Roxa, T and Martensson, K. (2012). How effects from teacher training of academic teachers propagate into the meso level and beyond


Roxå, T., & Martensson, K. (2015). How Effects from Teacher-training of Academic Teachers Propogate into the Meso Level and Beyond. In Teacher Development in Higher Education Existing Programs, Program Impact, and Future Trends (pp. 1–36).

“…causal link between training and development of teaching is not straightforward.”

“These difficulties can manifest themselves as a lack of support and interest from colleagues or supervisors or as conservative attitudes on behalf of the students (Ginns, Kitay, and Prosser 2010).”

“A recurrent argument maintains that it is within the discipline (or the department) that a teacher’s professional identity is formed (Henkel 2005). Accordingly, this is where training and other kinds of professional development should take place. Taking individuals from their professional context, training them, and then expecting them to influence their peers once they return is hardly likely to happen, especially if the teachers trained are younger colleagues within a professional community.” DN: Focus in department context is key!

“…issues like professional identity and the acquisition of teaching skills relevant for new insights made during training need to develop over time.”

“…training has positive effects on individual academic teachers’ conceptions and subsequently on their students’ learning.”

(other factors like support of institutional goals and policies, contributing to the institution as a learning organization, supporting teachers as reflective practitioners, or how to support an emerging academic culture based on the scholarship of teaching and learning are important)

“Any attempt to detect effects from an intervention, like training of academic teachers, must include a perspective of what we are looking for, the intended outcomes of the training, and a clear view of the system in which we look.”

(central to this perspective are the concepts of micro level, meso level, and macro level (Bauer et al. 1999; Hannah and Lester, 2009).

“Culture… is not something an organization has, but rather what it is. It refers to ways of doing, talking, and thinking about things, about patterns that make a group visible against a backdrop of other groups (Alvesson, 2002).

Micro level

“Individual teachers constitute the micro level.”

Meso level

“The meso level is sometimes referred to as the institution, the workgroup, or the significant networks (Bauer et all, 1999; Knight and Trowler, 2000; Trowler and Bamber, 2005; Hannah and Lester, 2009; Roxa and Martensson, 2009a, 2009b)

“Because the meso level does not reveal itself naturally, it must be constructed analytically.”

Several candidates for use as meso level:

• Department (university structure)

• Discipline (field of study –> identity)

“The discipline might be of greater significance since it has a more profound influence on the individual’s professional identity than the department (Henkel, 2005).

“…disciplines have, gradually, constructed certain ‘ways of thinking and practicing’ (Hounsell and Anderson, 2009) which undergraduate and postgraduate students learn and internalise through a process of academic apprenticeship. By the time some of them advance further into the discipline as academic teachers, these ways are firmly internalized. Through such a perspective the disciplines come into view as culturally formed and sustained…”

“…if disciplines constitute the meso level, then effects of teacher-training should extend from the micro level and influence the ways of thinking and practice signifying the disciplinary community.”

“But disciplines are not the stable constructions we sometimes think they are, nor do they have clear boundaries to other disciplines. New disciplines emerge and old disciplines expand into new areas.”

“Trowler (2008) suggests the workgroup as the meso level, claiming this is where the work is done, and where development therefore starts.”

“Power and contestation are always present, giving a workgroup an agentic relation to the world.” – workgroups have more clearly defined structures and agency, as opposed to loosely bounded disciplines.

Workgroups possibly have more homophily:

“Another matter of importance would be to determine the workgroups’ or the networks’ attitudes towards change versus stability. In the case of the significant networks, which are formed spontaneously, the individuals have in most cases freely chosen each other as significant others. Therefore these alliances are likely to have been formed through the influence of homophily, that is, ‘the principle that a contact between similar people occurs at a higher rate than among dissimilar people (McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Cook, 2001, 416)”

“Individuals prefer to interact with others who confirm rather than challenge their own beliefs, a fact initially supporting the assumption that significant networks are likely to be conservative and that they promote stability.”

SO – how to promote innovation, change, adoption of new practices? How to counteract conservatism in networks?

“If the status quo were paramount, the effects from individual teacher-training would most certainly be absorbed within the social context and fade away. If the groups or the networks, on the other hand, were characterised by enterprises of development, teacher-training would fuel further development and accelerate the process. Hence, the effects of training can both be determined by the training itself and also by the social context in which the individual teachers are active.”

“A conclusion to be made so far is that the first signs of propagation of effects from teacher-training would look different depending on which focus we use while studying the meso level. A simplified way to distinguish the two focuses would be: either we look for visible changes in teaching practices (focus on the workgroup), with possible measurable effects on student learning; or we look for changes in teachers’ ways of thinking and talking about teaching and learning (focus on the significant network), even though we might not necessarily see any visible effects within the teaching practice.”

“In a workgroup, change occurs through the negotiation with others, often involving power issues and/or impacts on professional identity, while in a network the stakes are much lower. Here teachers can try out new ways of thinking and talking about teaching and learning, and do so among colleagues at a low risk.”

“Therefore, viewed from a time perspective, changes in the significant networks would most likely surface prior to changes in the workgroups, placing the network focus closer to the micro level. Displacements in the significant networks would arguably be detectable before they became visible in the workgroups. On the other hand, widespread institutional change would not, other than under exceptional conditions, appear unless the workgroups are activated.”

“…significant networks as a possible first focus for the meso level.”

“…effects in the significant networks might remain hidden backstage for a long time, making it insufficient for managers and others who are looking for a cultural shift in terms of teaching and learning. To reach such an objective with the means of teacher-training, the effects most certainly have to advance even further into the workgroups. If this takes place, the culture will potentially be influenced and possibly transformed. But… teacher-training on its own is insufficient to accomplish a cultural shift.”

“Inviting participants as significant networks, or promoting conversations with critical friends (Martensson, Roxa and Olsson, 2011), would most likely support an open style of discussion and a possibility for the network to identify and to work on a shared enterprise (Wagner, 1999). On the other hand, these informal networks often run the risk of being governed by consensus (McPherson, 2001), with the following risk that participants avoid critical debate and conflict. Again, this is a particularly important aspect for stakeholders who wish to promote a cultural shift.”

Macro level

“…designed organisation… …individuals, networks and workgroups are active in their construction of what they consider to be valuable and not; they interpret aspects they encounter in relation to their own history, identity and projected future. The result is a process of negotiation where members of the organisation interpret decisions and policies according to their own agendas and trajectories.”

“academics… construct and continuously maintain their understanding about the reality around them.”

“Within this perspective, the individuals constitute the micro level and the semi-autonomous knowledge clusters the meso level. The macro level refers to the organisation as a whole. From the macro level the organisation becomes visible as a system of interrelated and overlapping clusters. Within clusters the individual members are connected to each other via links. Clusters are connected via ‘bridges’ flowing from one member of a cluster to a member of another cluster.”

“Hannah and Lester (2009) argue that the productive work in knowledge-intensive organisations appears mainly within the clusters.”

“Hannah and Lester therefore recommend leaders of organisations to act as the basis that the clusters are the locus for development, but also to counteract the tendency towards introversion and detachment, by:

  1. Demanding from each cluster a developmental enterprise;

  2. Supporting individuals who display a developmental perspective on the part of their cluster and at the same time show an understanding for the organisation as a whole;

  3. Encouraging clusters to put their results on display for critical review by other clusters by introducing suitable arenas;

  4. Using a leadership which is both loose, by encouraging the clusters’ self-chosen enterprises, and tight, by creating structures preventing the organisation to become partitioned;

  5. Being explicit with an organisational vision, not only by the talk but also by the walk, and

  6. Being patient.”

Conclusions

“Effects cannot propagate without being negotiated in social contexts.” – and this takes place in the meso level in significant networks and/or workgroups

“The key factor for effects to propagate on the meso level is determined by whether or not the networks and workgroups have established their own agenda for development.”