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The majority of academic staff in the United Kingdom will have come across the UKPSF in one form or another. It has been a benchmark for my academic development practice for fourteen years. The United Kingdom Professional Standards Framework is a set of statements, arguably objectives, for the 'complete' skill profile for an academic working in tertiary education. Divided into three areas, core knowledge, professional values and areas of activity, there is some potential overlap but it remains sufficiently broad to reflect the reality at the chalk-face (or PowerPoint screen). It has proved itself to be largely unopposed in the UK context  (certainly there are few rivals) and despite some tweaking of the original 2004 version in 2011, unchanged.

The stability and endurance of the framework is a tribute to its authors, with contributions drawn from across the tertiary sector. The homogeneous nature of the inputs does give us a framework that sometimes feels like a United Nations Security Council resolution, written in diplomatic English, designed not to offend and to be  'universal', in other words euro-centric. Therein lies the difficulty.

As the Aotearoa New Zealand academic community has struggled to adopt and adapt the UKPSF to their unique post-colonial context, they have faced a challenge. In Aotearoa, the Treaty of Waitangi is enshrined in much of public policy and practice. An acknowledgement of the values ascribed to indigenous Māori perspectives, the Treaty is a touchstone for any professional practice framework. For this reason, Ako Aotearoa (NZ's professional academic body equivalent to AdvanceHE, the inheritor of the HEA's remit) has been working towards a revised version of the UKPSF. Incorporating a range of Māori cultural and philosophical perspectives, kaupapa māori, including philosophical doctrines, indigenous knowledge, skills, attitudes and values, is an ongoing challenge. So far, I am aware only of one iteration of an NZ revised PSF operated by Auckland University of Technology, AUT, under the name of Ako Aronui (http://cflat.aut.ac.nz/ako-aronui/). Having been denied the opportunity to modify the original UKPSF (to ensure recognition process remained intact), the team at AUT have appended a Māori perspective to each element in the framework (Buissink et al., 2017). At face value, this could appear to be a mere translation, but it is much more than that. It could be seen as a cultural reinterpretation of each concept or notion. It falls short of a reappraisal of the fundamental indigenous approaches to learning, but it appears respectful and well-considered.

Australian colleagues have taken a somewhat different approach, drafting a 'University Teaching Criteria and Standards Framework' that directly linking roles and promotional structures to values and attributes within their framework. Australian colleagues claimed only to have used the UKPSF as a reference source rather than as a template. In the absence of an embedded or enshrined single treaty arrangement with the heterogeneous Aboriginal peoples of Australia, there is significantly less widespread inter-cultural reverence for different perspectives on learning. (http://uniteachingcriteria.edu.au/)

As a diverse, and somewhat eclectic, sector, the Canadian tertiary sector does not have a single professional framework for educators to aspire to. This is a country in which quality assurance is largely the responsibility of the Provinces, and there is no central national oversight, so this it is hardly surprising. Nonetheless, there are positive moves towards a recognition of the inherent values embedded in indigenous customs and practice with regards to learning, in a document produced by Universities Canada in 2015, entitled "Principles on Indigenous education".

What the Aotearoa and Canadian examples share, and are absent from both the Australian and UK contexts, is an explicit desire not only to be inclusive and make liberal use of words such as access and equality (shared by all) but also to advocate for the indigenization, as well as the internationalization, of the learning experience. I would argue this is a serious omission from the UKPSF. It is absent from any derivation that does not, or is not permitted, to alter the original. There needs to be, I suggest, an acknowledgement of the unique cultural context in which any framework is drafted and explicit recognition of the philosophical and socio-cultural values that are embedded within it.

In the context of the UKPSF, this could be remedied by an additional statement in each category of elements; I'd make them top of the list, or number '0'.

Core Knowledge (K0) The cultural context in which knowledge is created and valued within their discipline.
Professional Values (P0) Recognise different epistemological frameworks and perspectives on learning and disciplinary knowledge.
Areas of Activity (A0) Embrace indigenous perspectives in all aspects of the educational practice.

That's what's missing. The challenge from an Anglo-European-American (post-enlightenment, Judeo-Christian, rationalist) perspective is to acknowledge that there is 'another' way of experiencing and learning-in and -about the world.

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Buissink, N., Diamond, P., Hallas, J., Swann, J., & Sciascia, A. D. (2017). Challenging a measured university from an indigenous perspective: placing ‘manaaki’ at the heart of our professional development programme. Higher Education Research & Development, 36(3), 569–582. https://doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2017.1288706

I am in Mexico City this week sharing ideas around academic good practice with colleagues from the international network to which my institution belongs. Looking at the program it becomes apparent that there is a deep rich potential for faculty exchange, curriculum resource re-use, and cross institutional quality assurance. Already though it becomes clear that despite the commonalities in our institutions, each has a unique national and local interpretation of curriculum design. Not all strictly adhere to a constructive alignment protocol, not all identify intended learning outcomes and topic or session learning objectives. Without that kind of consistent approach to learning design none of the advantages of being part of an international network are immediately apparent. 

Looking at the learning content exchanged by partners, it seems not just about language differences (some partners are Spanish speaking, others English speaking),it is undoubtedly the case that one would have to you reduce the content and syllabus to such a high level of granularity as to render exchange and reuse largely meaningless. 

I can see a huge amount of work involved in moving just a single programme of university study into the modulur structure designed within the SOLE toolkit. Nonetheless the ability to exchange designs and content in a strictly adhered SOLE model structure seems to me to be worth the effort. I will be championing that intention this week with colleagues.

As promised this version of the SOLE Toolkit, 3.5, remain a free, unprotected and macro-free Excel workbook with rich functionality to serve the learning designer. Version 3.5 has two significant enhancements. Rich visualization of the learning spaces and tools: that students are to engage with in their learning. This provides an alternative, fine-grain, view of the students modes of engagement in their learning. Faculty-time calculations in design and facilitating: based on the learning spaces and tools to be used

As promised this version of the SOLE Toolkit, 3.5, remain a free, unprotected and macro-free Excel workbook with rich functionality to serve the learning designer. Version 3.5 has two significant enhancements.

Rich visualization of the learning spaces and tools: that students are to engage with in their learning. This provides an alternative, fine-grain, view of the students modes of engagement in their learning. It permits the designer to plan not only for a balance of learning engagement but also a balance of environments and tools. This should allow designers to identify where 'tool-boredom' or 'tool-weariness' is possibly a danger to learner motivation and to ensure that a range of tools and environments allow students to develop based on their own learning preferences.

Faculty-time calculations in design and facilitating: based on the learning spaces and tools to be used there is now a function to allow programme designers and administrators, as well as designers themselves, to calculate the amount of time they are likely to need to design materials and facilitate learning around those materials.

This builds on newly designed functionality release in September 2014 in version 3 of the toolkit, namely;

  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is on activities charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled. It remains an open approach and so the numbering system (letters, Roman, multiple instances of the same item) is open. It is considered important in the SOLE Model that students should take responsibility for the learning process as so the sequence should  be suggestive or advised.
  • Completion Record – a column has been added to allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent on any given activity.
  • Objectives Met Record – an area is included to allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

At its core the toolkit serves to implement a model of learning based on the SOLE Model itself and it is worth reminding yourself how the model is designed to work.

Further Details:

Here are two short videos that detail the significant enhancement made in Version 3.5 of the Tookit.

Visualisation of Learning spaces

Calculating Faculty-Time in Design and Facilitation

I'm delighted to be able to release version 3.0 of the SOLE Toolkit. Changes have been made to strengthen the way students might make use of the toolkit as an advanced organiser. These changes include:

  • Active Verbs – the terms used to describe the elements of the SOLE Model now uses active verbs to describe each of the elements. This is intended to make them easier for students to understand. So for example ‘Assessment’ becomes ‘Assess’, ‘Personal Context’ becomes ‘Personalize’ and so on. Further explanation of the elements is available here.
  • Predicated Workload – the amount of time the designer anticipates students will spend is now charted.
  • Sequencing activities – the ability to suggest the order in which activities should be tackled. It remains an open approach and so the numbering system (letters, Roman, multiple instances of the same item) is open. It is considered important in the SOLE Model that students should take responsibility for the learning process as so the sequence should  be suggestive or advised.
  • Completion Record – a column has been added to allow students to record whether an activity has been completed alongside indicating the amount of time was actually spent on any given activity.
  • Objectives Met Record – an area is included to allow students to indicate that they believe they have met the objectives for each individual topic/week.

You can download the toolkit from this website here. It is free to use but as always I would appreciate feedback from users as to changes they make and the usage they make of the work.

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It is always a privilege to be listed with others whose work one admires. I was pointed recently to a page produced by Laura Heap at the London Metropolitan University in May 2014 on their eLearning Matrix pages. On a page where Laura outlines possible answers to the question "What models are there for blended and distance online learning delivery?" she has chosen to include my work here on the SOLE Model alongside some people that I deeply admire.

LondonMet Reference
LondonMet elearning Website

Laura lists four different models (references on the London Met webpage) which each, in very different ways, seek to clarify dimensions of the challenge presented by distance and blended learning scenarios (something I have already written about on my personal blog). Professor Terry Anderson at Athabasca University (Canada), alongside Randy Garrison, whilst at the University of Calgary back in the late 1990s and 2000s, developed a "community of inquiry model" as an instructional design model for e-learning. It seeks to acknowledge the impact of the mutual interdependence of student and teacher through three overlapping 'domains' of the social presence, cognitive presence and the teaching presence.

Her second inclusion is the '5 stage model' originated by Professor Gilly Salmon, now at Swinburne University (Australia). This model, from memory, originated from Gilly's PhD work at the Open University Business School in the early 1990s and I have been a critic of its simplistic adoption by many others. The original premise was similar to that of Anderson and Garrison's work that learners needed to be socialised into a learning 'community' in order to operate as effective learners. Originally somewhat limited by the world of CMC (Computer Mediated Conferencing) this model has been extended by others.

Laura Heap's fourth 'model' (I'm third so will come back to that) is by Professor Diana Laurillard, now at the the Institute of Education (London) referred to as the 'Conversational Framework'. This work also dates from Diana's time at the Open University late 1990s and early 2000s and has been adapted and developed by a great many others since. Essentially I would describe it as a reinterpretation of dialogic learning, notably in its form advocated by Mikhail Bakhtin (Bakhtin, 1981) who argued that meaning is a co-construction that results in processes of reflection, dialogue, between people. Laurillard builds a simple model that encourages teachers to structure, and plan, that dialogue into their teaching design.

The inclusion of the SOLE Model is flattering and does fit rather well. I tried to incorporate meta-theory into the development of a toolkit which would support learning designers and teachers to create 'communities of inquiry' whilst recognising the 'social' dimension and the the cultural differences which students live through every day. Borrowing particularly from Professor John Biggs's work on the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs and Collis, 1982). I also sought to encourage , after Bakhatin and Laurillard, to embed a conversation between the learner, learning activity and the learning objectives.

What is clear is that to have a theoretical framework for effective on-line learning design is essential. I may have deviated from Anderson and Garrison's separation from the social and cognitive processes, and from Salmon's stress for human socialisation but the SOLE Model does allow for the personal, communitarian and societal dimension to learning. In fact I see the principle difference is the focus on the student's immediate 'campus' environment and to place a greater stress on the student's real and diverse life 'outside' the control of the learning provider. I also differ from Laurillard's sequenced activity designs that result from the conversational framework into a more 'freeform' learning design at the theoretical level, but the toolkit development will hopefully include further structural aspects in the near future. Learning and teaching online (distance or 'blended') presents unique challenges for teachers and students alike. Personally I advocate transparency to design for the student by sharing the design as an advanced organiser (SOLE Toolkit) in order to express clarity of the learning process (dialogue) and to encourage interaction and feedback leading to enhancement. Whichever way you look at it, it is privilege to find the SOLE Model included in such illustrious company.

SOLE Model at London Met
SOLE Model at London Met

Bibliography

Bakhtin, M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Biggs, J., & Collis, K. F. (1982). Evaluating the Quality of Learning: Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome Taxonomy. New York: Academic Press Inc.

I am very pleased that the model and the toolkit continue to attract attention despite the relative neglect that I have subjected it to.

There have recently been to academic enquiries that give me some calls to think that the model and toolkit continues to have significant value. One was a request to use the illustration of the model in an upcoming chapter on blended learning, which was the challenge which prompted the models development in the first place. And the second an invitation to translate the SOLE toolkit into Spanish. This second request is itself particularly interesting since I believe the fundamental concepts to be universally applicable. Some of the early writings around the SOLE model explored the ways in which it might be applied in indigenous educational contexts and so the opportunity to translate into another language community internationally is very exciting.

I hope that in the not too distant future there may be Spanish resources available here to share and this will give an impetus for the further development of the toolkit.

I've been looking recently at a range of new builds in Universities and colleges in the UK and have been struck by the relative lack of any learning theory behind the designs. Beyond, that is, the Vice-Chancellor's evident pride at being able to point to the new coffee franchise and padded benches and say wisely "students' like to learn in these informal spaces you know". Today, ahead of some planned workshops in July, I published a short working paper entitled “Re-visioning Learning Spaces: Evolving faculty roles and emerging learning spaces“.

The paper recognises that new build and refurbishments of educational spaces can be significant financial commitments and often represent ‘flagship’ investments for many universities. It questions whether they are really supporting effective learning. This paper advocates that truly effective spaces need to be more closely associated with the particular learning contexts one is seeking to enrich. Re-visioning our learning spaces requires universities to create and engage with a conceptual model of the learner and faculty, to develop not just new spaces but support for new roles within those spaces. The SOLE model is presented as a conceptual framework through which new spaces and new faculty roles are considered.

Paper can be downloaded at Academia.edu or direct from BPP University College pages (ISBN – 9781 4453 5457 6 / Publication Date: May 2013)

SOLE Model Poster
ALDinHE Poster - SOLE Model

This years ALDinHE conference had as its theme - “Engaging Students - Engaging Learning” and was a series of small, diverse but very practical sessions ranging from identifying successful work-based learning models to the effective induction of non-traditional learners. In amongst all of that I ran a small workshop on Wednesday 20th April using a single webpage on the wordpress site for the DiAL-e Project. (You are welcome to access the workshop resources if you are interested in the DiAL-e)

I had two posters at the conference, a solo effort with the SOLE model and a joint effort with Kevin Burden from the University of Hull featuring the DiAL-e framework work we have been doing since 2006. There was an excellent response to the SOLE poster and considerable interest in its potential use as a staff development stimulus. I was particularly keen to suggest it form a useful tool for course team development in the broader context of course design, but every conversation helps me refine my own ideas, which is after all why we go to these conferences!

The ALDinHE Poster (as a PDF: SOLE Poster 2011-1 FINAL)

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