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How did I reach my conclusions.
- Diversity of activityRelationships with central services
- Scepticism about tech.
- Little drawing on any ED community of practice
- Emerged from themes in NVIVO codes - in fact they leapt out
I think my major conclusion was that there was a real effort to make the EDU part of the University. I was struck by the diversity of the activity that was going on within units and I though that flexibility indicated a certain responsiveness that boded will for the EDU. It might struggle to survive, but if it has "friends" it's going to be harder to get rid of. I was also struck by a certain scepticism about technology, or rather a pragmatic approach to its use. There had to be a practical purpose for technology, rather than just a "lets see what it can do attitude" But that was countered by an awareness that students might be interested in other tools. A minor conclusion was that there seemed to be relatively little emphasis on drawing from an educational development "community of practice". It is possible that that was an effect of the small sample, but when I did the data analysis the Nvivo nodes that leapt out were all to do with relationships within the University. A second conclusion that emerged from the data analysis was the emphasis on working with non-academic staff, which all the respondents thought important. Of course there is an element of reflexivity in this too, in that while my own unit wasn't one of my cases, I did use it as a sort of test model.
How do I justify my methods of analysis of my data.
I think I was right to use the interview as the primary data collection method, because ED is about telling a story. (e.g. this is how your teaching can be improved). I wanted to know what the respondents would tell me, but I had to deconstruct them by looking for themes in their answers. Who are you working for? Working with? And do your publications tell the same story. So the approach of going through each transcript sentence by sentence, and indetifying nodes them helps bring out common themes which could be compared across all five sites. That way you begin to build a common story. But as a sort of belt and braces approach, I also compared the transcripts question by question, in case I'd missed a theme, and that did reveal a bit more useful info. The comments about bidding for external funding for example would have been subsumed under the more general discussion of either funding or working with colleagues had I not done that.
What are your most significant findings?
- EDUs, as currently configured, are unlikely to be able to effect large-scale changes across the university. They're too small, and are trying to do too much.
- But they are very good at working with colleagues to bring about localised change.
- Highly interpretative role. EDUs have given up trying to lay down the law.
- EDUs tend to become a locus of expertise in specific educational technologies (e.g VLE, Turnitin etc. )
- Moving away from "failing academic staff" and towards an understanding that university structures might be as responsible for failure to (e.g.) adopt technology. Importance of working with support structures to minimise "Fred in the Shedism"
- Important role of stimulating development work outside the EDU rather than doing it itself.
How far are your conclusions generalisable?
I wasn't aiming for generalisability. I don't think this is possible where the object of the research is as diverse as EDUs, or with case study methodology. What I was aiming for was plausibility and authenticity, to tell a story that someone who worked in, or had dealings with an EDU, could recognise. That said, I do think the household model is flexible enough to be tested against other EDUs. (e.g. Lincoln and UCD) In a sense it begins to provide a theory about EDUs, that will be testable and generalisable
What have you contributed to knowledge in the topic of your thesis
I think I have added a different perspective on the EDU, that isn't to be found elsewhere in the literature. I do think the literature places the EDU between the centre and the faculties, either as an agent of the centre, or as a service unit for the faculties. What I think I've shown is that it is neither of those exactly, although those may be functions it sometimes fulfils. But it can operate both ways, and when it does, it uses its own skill base, often, but not always in technology, to reinterpret the demands each is making on the other.
What have you contributed to knowledge in relation to your discipline area?
I think the discipline area is higher education leadership and management, and I think I have gone beyond the critiques of new public management, to show how co-operation can work to the benefit of all concerned. I also think that I've shown that information flowing down an organisation can benefit from reinterpretation, or from being filtered through a unit that is exposed to multiple perspectives (the same is true for information going up, although upward filtering is actually rather rare.) In a way I think I have shown a way to manage the sort of complexity that Barnett talks about.
In what ways is your thesis original?
- Nothing exists on the relationship between units and the host university. Plenty on developers, but nothing on locus of development
- Rather an assumption of "industrial" - technical rational model of change and innovation. I think I've shown it doesn't work like that.
- I think my Household model shows that units do fit into the community, but are adept at shaping their role in that community. In fact where the university has tried to shape the unit it has been less successful (e.g. Site A)
How would you rate your work in comparison with other researchers in your field?
- I think it's quite different. No-one, that I'm aware of has tried to do a multiple case study and tell a more slightly comprehensive study of how units do what they are doing.
- Does owe something to Ray Lands notion that orientations to ed. development are contextually generated. I think the shape of units is too, and I agree that you can't prescribe how to build a unit.
- Builds on Gosling's descriptive survey of what units are doing, and attempts to explain why they're doing what they're doing.
How would you critique your thesis?
- A larger sample would always tell a more convincing story. Although I don't think my sample is too small. By the fourth interview I wasn't hearing anything new. And these weren't interviews about people's experiences - they were attempts to elicit stories about a unit, so they were much more wide ranging.
- It's a study of the EDU looking out. I think there's a need for a parallel study (or studies) of students, academics and managers looking in
- It's limited to England, which is a fairly unique jurisdiction, given the TQEF, and the emphasis on STEM subjects.
What do you plan to do after you gain your doctorate?
- Have a holiday!
- Publish at least one article based on the findings. (I have submitted to xyz journal)
- I know my own centre is keen to start me in a supervisory role for students coming up behind me on the Ed D.
How might your research be further developed?
- There was a large body of data that I decided I couldn't use in my research concerned with the physical layout of EDUs. It occurred to me that the physical location of EDUs might have a profound effect on the way they interacted with colleagues. (Can you just walk in). I'd like to do another paper on that.
- I'm also beginning to develop an interest in what is sometimes called neo-Luddite approaches to technological enhancement. (might be that I myself have a rather romantic orientation to development)
Is there anything we have not questioned you about to which you would like to draw our attention?
I make quite a few references to the way technology has a tendency to control ways of working. Since finishing the thesis I've become quite interested in what I'm calling the "neo-Luddite" turn in educational development. I don't of course mean that EDUs are taking sledgehammers to iPads and so forth. What I'm getting it is an increasing questioning of what technology is doing to academic work. Put simply, if the technology can't do it, then we don't do it. Some of this is coming from it's controlling agenda, some from the climate change debate, and some from thinking about the purpose of education.