Creating partnerships for generative learning and systemic change: Redefining academic roles and relationships in support of learning
Abstract:The adoption of information and communications technologies (ICT) is a catalyst for innovation and evaluation of teaching, and are driving many tertiary institutions towards a reconsideration of the nature of quality learning. While the technology of online delivery receives most attention, it is arguably the management of teaching and learning that requires new approaches. Universities which have been engaged in traditional forms of distance education are considering how best to integrate communications technologies that offer alternative forms of course delivery, communication, flexible pedagogies and new roles for teachers and learners. Institutional change issues are also linked to ICT adoption: developing students' generic skills, fostering lifelong learning and catering for greater flexibility in delivery of educational services is now core business in tertiary institutions across Australia. This paper argues that such changes require tertiary teaching staff to adopt a different mindset, that of facilitating and supporting learning while assuming new roles as managers, motivators, mentors and mediators of learning. The rationale for each of these roles within Web-based learning environments is presented within a constructivist framework, which affirms and extends good teaching practice.
In addition to highlighting aspects of teaching and learning that are supported and transformed by constructivist, Web-based delivery, this paper proposes that professional development is essentially about establishing partnerships for renewal of teaching values, and that staff developers need to learn the craft of supporting change at various levels: at the individual level, at the course and unit level and at the institutional level through systemic contextualized affirmation of constructivist values. Professional development for adoption of Web-based teaching requires multi-dimensional thinking. Rather than acting as a driver of top-down change, effective staff development is participatory and supportive, seeking action research partnerships where more profound changes in teacher conceptions of learning must take place before online pedagogies become part of tertiary teaching culture.