Poster Presentation Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Navigating complexity with emerging academic leaders (#337)

Kylie Readman 1 , Jennifer Rowe 1
  1. University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 Leadership is considered to be critical to innovation and vital for enabling change in universities. The purpose and complexity of academic work is changing rapidly. Equipping academics to lead learning and respond to evolving higher education requirements in the every day context of their work is a particular challenge.

This paper will report on an innovative approach to learning and teaching leadership development that tests and further develops Engestrom’s (2001) expansive learning framework. Expansive learning is a contemporary learning framework used in a range of work contexts instead of formal training or professional development. It is designed to support participants in collectively solving complex problems that they define and resolve as they work together. The research questions addressed in this paper is ‘How does an expansive learning approach develop and support the work of emerging academic leaders?’

The design of this study utilised expansive learning as the basis of a formative intervention which involved 15 emerging leaders who worked in pairs or groups of three to lead a range of learning and teaching innovations within their local work context. Participants regularly came together for Leadership Laboratories to learn by sharing, analysing and expanding their existing activities and proposing new models to continue to develop their learning and teaching leadership in their specific work contexts. The project was evaluated using the analytical tools of activity theory including analysis of the pedagogical framing of the leadership laboratories themselves as well as the actions taken by each small group in response. The project’s outcomes have implications for the emerging leaders, other staff, the University and the sector in terms of the difference the project has made to the work of the emerging academic leaders and how the outcomes can inform future approaches to learning and teaching leadership development.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

The context of this research is academic work and, importantly, the role that learning plays in leadership in higher education. Emerging academic leaders can benefit from supportive professional learning experiences that are contextualised into their work. Often they do not have the time or opportunity to engage in other forms of professional learning. Expansive learning provides a framework for understanding the complexity and uncertainty of that work in a collegial context – the leadership laboratory.