Action Research for Academic Staff Development

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Action Research for Academic Staff Development
Jeketule Jacob Soko, Member
The strength of good education in any educational institution depends on the quality of the academic staff in that there is no satisfactory substitute for competent staff that possesses sound educational philosophy and dynamic leadership (Nakpodia, 2011; Anderson & Van-Dyke, 2000).

However, in spite of this, most universities employ lecturers without pedagogical skills (straight from Masters Degree to the lecture hall). Only a few go through formal teaching methodology.
Teaching is viewed as an activity that anyone can do. But pedagogical competence is an important component of quality of higher education (Pleschova, Simon, Quinlan, Murphy, Roxa, & Szabó, 2012).

Thus, I propose action research to fill the gap of lack of competencies by academic staff without prior experience in teaching. Action research is embedded with CRASP:
C - Critical attitude
R - Research into teaching
A - Accountability
S - Self-evaluation, leading to
P - Professionalism
Therefore it should lead to competent and professional academic staff.

Although, it is generally accepted that Action Research can generate a sustainable competitive advantage because the process is knowledge-based, socially complex and yields causal ambiguity, there is surprisingly little or no theory to underpin this belief.
Although the use of action research flourished in the business world during the 1980s, it has only been within the last decades that action research has been widely used and formally applied in the educational environment (Tomal, 2010).
Furthermore, although AR is well documented in organizations in America and language education and healthcare sectors as a methodology that brings about improvement as it is pointed by Koch & Kralik (2006) and Mendenhall & Doherty (2007), it is not well acknowledged in higher education.

Can action research (Independent Variable with constructs of CRASP lead to Competitive Advantage (mediating variable), and to Organizational Performance (Dependent variable)? I wonder if Action research can really lead to competitive advantage and organizational performance in terms of academic staff...

Action Research for Faculty
Marlis Krichewsky, Member
We have been doing AR since 2007 for the development of our 25 professional schools ranging from industrial apprenticeship to business education.
But AR alone is not sufficient because it is impossible to have everybody participate.
It is more of a pilot group that launches pedagogical innovation initiatives in the schools and organizes teacher training and study days open to all on specific subjects like evaluation or interdisciplinary projects.
The results depend on commitment. People who participate get a lot out of it. People who remain passive don't. You can lead a horse to the water but you cannot make it drink.

Commitment and Quality Time Needed for Action Research in Academic Faculties
Jeketule Jacob Soko, Member
Marlis, thank you very much for your comment. In my pilot study I also found that commitment is critical. In my context this is aggravated by the fact that majority of academic staff are employed on part-time so they move from one university to the other. So they are there just to give a lecture, they do not attend meetings, they do not participate in any quality enhancement programs. They do not give quality time to their own improvement. Really a challenge!

Part Time Teachers not Participating in Action Research
Marlis Krichewsky, Member
Very true! In our schools more than 40% of the courses are taken in charge by part time teachers who are not paid for participation in AR or teacher training. But sometimes - if inexperienced in teaching - they are coached by the professors who hire (or fire) them. This is also one of very few possibilities of professional socialization for them.
These highly qualified part time teachers are a sort of lumpenproletariat of our times... Very fragile, few rights.

Learning by Doing and Doing by Learning
Eyal Policar, Member
I believe that action research must be a joint venture between the researcher, the administration and yes... The students.
We here have a program of agricultural training. The students are undergraduates from developing countries that have studied agriculture but know only what they have seen and what they have been taught. We bring them here to Israel to work on farms and once a week in class for the theoretical knowledge. They earn money, they pay for their travel expenses, up keeping and tuition, they go home with a bit of money in their pockets, but more important with a paradigm shift. Do they transform any of their knowledge?
Action research should help us constantly improve our understanding of what needs to be done, that is why Jektule I would add to your CRASP also the T of Transformation of the students.

Part-time Academic Staff and Action Research
Annette Boshoff, Member
@Marlis Krichewsky: I experienced the same with the part-time staff. In the private Higher Education environment where I work the part-time lecturers are, on a fulltime base, employed in the manufacturing environment. Therefore, they would rather conduct research that can contribute to their professional development in their industrial working environments.
I found that the part-time staff are willing to do action research but they are not willing to formally report on their findings. In my original study, from a population of 25, only 11 were willing to become part of the action research based development programme. Only 2 completed, although they did not formally report their experiences. When the formal study was completed and I could ask the others why they did not want to complete, the main response was that they are not interested in writing a formal research report. I will, in an article or conference paper, report on their findings which they shared with me in meta-reflective sessions during the programme.


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