Development in universities has been a main theme of Paul Blackmore’s work for over ten years. At its base is an interest in the ways in which development is conceptualised and how it is organised across the sector and within institutions, both at a strategic and a departmental level.
One important aspect of this has been a focus on academic practice, as a distinct approach to conceptualising academic work. The leadership role within staff and educational development has been explored extensively. Grants from the Higher Education Staff Development Agency, the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and the Higher Education Academy have enabled the work to take place. Key publications include a 2009 article in Studies in Higher Education on conceptions of development, a 2006 article in the same journal exploring academic practice, a 2006 sector overview report on capability development in universities in 2006 and a co-edited book in 2003 on strategic staff development.
Ideas from this body of work inform more recent areas of inquiry on strategic curriculum change, on academic leadership and on interdisciplinarity, described elsewhere on the website.
Professional Development (click + to expand)
In a rapidly changing political, financial and academic landscape with a growing and diversifying student body, ‘institutions will have stronger incentives to focus on improving teaching quality. If they are not able to attract enough students, their funding will decrease’ (Browne Review, 2010 section 6.3 p.48) Browne also called for lecturers to be trained in how to teach. Therefore the professional development of academic staff in all aspects of their wider role in enhancing student experience is increasingly important in universities. KLI’s research into professional development aims to increase the capacity to cope with this continual change by providing support to academic staff. In addition, KLI staff members lead and support a wide range of research activity beyond and across the institution, particularly in the health schools, related to continuing professional development (CPD), professional identity and inter-professional learning.
Professional Development Projects (click + to expand)
There are currently two projects that Dr Michele Westhead is currently working on for the King's Learning Institute:
The Phenomenology of Change: an exploration of professional practice mediated by engagement in professional doctorate research (click + to expand)
Cultivating student voice to enhance the curriculum and influence institutional change (click + to expand)
Michele Westhead is currently working on a research project with Dr Kevin Flint from Nottingham Trent University entitled 'The Phenomenology of Change: an exploration of professional practice mediated by engagement in professional doctorate research', as part of her wider academic role on the Steering Group for the SIG (Special Interest Group) in Professional and Practice Based Doctorates. The group, amongst other things, researches the potential of professional doctorates as institutional CPD as well as developing candidates to not only add to the knowledge base of their discipline but address issues within their own institutions and academic work.
Historically, within the field of work-based learning, alongside more traditional interpretive, ethnographic and case study approaches used to generate knowledge of individuals and communities involved with professional doctorates, research featuring the phenomenological study of multiple layers of professional practice involving people so engaged, within a variety of institutional settings, still remains in its infancy.
In contrast to the foregrounding of epistemology in many studies in the field, broadly we were interested to uncover what it means to be involved in a professional doctorate programme. Within the context of this much wider ontological question, two inter-related issues provided a more specific focus for this particular study. First, in raising the question of how an individual’s involvement with the professional doctorate has influenced their personal and professional lives, we were concerned not only to encourage participants to describe their experiences in their own terms, but also to begin to characterise the discourses in which they each situated their practices. Second, we also wanted participants to elaborate on what they see as the key issues regarding their involvement in the professional doctorate. Though we had in mind issues such as promotion, workload, professional identity, kudos, managing the programme on top of the demands of your own post, family… we were concerned to encourage individuals to identify their own issues.
In an attempt not to foreclose other ways of approaching the phenomenology of practice of those involved in the professional doctorate and in working with what is ready to hand in the language of the researchers, the study is grounded in bricolage. Moreover, in order to bring to life the interplay of multiple layers of practice, the bricolage has been presented as a series of case studies of individual experiences within contrasting places and institutional settings in which their professional doctorate research has been undertaken. In so doing the study sought to problematise and to open further questioning and thinking about the multiplicity of forms of the ‘professional doctorate’ in practice.
Where many earlier studies have sought to provide a primary focus upon knowledge of what has happened in practice or upon modelling professional doctorate practice in some way, this research sought to understand and elaborate some of the historical significance of such practice within the stakeholder organisations outside higher education which provided a locus for professional doctorate research in practice. In so doing this study opens further questions concerning the relationship between professional doctorate research and entrepreneurial activity within stakeholder organisations.
Michele Westhead’s second research project in this area also address issues of widening participation in relation to enhancing student experience: 'Cultivating student voice to enhance the curriculum and influence institutional change'. This paper reports on a case study of a cohort of students who studied on an innovative four year work-based teacher education programme developed to support the widening participation agenda of a university in London to encourage higher education entry from a broader spectrum of society and meet the education needs of the local community. The purpose of the research was to deepen the understanding of the complexities of the experiences of these trainee teachers, who were all mature, female classroom assistants without the entry requirements for admission to a traditional undergraduate teacher education programme, in order to inform curriculum development and policy for the enhancement of student learning. An indirect outcome of the study was the development of a methodology for involving students in both the research and policy-making process. The data revealed that there were organisational, dispositional and situational influences on the students’ experience which either helped or hindered the development of their academic and professional identities. These had differing personal and idiosyncratic effects depending on the biographies and cultural capital of each student teacher and how these variously interact with and are mediated by the structures and cultures of the university. Importantly it was identified that there are four major facets of their lives - work, study, home and teacher training which compete for these students’ time and energy that impacted on their learning experience. These findings raise fundamental theoretical, practical and political questions around recruitment, retention and the nurturing of individuals into both university and teacher training. The student respondents in this study were developed to become Student Experience Consultants (SECs) and the both the findings and process of this research was used to inform the development of a range of initiatives to listen to, act upon and strategically use ‘student voice’ in the fabric of institutional decision making.
This research has formed the basis of Dr Westhead’s development of an institutional Professional Development Framework for both academic and clinical staff which she is currently writing up for publication and has plans for further research in this area.
Development publications (click + to expand)
Articles in refereed journals
Blackmore, P., Chambers, C., Huxley, L. and Thackwray, B. (2010) Tribalism and territoriality in the development world. Journal of Further and Higher Education 34 (1) 105-117.
Blackmore, P. (2009) Conceptions of development in higher education institutions, Studies in Higher Education, 34 (3), 663-676.
Blackmore, P. (2007) Disciplinary difference in academic leadership and management and its development: a significant factor? Research in Post-compulsory Education, 12( 2) 225-239.
Blackmore, P. & Blackwell, R. (2006) Strategic leadership In academic development, Studies in Higher Education 31 (3), 373-387.
Blackmore, P. & Wilson, D. (2005) Staff development leadership: problem framing, solving and avoidance, International Journal for Academic Development, 10 (2), 107-123.
Blackmore, P., Wilson, D. & Stainton, C. (2004) Leadership in staff development: a role analysis, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 10(2) 150-165.
Blackmore, P., Wilson, D. & Stainton, C. (2003) Developing and testing a methodology for an analysis of the staff development leadership role, in Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 8 (3), 249-263.
Blackwell, R. and Blackmore, P. (2003) Towards Strategic Staff Development, Buckingham: Open University Press, 221pp.
Blackmore, P., Gibbs, G. and Shrives, L. (1999) Staff Development Within Departments Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff Development, 64pp.
Blackmore, P. (2009) Framing a research community for academic futures, in: King, V. Academic Futures: Inquiries into Higher Education and Pedagogy (invited chapter) Ed: iPED Scholars Network (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing).
Blackmore, P. et al (2006) Reconceptualising academic practice, in: Elvidge, L. Exploring good leadership and management practice in higher education: issues of engagement Cambridge: JRA Publishing.
Blackmore, P. et al (2004) Academic development: what purpose and whose purpose?, in: Elvidge, L. Exploring academic development in higher education: issues of engagement. Cambridge: Jill Rogers Associates Ltd.
Blackmore, P. (2007) Developing tribes and territories, Educational Developments 8.3, 1-5
Blackmore, P. (2006) Disciplinarity in leadership and management development: why the silence?, Engage 6: 14. London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.
Blackmore, P. & Blackwell, R. (2004) How can staff development become strategic? In Practice 3: 1-4. London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.
Blackmore, P. & Wilson, A. (2004) Staff development leadership: how others see us Leadership Foundation / HESDA Briefing Paper, London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. (6pp).
Blackmore, P., Dales, R., Law, S. & Yates, P. (2008) Investigating the capabilities of course and module leaders in departments, York: Higher Education Academy.
Blackmore, P. & Castley, A. (2006) Capability development in universities, London: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.
Development presentations (click + to expand)
Blackmore, P. (2010) Academic development – where are we and where are we heading? 14th Annual Standing Conference in Academic Practice, 8-9 July, University of Warwick.
Blackmore, P. (2010) Academic motivation and institutional strategy. Presentation for Leadership Foundation senior leaders development programme, 8 June, York
Blackmore, P. (2010) Beyond development tribes and territories. The London SoTL 8th International Conference, 13-14 May, Regent’s Park, London
Blackmore, P. (2009) Managing changing practice. Keynote, Dublin Centre for Academic Development symposium on academic professional values: Being an academic in a 21st century HEI.
Blackmore, P. (2009) Texts and contexts: mapping the intellectual foundations of the field of educational development, with Prof J Fanghanel. Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Annual Conference 2009, 8-10 December, Celtic Manor, Newport, South Wales
Blackmore, P. (2008) Higher Education development: boundaries and bridges. NUI Maynooth, Dublin, Ireland
Blackmore, P. (2008) The strategic positioning and alignment of staff development in UK institutions. Masterclass for Irish Universities Network. University College Cork, Ireland
Blackmore, P. (2007) Plenary session: Directions in academic practice. 2nd International iPED Conference, Coventry
Blackmore, P. (2006) Reconceptualising educational development. Society for Research into Higher Education, Brighton
Blackmore, P. (2006) Tribalism and territoriality in the development world. Society for Research into Higher Education, Brighton
Blackmore, P. (2006) Keynote presentation: Development tribes and territories – a research agenda. Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Conference, Birmingham
Blackmore, P. (2006) Strategic staff development project: conceptualising and organising staff development. Standing Conference on Academic Practice, University of Warwick
Blackmore, P. (2005) Strategic positioning and leadership of staff development. Leadership Foundation Staff Development Conference, Bristol
Blackmore, P. (2003) Strategic staff development: more than a rhetorical flourish? Staff and Educational Development Association Conference, Bristol
Blackmore, P. (2003) Leadership in staff development: what the leaders say. Standing Conference on Academic Practice
Blackmore, P. (2002) Directions in academic practice. Society for Research in Higher Education, University of Glasgow
Blackmore, P. (2002) Leadership in staff development. Higher Education Staff Development Agency Annual Conference, Cardiff