1 Introduction to Educational Development

Author: Celia Popovic

The vast majority of us who are educational developers love our work. Why would we do it if that were not the case? We find it rewarding, absorbing and relevant. What could be more engaging than the  improvement of teaching and learning in Colleges and Universities? However, from outside the field, our work can seem mysterious and it is often misunderstood. This site is, in part, an attempt to open up our work, to make it less mysterious and more accessible to those who might be interested in becoming educational developers. it is also an attempt to help support those of us who are educational developers and those who are contemplating becoming one.

We may not reach the stage where, when asked by a taxi driver or hairdresser, "so what do you do?", the response "I'm an educational developer" requires no more (nor less) explanation than "I'm a researcher, or "I'm a lecturer", but at least we may increase understanding of our role within our institutions.

This website is designed to support anyone interested in Educational Development, as a potential career, as someone new to a developer position, or indeed with years of experience. What are our key concerns and fundamental practices? Where can we get help? How can we help each other?

We hope you enjoy exploring the site, and would be particularly pleased to see it develop as an interactive, dynamic conversation.

1.1 What is this website about?

1.2 What is educational development?

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6 comments on “1 Introduction to Educational Development

  1. Thanks Celia for opening this up. One things that leaps out at me is that we shouldn't feel shame, sadness, frustration or remorse at what we do. The first job of almost all universities is teaching the people who pay them for that very service; and yet almost no university research or employees, foreground that responsibility. We do foreground that responsibility, and we should feel proud. I know we do more than 'teach professors how to teach'. But maybe that's a good opening line that might invite less perceived disdain? There's some Tom Cruise and Top Gun in this, if we wish to inject some humour. He teaches fighter pilots how to fight. We teach teachers how to teach. And we get paid more than many fighter pilots 🙂 It's just the ground floor of a conversation. We don;t have to be able to express everything in one breath. Other researchers don't. I sometimes lead with a question or statement connected to whatever I'm doing in the moment. 'What do you do for a living?' 'Well, at the moment I'm figuring out of why we don't use imagery more often in lectures, when our students all process information visually'.

    'That's my job - to make sure teachers teach well. Do you ever wish any of your professors/teachers had that kind of support?'

    1. I chuckled reading your post. "Well, I teach teachers how to teach," is how I always initially answer the dreaded "what do you do?" question ( I do many things-- I garden, paddle board, travel.. are you asking about those things? [usually not]). One year travelling in Mexico, friends translated the 'title' for me-- Maestra de Maestros 😉

  2. It's interesting to learn that many EDs have trouble explaining what they do. As a lab instructor and part-time faculty member for 20 years, I asked a colleague how he explained his job and his reply was "I teach at a university." This leads to inevitable questions regarding tenure or education level, and I came to realize that people who aren't involved in a university don't quite "get" what it is that I do. I teach programming, so essentially I'm a computer guy :).

    And now I have a Master of Education!

  3. An EDTA reader contacted me recently to say that they would like to leave a post here but felt they couldn't do so without risking attracting the ire of a senior administrator at their institution. The issue at stake was this very question. The reader wanted to describe their work as "helping professors teach better" but the senior administrator objected as they felt it implied professors were not already teaching perfectly. In any other field this would be called out as ridiculous, yet in Higher Education all to often it is accepted. We all have to pretend that all who teach in HE are born with an innate ability to do so perfectly and couldn't possibly improve.
    What is sad is that the reader in this story felt so undermined that they didn't feel safe to make such an innocuous, and accurate, comment publicly. This ties in with a comment from a colleague who has worked in industry as well as HE - they said they had never encountered an environment before where learning for the employees (ie profs) was so discouraged. What is it about this sector that we believe in education, but only for other people?? By "we" I mean the professoriate in general rather than educational developers!

  4. I want to share a huge thank you to Celia (and collaborators). When I entered the field, I spent a lot of time digging through educational development literature only to come to those conclusions summarized so nicely in this resource. I would feel confident sending any new educational developer (or anyone interested in educational development as a career) to this resource.

  5. I think there is a huge difference between (a) 'I teach teachers how to teach' and (b) 'I help professors teach better'. I would reject (a) and endorse (b) on the grounds that we do not want to set ourselves up as the 'incoming expert who knows how to do it'. This will not win the hearts and minds of the (increasingly stressed' academic and other staff we have to deal with. There are so many variables at play in every teaching situation that we cannot (and should not) claim 'universal excellence'. If you start from point (b) then you have a much better chance of establishing productive relationships.

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