Just in time - just for me: Narrative support for unit coordinators
This project builds on a previous Australian Teaching and Learning Council (ALTC) project that clarified the role of Unit Coordinators as leaders of learning in higher education (UCaLL). The findings of UCaLL revealed that there is little targeted support in place for Unit Coordinators to handle the many issues that arise from leading a unit of study. Studies that focus on Program Chairs or Unit Coordinators are already developing relevant training resources. However, these do not meet the ‘just in time-just for me’ criteria recommended by Scott et al (2008) for occasions that demand, more or less, immediate responses.
The purpose of this research is to investigate the experience of Unit Coordinators in a selection of Australian universities. The study builds on an earlier project funded through the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) that examined and clarified the role of Unit Coordinators as leaders of learning in higher education. Unit Coordinators are described as leaders of learning who proactively and professionally support scholarly teaching approaches to students and staff that reflect contemporary disciplinary content and practice (Roberts, Brooker & Butcher, 2011).
The findings of earlier projects also revealed that there is little targeted support in place for Unit Coordinators to handle the many issues that arise from leading a unit of study (Cohen, Bunker, & Ellis, 2007: Lefoe, Parrish, Hart, Smigiel, & Pannan, 2008). A major study undertaken by Scott, Coates, and Anderson (2008), also acknowledged that existing training resources do not fit the ‘just in time-just for me’ demand. Narratives were selected as the approach that will address this need because they facilitate the capturing of relational experience and emotions at a particular time and in a similar context. Narratives, thus, become a tool upon which to base discussions with others that may resolve similar problems (Pepper & Wildy 2009).
The aims of this project are twofold. First, we are developing narratives from the lived experiences of Unit Coordinators to provide relevant ‘just in time-just for me’ support for their peers. Second, we are exploring the availability of training and useful resources relevant to university Unit Coordinators and, linking them to the narratives to maximise that support. Our narratives and training/research links will be available via a purpose developed website. This research is designed to reinvigorate and strengthen engagement among academics responsible for unit coordination. While much of the leadership development in higher education focuses on the more formal and traditional leader our research focuses on leading learning from the Unit Coordinator’s perspective.