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Alison Hudson (2009)

New Professionals and New Technologies in New Higher Education?

Thesis, Nationella Forskarskolan i Pedagogiskt Arbete, Umeå University, Umeå University, Department of Interactive Media and Learning (IML), SE-901 87 Umeå, Sweden. (ISBN: 978-91-7264-824-1).

This thesis explores the practices and positionings of two groupings of professionals in UK higher education, ‘educational developers’ and ‘learning technologists’. It investigates the emergence of the groupings, and their professional paths and respective approaches to supporting teaching and learning. It also explores the use of information and communication technology within what is seen as a changing university context. These two ‘new’ professional groupings are most associated with a shift of focus in universities from teaching towards learning, heightened emphasis on the quality of teaching and learning, the increased impact of learning technologies on practice, organisational transformation, and increased numbers of students attending universities, i.e. massification of higher education world-wide. Thus, equivalent exemplars and variations can also be found throughout Europe and in other international settings.

The social structure and practices that govern the two groupings have been analysed by means of a wide range of theories, concepts and methods which include Bourdieu’s (1988) concepts of habitus, field, position and capital, Boyer’s (1990) ideas about new scholarship, Palmer’s (1998) conceptualisation of the university teacher and Clark’s (2003) identification of the entrepreneurial university. The work of others, in particular Schön (1967) and Ball (2003), also provides an insight into the powerful relationship between technology, society, education and change.

Thus, the thesis explores fields and sub-fields, as social arenas in which capital is accumulated and where struggles for power and resources take place. The study suggests that both groups occupy a highly politicised position, are affected by the shifting value of social, cultural and economic capital in the constantly changing higher education, are subject to struggle regarding ‘position’ and agency and are susceptible to the demands of new power regimes and technological solutions. It suggests that educational development is a scholarly field of study but has also become a technology responsible for translating institutional policy into practice, while learning technologists have been more politically successful and have had a relatively greater impact on academic practice in university settings. Whilst the relationship and division of work between educational developers and learning technologists has been hitherto little understood this study shows the similarities and differences, and boundaries and overlaps in the knowledge, practices, positions, dispositions and allegiances of the two groupings. An argument of the thesis is for a more cohesive approach to educational development in higher education which embraces learning technologies and higher education policy. Furthermore, this thesis suggests that the balance of power and the value placed on social, cultural and economic capital in the knowledge economy of higher education is shifting; from teaching and learning towards change and ‘innovation’ underpinned by new technologies, business imperatives and new forms of management. This shift in the UK has been reinforced by successive periods of reform and restructuring of the university, where both ‘new’ and ‘old’ professionals are subject to social and political pressures initiated by new forms of central governance and a growing bureaucracy of change. A danger for higher education is that the balance is pulled more towards policy technologies and bureaucracy and away from the professional judgement of university academics/teachers.

Richard's PhD

"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life." — Norman Cousins, 1954