Mark Huxham's full profile
Early in my career I made an exciting but worrying discovery. The process of teaching – which I had assumed until then consisted of the transfer of knowledge – was amongst the most subtle and difficult of all human activity. It combines features that are elemental to the human experience, such as storytelling and the development of trust within small groups, with the latest technology. It requires careful planning and a responsive flexibility to new opportunities. It implies secure disciplinary expertise along with a reflective humility in the face of one’s own ignorance and limitations. The shock and excitement of that initial discovery has stayed with me and informed my approach to teaching and learning ever since.
My original academic discipline is ecological science and I remain active in ecological research – particularly in the conservation and restoration of coastal ecosystems and the management of ecosystem services. But I have always combined this scientific research with teaching and with research into teaching. The result is a hybrid academic career, which has meant that my teaching has never felt remote or separate from my research and has been informed by what others are doing as well as by research into my own teaching practice.
I work with colleagues in all Schools and Services to help achieve our shared goal of delivering an unrivalled student learning experience. In addition there are new projects which will have a particular focus this year. Edinburgh Napier staff engage in excellent pedagogical research that informs our teaching, but we could do more of this and with better support and co-ordination. This is why I will be supporting the new Academy for Research, Innovation and Scholarship in Education (ARISE) as a forum for pedagogical research at Edinburgh Napier. By focusing on the programmes of study that our students take we can help ensure that learning is integrated and that modules support complementary skills and experiences. Assessment and feedback is particularly crucial here; one strand of my own research is how we can ensure feedback is a dialogue (see Feedback unbound: from master to usher) rather than a judgement. So the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement will be helping programme teams think about how assessment and feedback can encourage deep learning in their courses. The University is committed to working in partnership with students, so that students and staff collectively shape the learning experience. This can involve using new ways of engaging with student evaluation (such as Tipping out the Boot Grit: the use of on-going feedback devices to enhance feedback dialogue) along with new forms of collaborative working with the NSA and the student body more widely, and this also represents a key focus for me and my team. Finally the QAA has announced its new enhancement theme – transitions. We will be taking forward work on transitions into higher education from college, into Edinburgh Napier from abroad and transitions of staff into pedagogical researchers.
The next academic year will bring a QAA Enhancement Led Institutional Review (ELIR) for Edinburgh Napier. This will engage staff across the university and is an important opportunity for us to showcase the great work we do. I and the Department of Learning and Teaching Enhancement will be working hard to make this a success.
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