What is Decoding Academic Practice?




Decoding Academic Practice is a project involving graduates of the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching & Learning in Higher Education in a process of reflection on the underlying assumptions of the course.  This reflection utilises the Decoding the Disciplines methodology as developed by David Pace and Joan Middendorf.

The project arises from the observation that while we asked colleagues engaged in the PgCert to reflect on their own practice and link knowledge of their discipline with knowledge of how to teach the discipline, as academic developers we needed to do the same.

But we were also aware that various concepts and practices were ‘troubling; areas where participants struggled to grasp the underlying logic of the programme’s pedagogic orientation.  As Lee Shulman has discussed in relation to professional education, the deep and implicit structures of the curriculum can present obstacles to learning.

  • But what are the particular or recurring bottlenecks encountered in the PgCert?
  • What might be useful ways to re-think the PgCert so that these bottlenecks can be overcome?

The approach taken here is to work with those who have been through the PgCert in a form of collaborative reflection to identify obstacles and possible responses.  The aim is to feed this reflection back into the continuous review of our programmes.

Practically the project will work through steps 1-3 of the methodology.  The collaborative reflection will firstly seek to identify those aspects of the course that the participants really struggled with; the concepts and practices that presented obstacles to their useful participation. Secondly, we will look at how they felt they succeeded in overcoming some of these obstacles.  This positions the course participants themselves as ‘experts’.  They will also reflect on what we did that supported them ‘getting it’ or obstructed them ‘getting it’.  Finally, based on these collaborative reflections I will develop methods for making explicit the often implicit ways of thinking and practicing necessary for successful participation on the course.  this will be shared with the group for evaluation.  The further steps in the methodology will be conducted in the next iteration of the PgCert.