Sunday, August 30, 2015

Academic Coaching

I think academic coaching is an idea whose time has come and I’m seriously thinking of giving it a go.
Two physicist friends and colleagues already offer academic coaching online: Marialuisa Aliotta offers support with academic writing through her blog Academic Life’ and Olga Degtyareva’s blog ‘Productivity for Scientists’ has helped many researchers ‘overcome overwhelm’. It makes sense to me to that academics, and those aspiring to be academics, should seek specific professional development of this kind and for it to be as normal as paying for counselling or life coaching or for a personal trainer.
My interests are in PER (physics education research) and in supporting graduate teaching assistants as they learn to teach. This is not the fashionable arm of the galaxy. While dusting my blog today I came across this quotation:
“Academic culture favours analysis over action; institutions have placed a high degree of importance on their reputations rather than on improving the academic performance of their students.” (Norris, 2008).
We know that TAs and early career researchers with teaching duties are more likely than established colleagues to examine their beliefs about teaching but we also know they are less likely to convert changes in belief into new teaching practices. The barriers are granite-like institutional structures along with the ever-present potholes of existing beliefs about undergraduate learning including misperceptions of undergraduate motivations and abilities. Institutional approaches to the professional development of its teaching staff are often general and short when they need to be discipline based and of sufficient length to cover a complete design cycle from belief change to the change and evaluation of teaching practice. Academic coaching may offer a way around the roadblocks. Blogging as mentoring for professional change may be about to have its day in the sun.
This post was inspired by Occam Typewriter's blogpost 'Now I am Five'

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