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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

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We really need to know what we each believe about learning, our personal epistemologies, before we start learning and teaching.  Do we really change the way we see, feel, and hear international voices, or do we just make structural adjustments around the edges of our programmes, curricula and induction processes. We build prayer rooms, but do we build bridges? We introduce new cuisine into our refectories, but how often do we break bread together?

There are many excellent projects and studies across higher education that are informing change. Beyond international exchange schemes and recruiting foreign students, I'm keen to see how transformational they really are, or could be. Next week a colleague and I join representatives from nine other institutions for the kick-off meeting in York for the UK’s Higher Education Academy (HEA) 2012 Internationalisation Change Academy.  We have proposed something we hope will be supported and encouraged that does not have direct structural change as one of its objectives. Rather we want to invite our colleagues, faculty and students, to pause and reflect on what they believe about themselves with respect to learning, to be aware of their own epistemological beliefs.

Statistics at LSE Workshop May 2011

We start from the premise that all our students at BPP University College are ‘international students’. Everyone now operates within a global context regardless of his or her subject discipline, his or her nationality, status or mode of study. Our project, entitled Personal Orientation to the International Student Experience (POISE), builds on this intrinsic international context by providing a consistent, supportive and, we suggest, transformative, orientation to study. But this is not something we 'do' to, or for, international students, it is something the whole institution, faculty and students regardless of programmes of study will be encouraged to engage in.

Aims of the POISE project

Taking a toolkit approach, we aim to provide students and faculty, notably but not exclusively those with Personal Tutor duties, with a single instrument that will guide the individual through a reflective self-evaluation of their epistemological perspectives and attitudes and approaches to higher study. Implemented within the provision of student support across the University, and building on a comprehensive system of pastoral care, the intention is to offer a shared language enabling an exchange of perspectives, expectations and frustrations with respect to university study.

Using Marlene Schommer’s Epistemological Questionnaire (SEQ) as a basis (Schommer, 1990, 1993) or an alternative, and conscious of their critics (Clarebout, Elen, Luyten, & Bamps, 2001), as well as with reference to Bennett's important work on inter-cultural sensitivities (Hammer, Bennett, & Wiseman, 2003) we hope to develop an appropriate instrument. We hope also to borrow from Biggs’s Study Process Questionnaire (SPQ) instruments and design a single, or set of inter-related, instruments within a coherent toolkit (Burnett & Dart, 2000). Engagement with the toolkit, by individual faculty and student, will illuminate some well-documented (but evolving) cultural differences in expectations of study at higher levels. This comprehensive personal ‘audit’ will then form the basis for collegial discussion between students and within tutorial contexts.

We think it will prove invaluable to have faculty members also engaging with POISE, providing them with a common frame of reference, a personal stimulus for professional development and reflection, and encouragement to explore the similarities and differences in epistemological beliefs. Faculty will consequently be supported as they move beyond the anecdotal ‘challenges posed by International Students’ to a greater acknowledgement, and deeper understanding, of the richness of learning and teaching opportunities contained within these different epistemological perspectives. We want to support the idea that it is not necessary for individuals to ‘sacrifice’ their own perspectives in coming to understand an alternative. Rather, they must work towards ‘Third Place Learning’ as a shared alternative, indeed perhaps our institutions are themselves inevitable examples of Third Place Learning (Alagic, Rimmington, & Orel, 2009).

Enhancing the Student Experience

We anticipate that the POISE effect will be greatest where it forms part of an early supportive intervention for all students across a cohort and we'll be exploring in this project how best to 'administer' it. But, we also anticipate that it will have value at each stage of the student experience as the individual adjusts, adapts and develops strategies and techniques for negotiating these different perspectives.

Having faculty and students develop a shared appreciation within learning communities of different approaches to study will hopefully enhance students' experience as well as providing a common frame of reference for discussing issues arising from different expectations. This matters. It matters because like many HEI’s BPP University College is expanding the range of its provision for international students and along with this extension of provision comes a raft of additional student support services, both academic and pastoral. Increasingly diverse student populations should be seen as positive opportunities for greater international insights being shared by faculty and students and drawn in to the curriculum.

We will be developing an official POISE website as part of the HEA project I due course but I hope also to share my experiences of this project, due for completion by March 2013. I am also exploring the appropriateness of Baxter Magolda’s ‘Epistemological Reflection Model’ (Bock, 2002) and King and Kitchener’s Reflective Judgment Interview (Kitchener, Lynch, Fischer, & Wood, 1993). I would be delighted to hear from anyone with experience of administering these kinds of epistemological belief surveys with their students, and particularly, with faculty.

 


Alagic, M., Rimmington, G. M., & Orel, T. (2009). Third Place Learning Environments: Perspective Sharing and Perspective Taking. International Journal of Advanced Corporate Learning (iJAC), 2(4), pp. 4–8. doi:10.3991/ijac.v2i4.985

Bock, M. T. (2002). Baxter Magolda’s Epistemological Reflection Model. New Directions for Student Services, 1999(88), 29–40. doi:10.1002/ss.8803

Burnett, P. C., & Dart, B. C. (2000). The Study Process Questionnaire: A construct validation study. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 25(1), 93–99. doi:10.1080/713611415

Clarebout, G., Elen, J., Luyten, L., & Bamps, H. (2001). Assessing Epistemological Beliefs: Schommer’s Questionnaire Revisited. Educational Research and Evaluation, 7(1), 53–77. doi:10.1076/edre.7.1.53.6927

Hammer, M. R., Bennett, M. J., & Wiseman, R. (2003). Measuring intercultural sensitivity: The intercultural development inventory. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 27(4), 421–443. doi:10.1016/S0147-1767(03)00032-4

Kitchener, K. S., Lynch, C. L., Fischer, K. W., & Wood, P. K. (1993). Developmental range of reflective judgment: The effect of contextual support and practice on developmental stage. Developmental Psychology, 29(5), 893–906. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.29.5.893

Schommer, M. (1990). Effects of beliefs about the nature of knowledge on comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 498–504. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.82.3.498

Schommer, M. (1993). Epistemological development and academic performance among secondary students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(3), 406–411. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.85.3.406

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