompting: one teaching record entry noting,

- "Infrequent formal interaction. Informally, regular chats with co-teachers" (K.

"Cigars on the flight deck" was, however, a regular and frequent occasion for another lecturer's informal, collegial interactions about teaching. Even everyday, low level, conversations, in themselves, undoubtedly assist the novice lecturer's teaching development:

- "I've sort of aired problems with him and he's said, you know, 'I think everybody
has that problem', sort of, it's a subject area problem perhaps, but it has not really
gone any deeper than that but it has sort of given me confidence, you know, I'm not
making a complete mess of it " (G. Management)

Several academic units had recruited a number of new academics who invariably engaged more systematically among themselves in deeper dialogues regarding fundamental teaching and learning approaches. Similarly, in other academic units, such deeper dialogues were being prompted by the introduction of new courses, particularly open and distance learning courses. Teaching dialogue also arose from the perceived need for new teaching and assessment methods to deal with two fundamental problems facing many academic units in the case study university; the attraction and the retention of under-graduate students.

Legitimate peripheral participation: learning as identity formation

Situated learning is conceptualised not as a process of acquisition, "knowing about" a practice, but of appropriating situated cognition, of "knowing how to be", to participate holistically in, the practice of a community and is thus a process of identity reformulation (Brown and Duguid, 2000: 138). Knowing and identity are constituted through the relations of participation and through legitimate peripheral participation in a work group's activities, the newcomer's identity is transformed.

Situated learning involves the newcomer's identity being shaped through progressive participation from the periphery to immersion in the group's activity. The work-group might re-order tasks from their logical sequence so that novices undertake the simpler work or work of less intensity or less risk. Although in some occupations movement towards core activities might be restricted by established workers, in both schools and universities, new teachers undertake more or less the same activities as established teachers. The work intensity resulting from teachers' instant immersion, however, potentially limits the opportunities for developing situated knowing through progressive participation (Boice, 1992: 29) and heavy workloads were universally, and not infrequently, emotionally, recounted by participants in this study. Situated learning is also predicated upon legitimate participation, that is acceptance into the informal activities of the group, legitimacy being, perhaps, more easily established by new highly qualified academics than by new school teachers.

Although many of the new academics in the case study university report being thrown into the deep-end with their teaching and, in some cases, being told explicitly that they either "sink or swim", there is some evidence of new lecturers being eased in by being allocated teaching closely aligned to their doctoral work or teaching perceived as "easy":

- "I tend to get the beginning of undergraduate or MSc" (H. Computing)

- "The School tries to bring you in slowly so I was only doing one hour a week the
previous term" (N. Management)

- "At the moment, as a relatively new lecturer, I only tend to be given the
undergraduate teaching" (P. Computing)

Even in the cases of deep-end immersion it might be argued that legitimate peripheral participation is practised through the PhD apprenticeship and teaching assistant work that virtually all participants experienced prior to their lecturing appointment.

Implications for developing educational practice

Social and individual knowing and learning in teaching

Taking a situative perspective to understand the knowing and learning of teaching implies the need to either counter or accommodate much established practice of pre and in-service teacher education. The formal education of school and university teachers is, of course, predicated on the assumption of individual agency (Walker, 2001 in Knight, 2002: 56) a notion which is undoubtedly, problematic from the situative perspective.

Situated cognition theorists do not deny that some knowledge, and cognition, is an accomplishment of individuals, but it is asserted that all higher order mental functions require social resources, not least, language, and have socially determined and defined outcomes (Cole, 1991: 410; Wertsch, 1991: 90). Resnick (1991) suggests that the social and individual aspects of cognition can be seen in dialogue 'as essential aspects of one another rather than as simply sketched background or context' for a predominantly individual or predominantly social account of cognition (3). That individuals are able to deploy cognitive strategies developed in one setting with effect in another suggests cognition resides in individual minds and that accomplished practice is a composite of individual and social knowing.

While asserting here that much of the knowing and learning of teaching is situated, the established psychological understanding can be accommodated if it is accepted that the individual and the social are reciprocally co-constituting with the social influencing the individual but with individual's personality and biography carrying some forms of knowing and influencing the established socially situated cognition to some degree. Socialisation research points to the duality of influence; individuals assimilate the groups' knowing, groups' accommodate to individual's knowing, and various factors within individuals and within groups determine the balance of influence (Levine and Moreland, 1991: 273). An established academic community might perceive the need to change and through the agency of a new individual academic, accommodation may be offered rather than assimilation demanded. Virtually all participants in the case study university reported their attempts to teach differently from established departmental norms.

Knowing might thus best be conceptualised as consisting of the situated cognition of the work community and its artefacts and the knowing introduced, transferred, by individuals from their experiences outside the community.

Teaching requires diverse forms of knowing and multiple learning methods

The implication for learning to teach that arises from conceptualising the knowing of teaching as partially socially situated and partially "embrained", transferred into situations by individuals, is that multiple learning mechanisms are necessary to enable this knowing. Whereas some aspects of the knowing of teaching will be informed by propositional knowledge, "acquired" by the new academic from formal sources, other aspects will be informed by the socially situated cognition of the specific teaching milieu being appropriated through situated participation in the practice. Thus cognitive, experiential and situated theories of learning might offer complementary accounts of learning accomplished practice. A strong case is made for example, for novice teachers, and other professionals, needing to acquire a "front loaded" propositional knowledge base through formal instruction not least to enable peripheral participation in such cognitive work, and then to effectively appropriate the situated knowing in the practice setting (Eraut, 2000: 14). In turn, however, the localised, socially situated, knowing needs appropriating to enable the individual to convert their formally acquired propositional knowledge into effective situated knowing.

Contribution of formal learning

Whereas in many emergent professions, the past decade has seen increased 'front loading' of research based propositional knowledge through formal, university based, courses, there has been a relocation of initial teacher education to school contexts (Aldrich, 1999: 23) reflecting a recognition of the situated cognition of teaching. Formal courses for those entering teaching have come to involve more than the transmission of research based propositional knowledge for subsequent application in practice, giving attention, instead, to enabling learners' to build their own practice knowing through critical reflection on experience informed by the knowledge base and with proximal guidance. The strong reaction against the centralisation of initial education for university teachers in the late 1990s has, similarly, prompted integration of aspects of such education into academic disciplines.

The situative perspectives on knowing and learning point to the need for formal provision, if it is to make any contribution to practice, to equip novices to participate effectively in practice, to be enabled to appropriate the socially situated knowing of their work context. Work is also needed within academic communities, along the lines of school improvement, school effectiveness, interventions, to enable members to surface and critique their situated conceptualisation of teaching and to more effectively enable novices' participation.

Given that research informed higher education teaching is likely to be more successful than established situated practice that has not been subjected to systematic scrutiny in the light of evidence, points to the need for new academics to be equipped to apply research informed practice in such real world contexts. The limited evaluation evidence of formal lecturer education suggests participants are enabled to conceptualise teaching more deeply and to use teaching approaches resulting in more effective student learning (Rust, 2000: 256-259; Coffee and Gibbs, 2000: 385). Additionally, requiring new academics to participate in formal learning about teaching, to encounter a body of propositional knowledge and educational research methodologies, potentially counters the dominance of academics' own research specialism, giving some status to teaching, and building a professional teaching identity.

Participants in the current study, mostly recent graduates of, or "students" on, the University's teaching development certificate, unanimously, and without prompting, volunteered, the direct contribution of their course learning to their teaching practice. Moreover, there is indirect evidence, such as defensiveness when describing the "need" to deliver part of their modules by lecturing, or to assess by examinations, that some participants' fundamental understanding of teaching and learning has been changed from their engagement in formal educational development.

Following the well established action research approach to in-service school teacher education, the encounter with educational research methodologies is, in the case of contemporary inquiry led models of new lecturer development, similarly extending the propositional knowledge base from within. Such knowledge, emerging from within the context of practice has greater potential, through individual agency, to shape the socially situated cognition of that practice.


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This document was added to the Education-line database on 28 October 2003