Leading Higher Education As and For Public Good - How Can Teaching and Learning Contribute to a Sustainable Future?

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Reading Circles

We will use breakout rooms for discussions of book chapters from Leading Higher Education as and for Public Good: Rekindling as Praxis. The conversations will be facilitated by the chapter’s authors and colleagues from the Norwegian Network for University and College Pedagogy (Norsk nettverk for universitets og høgskolepedagogikk). Please indicate on the registration form which chapter discussion you would like to join.

Here are brief abstracts for each of the chapters in Leading Higher Education as and for Public Good: Rekindling as Praxis (edited by Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke and Ciaran Sugrue):

Chapter 1: Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke and Ciaran Sugrue, Leading Higher Education as and for Public Good: new beginnings:

Chapter 1 invites the reader to embark with the authors on a quest to become immersed in an extended deliberative conversation about what it means to lead higher education (HE) in the 21st century as and for public good. It sets the scene by indicating the challenges faced by HE institutions, the super-complexity with which they are obliged to grapple. In order to traverse this rapidly changing landscape, key concepts, a tool kit for the analytical journey, that includes: praxis, institutional orientations, public good, deliberative communication, professional responsibility, web of commitments and legitimate compromise, are briefly introduced to the reader and these are subsequently elaborated on in chapters 2-4. The chapter also draws attention to the roles and responsibilities of Academic Developers, their expanding brief to contribute to the teaching and leading in 21st century universities, while the structure of the text is also indicated.

Chapter 2: Ciaran Sugrue and Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, Leading Higher Education: Putting Education Centre Stage

While the purpose of chapter 2 is to put education centre stage, at the heart of the higher education enterprise, this agenda is situated within the wider context of a rapidly altering higher education landscape. In more recent years, the landscape is characterised more by internationalisation and competitiveness, while increasing and intensifying external demands from political and policy sources have necessitated that universities develop multiple orientations, prominent among then—traditional, scientific and increasingly also the entrepreneurial and bureaucratic. These are the waters that institutional leaders, their academic and administrative colleagues are obliged to swim in, as well as to determine the nature of leading and quality of teaching in such circumstances. The chapter traces particular leadership threads as they emerge overtime, while focusing particularly on the leading teaching and learning contributions of academic developers, and the increasing necessity for them to be brokers in an effort to put and keep education at the centre of endeavour in an increasingly crowded space with many competing interests seeking advantage.

Chapter 3: Tomas Englund and Andreas Bergh, Higher education as and for public good: Past, present and possible futures

Higher education institutions and state-financed public universities in recent years have been encouraged through various policy mechanisms to become more responsive both to market and government priorities. Many researchers have indicated and illustrated that the shift from public to private good has challenged more classical academic values as well as the autonomy of higher education. In this chapter we provide an overview of past, present and future attempts to define and use the concept of public good especially in relation to private good.  We present a chain of arguments on the need to establish communicative reason creating a rationale for deliberative communication that will strengthen public good. We anticipate that communicative rationality will enable academics to be more conscious and articulate morally and politically about the role of higher education. Such an approach, we argue, will cultivate deliberative attitudes and virtues as means of promoting public good.

Chapter 4: Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, Ciaran Sugrue, and Molly Sutphen, Leading in a web of commitments: negotiating legitimate compromises

The quotations from two leaders of academic development units at the beginning of this chapter indicate the expanding portfolios of academic developers as well as an intensified internationalisation and competitiveness in the current landscape of higher education. These quotations are redolent with the core purpose of this chapter, to demonstrate that leading higher education as, and for public good, is a complex and demanding endeavour. By drawing on the metaphor ‘web of commitments’ the chapter illustrates how educational leadership in super-complex public universities, requires the capacity to negotiate  and reach ‘legitimate compromises’ within an increasing and ever changing web of commitments including contested interests and needs. The chapter elaborates an analytical approach to understanding some of the most intensified tensions academics experience in current universities, namely those emerging between the ‘accountability logic’ of New Public Management  and ‘responsibility logic’ embedded in professional academic work. Applying these metaphors and analytical concepts, the chapter demonstrates typical commitments in educational leadership and how five leaders of academic development units cope within their respective web of commitments.

Chapter 5: Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke and Ciaran Sugrue, Leading Higher Education: Deliberative communication as praxis and method

Chapter 5 describes the common research methods we used for the intervention presented in chapter 6-10. It describes how deliberative communication combined with an insider-outsider and a critical friend approach were deployed to develop a research approach to study the praxis of five individual academic developers as they grapple with and reflect upon their efforts to include deliberative communication as part of their pedagogical repertoire when leading and teaching as and for public good. It articulates the various dimension of this common approach while also openly indicating some of the challenges and strengths with the method, analyses and writing processes within an interdisciplinary international research community/team.

Chapter 6: Molly Sutphen, Tomas Englund, and Kristin Ewins, Intellectual Virtues for Leading Higher Education

The concept of teaching and learning intellectual virtues, such as curiosity or courage, has emerged (or reemerged) in the recent literature as an important purpose of higher education. Chapter 5 takes the current trend as a starting point to propose several intellectual virtues for leading higher education. We focus on the use of deliberative communication in teaching and research because both are relevant for academic staff in their daily work, regardless of discipline or university. The chapter lays out how the conversations and reflection that occur through deliberative communication can be a resource for bringing to light intellectual virtues that academics may not realise they possess or acknowledge that they need. We show how academic developers might use deliberative communication to provide colleagues with opportunities for collective and individual reflection on intellectual virtues, as well as how the approach might have potential for everyone, including leaders, in the university communities.

Chapter 7: Andreas Bergh, Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, and Johan Wickström, Deliberative Communication: Stimulating collective learning?

Chapter 7 reports on a study of how an academic developer (AD) plans and leads a seminar in university pedagogy on constructive alignment by the means of deliberative communication. The overriding purpose is to deepen our understanding of the promises and challenges of deliberative communication as a means of leading and teaching as, and for, public good. To fulfil this aim, the three authors of the paper use a combination of self-reflection, deliberative communication and insider-outsider perspectives to examine if, and how, such an approach opens up and stimulates collective learning between the AD and the two critical friends. The paper concludes by emphasising how fruitful it is to reflect and collaborate among colleagues in a structured way. Raising awareness of the limitation of all models, tools or approaches, like constructive alignment, may help academics to acknowledge that the improvement of leadership and teaching needs be far more of a collective endeavour than at present. An important issue for further exploration therefore, is how creative meetings between individual professional and inter-professional skills, through communication, can contribute to raising awareness of what teaching as, and for, public good might mean, and how it can be enacted. 

Chapter 8: Kristin Ewins, Ester Fremstad, Trine Fossland, Ragnhild Sandvoll, Deliberative leadership: Moving beyond dialogue

In this chapter, we explore potentials and challenges for academic developers (ADs) in their roles as deliberative leaders. Deliberative leadership in this context involves contributing to academics’ understanding of, reflection on and enactment of teaching and learning as, and for, public good. Furthermore, it implies performing educational leadership by means of deliberative communication. We study two ADs as they prepare, conduct and reflect on a course session with the aim of nurturing academics’ professional responsibility, through a discussion about learning outcomes and constructive alignment in relation to professional responsibility. We start by situating the case within current research on academic development as well as the recent implementation of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in Norwegian higher education. As brokers between external polices, institutional leaders and fellow academics, ADs are continuously faced with the considerable political and pedagogical challenge of creating spaces for imaginative and creative engagement between policy and practice. Deliberative leadership is identified as a means of seeking out legitimate compromises – consistent with professional responsibility – within these complex webs of commitments. The case, however, repeatedly demonstrates just how challenging deliberative leadership is in practice.

Chapter 9: Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke and Ester Fremstad, Deliberative communication as pedagogical leadership: Promoting public good?

This chapter begins by expressing concerns about how orientation(s) of contemporary universities move the academy away from a critical engagement with the purpose of higher education as public good.  The chapter explores how an academic developer practices and reflects upon her experiences with deliberative communication as a pedagogical approach to stimulate ‘deliberative academic development’ among academics in a university pedagogy course. Her aim is to encourage course participants to articulate and deliberate on the societal role of higher education and to critically investigate how to teach societal responsibility in their own disciplines. The case study demonstrates that deliberative communication as a pedagogical approach stimulated participants to articulate more taken for granted assumptions of the purpose of higher education, and they became more aware of how their teaching tends to miss questions about societal responsibility.  The case also revealed that using deliberative communication requires time, and the capacity to identify and exploit ‘teachable moments’ as well as having the confidence to meet the unforeseen articulations and multiplicity of values and interests in higher education; that leading and teaching involve negotiating legitimate compromises in the tensions between different commitments and conceptions of public good.

Chapter 10: Ragnhild Sandvoll, Andreas Bergh, Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, Nurturing pedagogical praxis through deliberative communication

Previous research has  identified a need to critically investigate the formative aspects of different teaching practices in light of the purpose of higher education to educate students’ with a capacity to act in a professionally responsible manner in preparation for the world of work.  This chapter is a case study of one experienced academic developer (AD) who collaborates with an educational leader to improve instructors’ clinical supervision and assessment of dental students. By documenting and analyzing the practice of  this AD, who clearly states that she believes in deliberative communication as, and for, public good, the case study   provides empirical knowledge about possibilities as well as challenges that emerged as the AD sought to lead the process by supporting the leader and the group of instructors. Deliberative communication was deployed pedagogically to build a mutual understanding of how to assess students’ professional responsibility in clinical work in the process of becoming responsible dentists. Enabling the leader and instructors to make nuanced judgements and decisions consistent with suitable assessment regulations is interpreted as a fostering of and contribution to public good in the process of challenging, recalibrating and seeking legitimate compromises between competing perspectives, values and aspirations in higher education.

Chapter 11: Ciaran Sugrue and Tone Dyrdal Solbrekke, Rekindling education as praxis: The promise of Deliberative Leadership

This chapter begins with an invitation to the reader to participate in a deliberative conversation with the authors, its point of departure being that leading higher education as, and for, public good requires proactive leadership in the context of the super-complexity that characterises 21st century universities. Drawing on the evidence and argument of earlier chapters in the book, this chapter contends that in order for academic developers to build teaching and learning capacity in their institutions, it is necessary for the entire enterprise to be characterised by deliberative leadership, exercised by all members of the community. Deliberative leadership needs to characterise the entire institution to maximse the brokering capacities of all employees, not just academic developers, recognising that there needs to be acknowledgement of the various webs of commitments in which individual members of the community are invested, while seeking out, through deliberative communication, legitimate compromises between the competing and sometimes conflicting orientations of the institution. Central to the argument advanced is that deliberative leadership praxis, while not a panacea, has considerable potential to mitigate against the more negative manifestations of managerialism and leaderism, building sustainable leadership.

Published Mar. 8, 2021 5:44 PM - Last modified Mar. 10, 2021 4:05 PM