Category: Professional practice
|Teaching and Learning Forum 2006 [ Refereed papers ]|
Liezel Frick and Chris Kapp
Centre for Higher and Adult Education
This article gives a critical perspective on future trends in continuing professional development (CPD). Specific attention is given to the future context of practice, the role of the expert in professional practice, how experts will be educated and how their levels of competence will be maintained within the realm of CPD. The information is based on literature and examples from a study amongst lecturers in the natural sciences at the Stellenbosch University, South Africa, which will highlight the trends that can be expected in the future.
The 20th century was marked by the professionalisation of workforces and therefore the debate around professionalism in higher education is not new. Professional accreditation in higher education is, however, a relatively novel idea (Anon, 2003). This has a definite impact on the direction CPD in this sector will follow in the 21st century, and will determine whether CPD is to fulfil its potential as change agent in the improvement of professional practice, especially in a dynamic sphere such as the South African higher education. Global trends coupled with local experience and research does, however, guide us in this quest. This paper incorporates the findings of a qualitative study conducted amongst lecturers in the natural sciences at the Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
In order to determine future CPD trends, Calman (2000) suggests we ask the following questions:
The future context of practice should be seen in terms of a balance between the university as learning organisation and the individual science lecturer as professional. Future research in CPD should focus on how to achieve this balance in the ever-changing academic practice arena. Effective practice in CPD relies on making the best judgement in a specific context and for a specific ethical framework.
Teichler (1999) argues that the role of the socio-political climate and institutional culture in the provision of and participation in CPD requires further investigation. According to Alemna (2001), CPD in developed countries is often already regarded as a normal practice in professions, whereas this is not the case in especially African countries. There is often a lack of a clearly defined national policy and interdisciplinary collaboration. There is also the added difficulty of a unique and diverse context. Curricula should not merely mirror those of developed countries, but should meet the needs of the specific country and the challenges to professional practice. It should, however, also be academically acceptable internationally and should inform its participants of international standards, trends and developments (Odini, 1999). Higher education institutions in South Africa have had to deal with changes in context, such as globalisation, massification of the education system that has led to a more diverse learner population, diminishing resources, demands for quality, responsiveness and accountability and greater competition among institutions of higher education (Boughey in Gravett & Geyser, 2004; Quinn & Vorster, 2004).
This is of specific relevance to the Stellenbosch University as part of the South African higher education sector, as South Africa is attempting to redress past inequity through an integrated system of education and training (Boughey in Gravett & Geyser, 2004; National Research Foundation, 2004), and is also striving to be competitive in the international arena (Boughey in Gravett & Geyser, 2004; Stellenbosch University, 2000). The type and amount of work required from lecturers in higher education have changed considerably as a result of these contextual changes. Lecturers are increasingly required to professionalise their practice as educators, produce research output on par with international standards, carry larger administrative loads, and achieve higher standards with less resources as a result of down-sizing, mergers and/or financial constraints (Boughey in Gravett & Geyser, 2004) - aspects for which they are often ill prepared. Moyo, Donn and Hounsell (1997) found that lecturers are ready and willing to adopt new strategies in higher education and see CPD programs as a way to cope with the changes and transitions eminent in the South African higher education arena.
Boughey (in Gravett & Geyser, 2004) and Cervero (2001) further indicate a definite increase in the decentralisation of CPD. Current competition among professional associations, higher education institutions, business and industry and entrepreneurial agencies has resulted in a variety of CPD programs that are offered simultaneously. The lack of established educational standards for CPD programs makes it nearly impossible to make an informed choice from all the offerings. The South African system of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) accreditation aims to prevent what one participant in the study referred to as a wonderful playground for private providers that come in and often present terribly unsuitable courses. Lecturers in the natural sciences have specific needs for CPD that are closely related to their professional roles and responsibilities and that may be quite different to those of professionals in the private sector.
Battersby (1999) proposes the so-called learning organisation as one possible solution to this problem. Organisational culture plays a determining role in establishing a context for learning. It implies a heritage, tradition, continuity, and a consolidation of processes, practice and content. A change in organisational culture may sometimes be necessary for innovation, empowerment of employees, collaboration and group learning to flourish (Calman, 2000; McDonald, 2001).
Stellenbosch University has faced major changes and challenges in the past decade (and will continue to do so in future) in terms of changing its organisational profile and culture in order to align itself with the broader South African society and to become a role-player in the global higher education sector. This has led to changes in professional practice and context and therefore also in lecturers' need for CPD. The Stellenbosch University aims to be a learning organisation, with lifelong learning as a focal point in preparing personnel to efficiently meet the challenges presented by changing circumstances in higher education. The policy on personnel development (Stellenbosch University, 1999) places a responsibility on the university as learning organisation in terms of CPD - not only as a provider, but also in creating a supportive environment for learning and development, which might be outside the traditional boundaries of the university.
This paper provides a basis for further inquiry in this regard, as it identifies the prominent role that industry and other national and international institutions of higher education play in the continuous development of lecturers. Projects in collaboration with industry and collegial interaction through joint ventures, conferences, and study visits play an important role in the professional development of lecturers in the natural sciences. Project work can support effective CPD through aligning the individual, departmental, faculty and institutional needs. Brew (1995: 66) describes project work as an investment in change. Future research should therefore be directed at investigating the CPD potential of these initiatives and how it compares between different faculties and across higher education institutions. It is also an important consideration in a global society with an increasingly mobile population (Clawson & Jordan, 2001).
Thus far, studies have focused on demographic and socio-economic characteristics, rather than on learner characteristics such as skills, values and attitudes. Future research should include more informal types of learning and development (Brew, 1995). Studies are needed to determine whether participation in CPD can be attributed to organisational culture, the practice setting, or life and career transitions, which has implications for prediction of participation, recruitment, curriculum development, instructional strategies, program marketing and delivery and finally participants' ability to integrate learning into practice. The evident values and attitudes that guide professional practice of lecturers in the natural sciences include academic freedom, scholarship and attaining excellence through developing subject-specific expertise and promoting collaboration.
Figure 1 presents the future context of practice in which a balance between the university as a learning organisation and the individual natural science lecturer as a professional must be achieved. When either the one or the other carries more weight, it will disrupt the balance of the CPD context and limit the provision of and opportunities for CPD that address the needs of both the organisation and the individual.
Figure 1: The future context of practice - a balancing act between the organisation and the individual
This process of integration will open opportunities for innovation and collaboration. CPD then becomes more than organising workshops and organising speakers. Its mission then becomes the identification of problems in professional practice and determining how education can contribute to professional development and the improvement of client service in an uncertain, confusing and dynamic world of practice (Daley & Mott, 2000).
The common reaction to the current issues is usually the development of a code of ethical conduct, prescribed and guarded by experts in the discipline. How to include this into a higher education sphere presents a major challenge. In this regard, the future role of the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) will be interesting to follow. The SACNASP has an existing code of conduct, but its current sphere of influence and direct role in higher education and CPD seem to be limited to registered members (South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions, 2003). The code of conduct seems to be universally applicable to all natural scientists, but the professionals that find themselves in the higher education sector of practice will have to negotiate the compatibility between the imperatives of the professional organisation and that of the higher education institution. Lecturers are furthermore involved in a wider context of practice with more diverse roles and responsibilities expected from the professional that also need to be taken into account in conceptualising a code of conduct and CPD for this group of professionals.
Cervero (2001) indicates that CPD is increasingly used to regulate expertise in professional practice. Mott (2001) here refers to the important role universities can play in terms of an increased demand for licensure and certification. They are in an advantageous position to provide this type of CPD, but they have to understand what motivates the professional to take part in such an endeavour. What motivates professionals in academia to continuously grow and develop? Bitzer (2004) argues that reward and punishment (such as licensure and certification) are indicative of control rather than of increasing quality through intrinsic motivation and academic freedom. Self-improvement within the realm of academic freedom is more indicative of lecturers' motivation to take part in CPD and develop their expertise. The study conducted amongst lecturers in the natural sciences confirmed that although reward and recognition are important factors, they should not come in the form of licensure and certification. This would be counter-productive and act more as a deterrent than a motivator in CPD. These professionals perceive themselves as the guardians and transmitters of expertise in their specific disciplines, even though they might not be experts in all the roles they have to fulfil. Their subject-specific expertise does, however, award them a certain amount of academic freedom, which they value highly and which determines the parameters of their professional development to a great extent.
The debate around assurance of expertise and professional autonomy emphasises the importance of education embedded in context and the role of experiential learning in the continuous development of responsible professionals. CPD as such offers the opportunity to make professionals aware of ethical issues and encourages dialogue in this regard (Lawler, 2000). Mott (2001) argues that CPD will only make a difference in the 21st century if ethics become a central issue. The role of the expert would therefore not only be to provide subject-specific ethical professional practice itself, but also to be involved in the evolution and training of ethics as professional demands change over time.
Even within the natural sciences, the clientele for CPD is a heterogeneous group of professionals that see themselves as unique practitioners within their own fields of expertise. The roles and responsibilities of experts in the natural sciences in higher education are diverse and there are various external influences that determine the focus of professional practice in this sphere. Figure 2 gives a concise graphical presentation of the role of the expert in the higher education context.
Figure 2: The role of the expert in professional practice in the academic setting
It is clear that an integrated model of practice is currently followed and this will continue to be the case in at least the near future. It not only complicates (and enriches) professional practice, it makes the strategic placing of CPD a complicated task. It is clear that the role of the expert in the natural sciences in higher education calls for integrated as well as differentiated CPD provision. CPD should be integrated into the professional practice of the professional as part of lifelong learning. It should, however, be differentiated according to the different needs of the individual expert in terms of level of expertise, priorities in roles and responsibilities and demands of the specific discipline in which the professional practices. A needs-based approach to CPD should be followed and needs assessments are therefore imperative.
The role of the expert in the natural sciences in higher education is diverse, complex and integrated into every practice at various levels. Experts are indispensable in terms of their input as transmitters, facilitators, resource persons and creative developers in their various roles. They mould the future context of practice. It therefore becomes clear that professional experts have an important role to play in the future of CPD and the higher education context as a whole.
The different roles of a lecturer identified in Figure 2 lead to different needs in terms of CPD. Competency and expertise in terms of these roles and responsibilities can be achieved in various ways.
Figure 3: The continuum of lifelong learning for professionals
Pre-service learning forms an important conceptual base for CPD (McDonald, 2001). CPD will only be effective if it is related to the level of general education already achieved and the time at which it was done (Odini, 1999). CPD is not merely an extension of pre-service education (McDonald, 2001), nor is it a substitute for preliminary education (Odini, 1999). Bridging the gap between pre- and in-service education will lead to a lifelong educational continuum. This is beneficial in several ways. The transition between pre-professional education and in-service education can be facilitated more effectively. The characteristics of occupations need to be recognised, which will then inform CPD within those professions. A learning continuum can facilitate the design of CPD in order to encourage and sustain lifelong learning and increase self-directed learning along the continuum. Learning communities may assist professionals to seek opportunities to engage in these collaborative efforts. Career development can be fostered when there is a common understanding of professionals' learning and transformation processes. A perspective of CPD that encompasses lifelong learning facilitates the development of professionals in all their life roles (Knox, 2000).
Well-organised induction programs can facilitate the transition from pre-service to in-service learning. Weiss and Weiss (1999) found that these programs lead to higher retention rates and better professional capabilities in the first period of professional practice. An effective program should build on constructivist learning principles, and encourage reflection, collaboration and mentoring practices. The PRONTAK/PREDAC and Thuthuka Programs at Stellenbosch University act as examples of good practice on which to build future CPD practices aimed at induction, mentoring and the development of expertise. The PRONTAK/PREDAC program is an initiative of the Stellenbosch University Centre for Teaching and Learning. It is aimed at supporting newly appointed lecturers. The National Research Foundation initiated the Thuthuka Program in an effort to support young academics from previously disadvantaged groups through mentoring. Pre-service education, induction programs and CPD should be complementary in their approaches and methods in order to facilitate the transition between the different stages in education (Oliver & Aggleton, 2002).
CPD has an advantage over other stages of professional education as there are more so-called "teachable moments" when professionals are most likely to be aware of a need for improved practice. But this natural advantage can only be exploited if CPD moves beyond the mere update model. Moyo et al. (1997) state that induction programs alone are not sufficient in addressing the CPD needs of lecturers throughout their careers. Programs that provide a systematic grounding in knowledge and skills and build on current practices should follow the induction process and capitalise on teachable moments. There is a need for more comprehensive programs that also address leadership and management skills, professionalism, professional academic skills, coping with technological changes and organisational development (Steinert, 2000). O'Rourke (1997) states that an increasingly heterogeneous learner population, diversity in organisational cultures and rapid technological changes create a demand for leaders who are democratic, have a vision, can fill multiple roles and are adaptable to changing circumstances. CPD should therefore play a major role in leadership development of lecturers within their multiple roles as researchers, teachers, community facilitators and administrators.
Within the research context, most CPD initiatives do not currently fall within the formal program format. The individual professional in the natural sciences is expected to start off with a minimum qualification of a Master's degree, but more often a doctorate. This initial education is supplemented with national and international exposure through conference attendance and delivering of research papers; postgraduate research supervision and building of a research team and the publication of subject-specific research articles in reputable and accredited journals. The need for CPD in this sphere of practice in future will therefore centre on aspects that will facilitate success in these endeavours.
Professional accreditation of teaching competence in higher education remains a relatively novel idea. It is often met with great resistance from especially the "hard core" scientists, such as those in the natural sciences, but it does address their need for coping with their diverse clientele in the most effective way (Brown, 1998). Moyo et al. (1997) support the introduction of an accredited, award-bearing program in higher education as part of CPD for lecturers in higher education. Quinn and Vorster (2004) propose the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education and Training (PGCHET) as a practice-based course that facilitates the professional development of lecturers in terms of learner assessment, reflection, developing knowledge within the field of higher education and providing professional accreditation. Their research concluded that the PGCHET could change lecturers' conceptions of teaching.
Currently no PGCHET is offered at Stellenbosch University, but it is comparable to the MPhil (Higher Education) offered by the Centre for Higher and Adult Education at the university. The two qualifications are highly comparable in terms of most aspects. However, PGCHET is at an Honours level (NQF level 8) in comparison to the MPhil. (Higher Education), which is at a Master's level (NQF level 9). The thesis component in the MPhil (Higher Education) program makes the main difference in total credit values and therefore also the possibilities for further study (Centre for Higher and Adult Education, 2004; South African Ministry of Education, 2004 & Anon, 2003).
Internationally, the PGCHET compares to the Fellowship and Associate Fellowship of the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) of Great Britain (Anon, 2003), and Australia's Prompts for Good Practice, which is published by the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australia Inc. (HERDSA) (Anon, 2003). In the United States of America no cited university program qualifications that are directly comparable to the PGCHET could be found. Most of the programs that are offered are at a Master's and doctoral level and focus on administration, student affairs, leadership, policy studies, student development or counselling and research (Anon, 2003).
It is still debatable whether a qualification in education will motivate lecturers in the natural sciences to buy into a CPD initiative such as the PGCHET or the MPhil. (Higher Education). The researcher received responses varying from positive (perceiving such a qualification as beneficial and relevant to both the university as employer, lecturers as employees and learners as clients, even though it might take time, workload compensation, and commitment from all parties to implement), to negative (as it is perceived as undermining professional freedom achieved through attainment of qualifications and work experience, perceived difficulties in consistent implementation as entry levels of expertise may differ internationally and nationally, and as it is perceived to place high demands on limited time).
Castle, Holloway and Race (1998) stress the importance of recognition of prior learning for those professionals who have already achieved a certain level of expertise and competency. Lecturers in the natural sciences are research-driven professionals with little time or inclination to devote their energy to such an extensive endeavour. Small group workshops aimed at specific problems and/or needs may bear more fruit in this sector.
CPD in terms of community service is usually embedded in the development of research and teaching skills, as community service within the natural sciences is commonly centred within the subject-specific community (such as professional organisations) or in the transfer of subject-specific knowledge to the wider community (which requires teaching skills). There is therefore limited scope for the development and implementation of CPD initiatives that focus specifically on community service in the academic sector of natural science.
The development of expertise in terms of the administrative role of the lecturer is often self-directed and needs-based. Programs in terms of management skills, time management, the obtaining and management of funding, interpersonal communication skills, the implementation of technologically-based information systems and other specific administrative tasks are available from a variety of providers. Lecturers in the natural sciences will only find these initiatives useful if they directly address a real need in practice.
It is debatable on which role of the academic and level of expertise CPD initiatives should focus and whether these initiatives should be mandatory or not. Lecturers in the natural sciences that contributed to the study are not unwilling to learn and develop on the contrary. They are inclined towards self-directed lifelong learning but prefer to have a choice and freedom where CPD is concerned. CPD initiatives that are needs-based, problem- and learner-centred, that are presented by facilitators that have stature within the specific context and that successfully integrate the different facets of professional practice will most probably be more successful. Short courses, workshops and collegial interactive sessions also receive a more positive response than formal, extended programs.
CPD does not end with the educational program itself. The maintenance of competence in professional practice is of equal importance and can even be a more difficult quest for those involved in CPD.
Daley (2001) and Calman (2000) indicate that knowledge and professional practice interact in the learning process. Future research in this area needs to focus on the difference in learning practices as a professional progresses from novice to expert. Furthermore, if we support Cervero (1988) in that the purpose of CPD is the development of professional artistry, it is clear that the development of expertise in practice relies on the development of expertise in learning. This implies a need for more innovative facilitative and learning strategies through which knowledge will complement practice. New generation research, such as action research, critical learning communities, development of portfolios, and recording of life histories are emerging as forms of research that incorporate reflective practice and collaborative elements (Castle et al., 1998). These trends in research will define the future approaches to learning and training, of which CPD is no exception.
Attaining a qualification does not guarantee the maintenance of competence or expertise. CPD providers often assume that the simple transmission of information in the educational setting will influence practice, yet Ryan, Campbell, and Brigham (1999) report that research results on the effect of CPD on behavioural change have not been consistent. CPD is only effective to the extent to which it is implemented in practice and the outcomes can be measured. CPD is therefore in dire need of effective evaluation research. Satisfaction and participation are not sufficient indicators of effective CPD. Research should not only focus on formal programs, as a major part of continuing learning takes place through informal and self-directed means. Research energy and funds have to be directed to the workplace as a productive and powerful source of data. Evaluation research will further lead to the identification of practice problems and issues, which will support the identification of new educational services that are needed. Proper evaluation will form the cornerstone for the improvement of professional practice and it is also essential in terms of accreditation (McDonald, 2001; Calman, 2000; Daley & Mott, 2000). The study conducted amongst lecturers in the natural sciences clearly indicated a lack of effective evaluation of learning in CPD.
Cervero (2001) refers to the "Maintenance of Competence Program" for the purposes of re-certification. It is a system that utilises activities such as participation in audits of practice and personal learning portfolios to reflect the quality of continuing professional development since initial certification. This may be the most appropriate way of maintaining expertise as it recognises prior learning, encourages reflective practice and can be designed in a context-specific manner in order to monitor the maintenance of professional practice - as aptly stated by one of the participants in the study:
It is said that information has a 5-year "life-span". We should therefore be constantly involved in a process of self-reflection. A process by which we critically review what we are doing in an attempt to end up with a better final product. In this sense continuing development is nothing more that "life-long learning" - an ongoing process.The maintenance of competence and expertise is the joint responsibility of the individual professional and the organisation. Lecturers will only maintain a balanced professional expertise if top management supports CPD initiatives that promote learning and development in this manner, without it being a top-down mandatory venture. The integrity of the system should also be transparent and beyond doubt. The ideal would be if a national (and even international) system of maintaining expertise could be developed, especially seen within the context of increasing mobility of academia across the world.
Ideally the idea of a "Maintenance of Competence Program" should be incorporated into the proposed portfolio policy at Stellenbosch University and should be applicable to lecturers at all levels of practice. It should be a concise but understandable policy that gives clear guidelines and contains effective monitoring structures. Effective support structures should be put in place to assist academic staff in this venture.
The balance between organisational and individual needs will greatly determine the future context of professional practice. If a balance cannot be achieved in this regard, the provision and practice of CPD in higher education will always remain skewed. A balance can be struck by integrating learning into practice in CPD through using a problem-centred approach, supplying sufficient technological infrastructure, creating opportunities for research, developing curricula, and encouraging collaboration with industry and other institutions of higher education.
Experts will be highly sought-after professionals in the future context of professional practice. They will play an important role in guarding and directing competent practice and will therefore also be important stakeholders in determining the future direction of CPD. Quality assurance demands the input from the experts within the higher education profession. Only these experts will really understand the foundation on which the specific profession was built; fully grasp the current realities of practice and determine how future challenges should be tackled.
How these experts will be educated in the natural sciences in higher education presents a daunting challenge for all those involved in CPD in this sector. The roles and responsibilities, the clientele, and the overall professional practice of natural scientists in higher education seem to become more complex and more diverse every year. CPD initiatives have to keep up with the demands modern day challenges place on the professional. These demands not only influence novices - expert practitioners will also need continuous support to cope with changes in practice. This indicates the importance of cultivating lifelong learning through needs-based and learner-centred CPD. A variety of possible CPD initiatives already exist, but these initiatives do not seem to successfully integrate the complex practice realities of the natural science lecturer.
Professional competence will be more successfully maintained when CPD initiatives effectively address the professional practitioners' context as a whole. Lecturers in the natural sciences have a unique and complex form of practice. Even though generic programs may address some issues these practitioners face, they will be more receptive to initiatives that are aimed at their realities of practice. New generation research, educational and evaluation practices (that may already be well-known and fully functional in the humanities) need to be adapted to suit the specific context of natural sciences. Managerial support for these initiatives is imperative to their success. Limited literature and relevant research exists on CPD conceptualisation, provision, quality and impact evaluation that is specifically aimed at lecturers in the natural sciences as professionals. Leaders in the field of CPD have both an opportunity and a responsibility to develop CPD into a sustainable, participatory and growing learning enterprise within the academic professions. Future development and research will need to address these issues.
Only those professionals that succeed in constantly coping with the changes and challenges the future context of practice present, that succeed in developing into an expert that can competently fulfil all their responsibilities, that never stop learning and succeed in maintaining their professional competence, will survive in the deep, dark jungle of academic practice.
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|Authors: Liezel Frick is an MPhil graduate of the Centre for Higher and Adult Education, Stellenbosch University and holds a Master's degree in Consumer Science. Her research focus areas are the continuing professional development of lecturers in the natural sciences, and the assessment and recognition of prior learning. She is involved in research for the Infant Feeding Research Project (an HIV/AIDS intervention program), and the development of a new foundation phase at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University.
Liezel Frick, Centre for Higher and Adult Education, Stellenbosch University, Private Bag X1, Matieland 7602, South Africa. Email firstname.lastname@example.orgProf Chris Kapp is the director of the Centre for Higher and Adult Education, Stellenbosch University, a founder member and past president of SAARDHE (South African Association for Research and Development in Higher Education), a founding editor of the South African Journal of Higher Education, and the coordinator for a manual on Postgraduate Supervision and Training. His current research includes projects on postgraduate supervision and training, and leadership development in higher education.
Please cite as: Frick, B. L. and Kapp, C. A. (2006). Future trends in continuing professional development for natural science lecturers in higher education: Survival of the fittest in the academic jungle. In Experience of Learning. Proceedings of the 15th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 1-2 February 2006. Perth: The University of Western Australia. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2006/refereed/frick.html
Copyright 2006 Liezel Frick and Chris Kapp. The authors assign to the TL Forum and not for profit educational institutions a non-exclusive licence to reproduce this article for personal use or for institutional teaching and learning purposes, in any format (including website mirrors), provided that the article is used and cited in accordance with the usual academic conventions.