Effective leadership of learning and teaching is critical for improving the quality of higher education in Australia. In order to ensure that this leadership is in place, universities must build a pipeline of leaders at all levels. This requires a range of strategies including development of existing staff to take up these roles. Workforce planning indicators currently show that higher education is not well prepared to deal with imminent changes to the demographic of the workforce. Leadership development is especially important for emerging leaders with an interest in learning and teaching when they are making decisions about their career trajectories, their research profiles and future opportunities for leadership roles. This presentation reports on the Expansive Learning Leadership Initiative (ELLI), a leadership development program for emerging leaders in higher education offered at one Australian university. The ELLI supported and developed 15 participants, building capacity to enable successful leadership and scholarship of teaching and learning into the future. There were two significant aspects of the program: projects undertaken by each team and Leadership Laboratories to support the development process. In teams of two or three, participants worked in their local contexts on problems that had previously been poorly defined, were unstable and which could result in sustainable change or scalable innovation. The projects were focused on engaging students and staff in change activities that ranged from preparing a teaching team for an innovative approach to large class teaching to involving students in a continuous quality improvement process to enhance existing formal feedback tools. Participants engaged in monthly Leadership Laboratories, designed according to the principles of expansive learning, to share, analyse and expand their activities, resolve contradictions and develop new models of activity for their projects, and foster their leadership capacity. During each laboratory, participants shared observations and data about their own project in the context of collaborative analysis and design. Topics such as ‘leading learning’, ‘change, impact and sustainability’ and ‘challenges of leadership’ were investigated to help participants reach new understandings about leadership in learning and teaching and to design or test a new response, concept or model related to their own project as a result. The leadership work that participants undertook was distributed, networked and informal. It was characterised by learning and teaching scholarship, crossing traditional discipline boundaries, building capacity amongst peers and making the university a better place to work and learn. Their focus on activity brings attention to the work of leadership rather than to the traits of leaders themselves. The participants identified six significant changes in themselves: a sense of agency, increased opportunities for collaboration, recognition as learning and teaching leaders, impact of their projects on promoting positive change, the ability to engage and inspire others, and insight into leadership. The ELLI provided opportunities for participants to engage actively in practice based learning about leadership, created a sustainable and reusable pedagogic model for applied leadership development and broadened the definition of what might constitute leadership in a higher education setting.
12th International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL) Annual Conference, Melbourne, Australia 27-30 October 2015
Proceedings of the 12th International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Annual Conference / pp.108-109