‘Find the Gap’: can a multidisciplinary group of university teachers influence learning and teaching practice?

Joy Jarvis, Rebecca Thomas, Tony Rosella, Jayne Smith, Susan Nimmo, Julia Hodgkinson, Lesley Glass, Karen Clark, Janet Barlow, Thomas Baker

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This paper describes and analyses a year’s project undertaken by a small, multidisciplinary group of academic staff in a UK post -1992 university. The purpose of the group was to: take a scholarly and inquiring approach to learning and teaching; build staff confidence and expertise in teaching and leadership in teaching; and offer a model of a potential approach to institutional change in educational practice. The project involved colleagues with interest and expertise in teaching sharing ideas for practice together through dialogue. They also undertook an Appreciative Inquiry into effective professional learning in this field and shared the findings with colleagues and institutional leaders.

Evaluation identified individuals’ professional learning over the year and their growth in confidence to share practice ideas beyond the local. Barriers to using this approach for university practice development included perceived issues of authority to act in an institutional context, and performative approaches to change in teaching. Colleagues identified that they needed to find ‘gaps’ in allocated time schedules and in perceptions of teaching development and leadership if they are to influence more than their own practice. It is suggested that universities need to build the expertise and leadership capacities of academic staff with knowledge and skills in teaching by bringing them together in multidisciplinary groups to share ideas and create new practice. Gaps in policies and systems need to be opened up to enable these colleagues to have time and opportunities to work together, network with others and enhance university educational practice.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)446-464
Number of pages18
JournalPractice and Evidence of Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2017


  • appreciative inquiry
  • changing educational practice
  • gaps
  • multidisciplinary groups
  • professional learning
  • teaching focused academics
  • university teaching


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