In conversation with the Troika (Part 3)

In part one in my short “In conversation with the Troika” series of blog posts, I spoke to Alec about (e-)portfolios, professional learning and his Master’s thesis; in part two, I spoke to Bryn about academic practice, professional learning and longitudinal studies. Last, but no means least, is Cora…

Conversation #3: Cora

“In a reflective mood” by Sean Connolly. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA
“In a reflective mood” by Sean Connolly. Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA

My conversation with Cora began with the rationale for changing the name of the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning & Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLT(HE)) into the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP). Cora explained that learning and teaching “was of its time“; in the previous validation of the PGCLT(HE) programme, there was a firm decision to ensure that the phrase “learning and teaching” was in the title as this was something that was valued by the University. So what’s changed this time round? It would seem that there is a bigger and better understanding of “learning and teaching” as a process with students as a person. This went hand-in-hand with the widening participation agenda and transistions from school with those from non-traditional backgrounds. Furthermore, it is wrapped up with a much broader and holistic experience in the development of a community of learners (CoL), with research informed teaching (RIT) becoming a new “field” within the auspices of scholarship. Like Bryn, Cora makes reference to this notion of dual professionalism.

Cora very much sees academic practice as being a significant shift away from the notion of learning and teaching being perceived as being able to write good lesson plans or prepare some interesting for their students based on knowing about how students learn in a classroom, to one where the practice of the academic is to think about the environment that they are creating and the wider sense in which students operate in and how an academic can interface with that. In other words, this considers the much more wider discourse about what enables learning within the students that goes beyond this individualised view of a student as a receptacle. Once again, like Bryn, Cora acknowledges that academic practice will mean different things to different Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). She goes further and suggests that academic practice can be shaped by the individual HEIs timetable – at Canterbury Christ Church University, we have up to 45 weeks a year (we have a number of Education and Health-related courses that continue to run even when the standard degree courses have finished for the term).

We move on to a discussion around reflective practice, Schön (1987) gets a name check at this point, which is perhaps strongly embedded with the Education and Health allied courses. The importance of reflective practice is twofold: meeting professional standards and having a responsibility or obligation to maintain and develop practice. Referencing those disciplines that sit outside of Health and Education, Cora asks: “How do you help people to develop reflective practice as a value?“. One way is to make it an “ethical” part of their job – it is something that they should be doing – not as a “prescriptive requirement”, but something that becomes “internalised” as something that is seen as valuable. Reflection is both uncomfortable and dangerous! Cora suggests that academics will have to go through a “process” so that they can begin to value reflection. She has already designed a module for her students that facilitates this “process”, whereby she takes:

…students on a reflective journey, kicking and screaming. In the end, most of the students regard it [the process] as the most useful thing they did at University and something they long continued with.

The trick is to ensure that reflection is seen as something that is meaningful and valued, not just doing a sequence of tasks. It can also give you “more information” about what is “going on in your world”. If done well, reflection can present to you a multitude of perspectives. Cora is quite firm in her belief that reflective practice can be used across all disciplines, not just Education and Health. She would also like reflective practice to develop into different genres and forms, such as mind maps.

Cora asks me an interesting question: “Do I see my EdD linked to my role as a Learning Technologist?“. It is something that I am still pondering over as I am reminded by my conversation with Dr Peter Grimes around the notion of me being a technologist-researcher and what that may entail. I am fairly sure that I do not want my EdD thesis to be solely looking at a particular technology being used in a particular context, what perhaps interests me more is the process in which that technology is being used. Cora, on the other hand, is “very excited” at the potential collaboration with a learning technologist who is more “learning-led” than “technology-led”, in that she would not have to just think about what technologies to use, but also has the opportunity of me being part of a multi-disciplinary team in “co-producing” and developing the PGCAP, something she feels many academics would be interested to learn about and to begin to understand the process of involving other professionals, like learning technologists and librarians, in the co-production of programmes.

Like Bryn before her, Cora is very interested in the enabling of learning, it’s not about the teaching or how good a teacher you are – it’s about how good you are in facilitating the enabling of learning for your students; teaching, therefore, may be just one way to enable learning – all this talk about “enablement” strikes me that it has less to do with pedagogy and more to do with heutagogy (Blaschke, 2012; Hase & Kenyon, 2000, 2001, 2007) . It’s here that we come to an important part of the discussion whereby she says that through the learning technologist, there is another way besides teaching, in which the learning is enabled through technology. We move from technology-enhanced learning to technology-enabled learning. Cora goes on to suggest that with her role as a “teacher” and mine as a “technologist”, we both enable learning in different ways. Whilst she may have more control over the curriculum than me, at the same time I possess a body of expertise and knowledge which she needs and values. There’s a powerful and seductive germ of an idea developing here as she goes on to suggest that my EdD might be interested in how I could enable the learning of the participants on the PGCAP programme and the sustainability of the learner. There is also another dimension that looks at my relationship with Cora as an academic developer in terms of finding ways to enable learning through different contexts and mediums. In many ways, this is the kind of co-operative and collaborative approach that learning technologists have been seeking and one that has been highly recommended and encouraged by a number of Higher Education agencies and professional bodies in seeing greater forms of multi-disciplinary working. Cora concludes by talking about the “Pedagogy of the Privileged“, in that she asks is it right that an academic (the privileged) is the only one teaching and managing the classroom and the curriculum can be the ONLY one who can enable learning?

In conclusion with the Troika

I would like to thank Alec, Bryn and Cora for the valuable time and being generous with their ideas, suggestions and discussions. In many ways, all three of my “critical friends” have presented me with three different paths and routes that my EdD pilgrimage could potentially take me on. Whilst this has enriched my thinking around where this EdD might go, there is still a lot more thought that will need to go into the feasibility, as I like to currently put it, of running with this EdD idea.


Blaschke, L.M. (2012). “Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning”. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), pp. 56-71. Available at: [Accessed 23.2.2014].

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by M. Bergman Ramos. London, England: Penguin Books.

Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2000). “From andragogy to heutagogy”. UltiBASE, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, December. Available at: [Accessed 23.2.2014].

Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2001). “Moving from andragogy to heutagogy in vocational education”. Proceedings from AVETRA Conference 2001 – Research to Reality: Putting VET Research to Work, Hilton Adeliade, Adelaide, South Australia, 28-30 March 2001. Available at: [Accessed 23.2.2014].

Hase, S. & Kenyon, C. (2007). “Heutagogy: A Child of Complexity Theory”. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 4(1), pp. 111-118. Available at: [Accessed 23.2.2014].

Schön, D.A. (1987). Educating the Reflective Practitioner: Toward a New Design for Teaching and Learning in the Professions. San Franciso, CA: Jossy-Bass Publishers.