by RACHEL SHEFFIELD and DALE PINTO
With significant upheaval and disruption across the tertiary sector having resulted in widespread job losses and uncertainty, the need for academics to feel part of a community is more important than ever. Research is explicitly valued within all universities and the pursuit and capture of grants and industry funding is a highly lauded activity, along with publications in peer-reviewed journals. Whilst research communities often exist in tightly formed collegial teams, teaching can often be a lonely role within universities. Even within schools and faculties where academics deliver common courses, the designing, developing and assessing of subjects can be isolating: educators can be reluctant to reach out for support or share their practice, often for fear of judgement.
Against this background, there is a need to create a community of practitioners who value teaching and are enabled to engage in discourse about their practice. This community can relieve the isolation of teaching and enliven peer conversations, whether over coffee or in a more formal setting. The process enables colleagues to connect and support each other to discuss their classroom pedagogy and disseminate good practice and scholarship.
This has become particularly important in recent times as universities and their staff seek to change and evolve learning, teaching and support delivery in the midst of a pandemic. Moving between face-to-face engagement, blended approaches and totally online classrooms, in rapid response to lockdowns and easing of restrictions, has meant educators have had to be flexible and agile in order to change their practice at a moment’s notice.
An example of a more formalised peer support community is the Curtin Academy. The Curtin Academy is a body of experts who are consulted on changes to internal structures and processes, articulate pedagogical priorities, and provide opportunities for illuminating discussions with industry experts, including with regulatory bodies like TEQSA.
The formalising of the community provides educators with acknowledgement of the university’s valuing of teaching and the community of experts provides support and advice without judgement. The Curtin Academy also has appointed an advisory board of national experts who are able to leverage their connections and deliver an external view and lens for the academy, ensuring it becomes a more valued group and contributor within the wider tertiary community.
A/Prof Rachel Sheffield, Chair of Curtin Academy, School of Education, Curtin University email@example.com
Professor Dale Pinto, Chair of Academic Board, Curtin Law School, Curtin University Dale Dale.Pinto@cbs.curtin.edu.au