How do we create opportunity and support for academics on education focused pathways in business schools?
Developing a common understanding of the scholarship of teaching and learning is increasingly important across the UK HE sector. Education focused roles continue to increase with 32% of overall academic staff reported to be employed on teaching only* contracts in 2019/20 (HESA, 2021). Whilst the CABS 2019 Annual Membership Survey reported that 75% of respondents had established promotion paths to Professorial level, it also found that the average proportion of Professors that had been appointed via this route was 5% (Chartered Association of Business Schools, 2019). This means that during that time, in an average business school with 21 Professors, approximately only one was education-focused. However, 54% responded that they had no Professors who had progressed through the education route.
Unlike research career paths, a common sector approach to promotion for those on education focused tracks has not yet emerged, leading to variation in practice both at an institutional level, and in the interpretation applied within business schools. We recently delivered a workshop at the CABS LTSE 2021 conference which shared initial findings from a study of role descriptors and promotion criteria alongside work we have undertaken at the University of Sussex to support scholarship development.
As part of the workshop we invited participants to share their own definitions of scholarship, to reflect on opportunities for career progression for education focussed roles in their own institutions and to consider the support provided by their institutions to facilitate advancement on such routes.
Consistent with our own findings which identified that few institutions clearly define what they mean by scholarship and how it can be evidenced, participants articulated a range of interpretations from anything that isn’t teaching to developing and sharing best pedagogic teaching and learning practices. This is reflected in the literature which highlights the complexities in arriving at a generally understood definition of scholarship and the frequent conflation with scholarly teaching (Potter & Kustra, 2011). This lack of convergence was illustrated by examples shared which included ‘added value initiatives’, ‘influence in the sector’, and ‘any research around teaching and learning’.The challenges created by a lack of a shared definition of what is meant by scholarship are exacerbated when we consider what therefore constitutes scholarly outputs and evidence to support any prospective application for promotion on an education focussed track. The broad range of potential outputs was felt to lead to local interpretation, often making it more challenging for education focused faculty to progress where both they and promotion panels may not share the same understanding. Whilst Boyer felt that scholarship can be evaluated rigorously beyond refereed publications (Boyer, 1990), achieving credibility outside of the traditional outlets can be difficult in practice (Billot et al., 2017).
Discussions turned to the support provided by institutions to promote and develop scholarly practice and enable career progression, considered in the context of the typically well-established and often well- resourced structures in place to support those on traditional teaching and research routes. Recent research has pointed to structural inequities in relation to workload allocation for scholarship activity within the business school and across the university and sector. The findings of the British Academy of Management (BAM) White Paper identified a range from 6% to 40%, with a median of 12.5% of workload allocated to scholarship (Anderson & Mallanaphy, 2020). Many participants highlighted the inherent unfairness when comparing promotion candidates unless this was explicitly acknowledged in promotion documentation. A common view among participants was that support for scholarship development was ‘far behind support for disciplinary focussed research’. It was also observed that existing structures and processes mean there are limited numbers of senior colleagues who can mentor early career faculty on career tracks. However, participants acknowledged that there was clear evidence of progress across the sector, although too often scholarship was still considered as an ‘other’ rather than integral to university strategy.
At the conclusion of a thoughtful and highly participative session it was recognised that parity of esteem remains a major challenge and the differential nature of education focused career pathways is often embedded in titles, contractual terms and institutional/sector discourse.
As we continue our work in this area, we challenge ourselves and Chartered ABS members to reflect on the question: ‘How do we value the diversity of experience and knowledge in academic progression?’ (Bradley, 2021). In this regard, we invite you to contribute to a UK sector-wide survey which seeks to establish a more detailed picture of how individuals understand scholarship and to surface best practice in supporting scholarship development. If you wish to contribute you can do so prior to 31 August via this link https://bit.ly/3zCUFVj
*The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) captures four categories of academic employment function: Teaching only; Teaching and Research; Research only; and Neither teaching or research. For the purposes of our research we use the term education focused as an umbrella term to more broadly encapsulate variation in institutional naming of career pathways across the sector which align to the ‘Teaching only’ category (e.g. teaching focused, education and scholarship, teaching and learning).
Dr Susan Smith is Associate Dean (Education and Students), University of Sussex Business School. Dr David Walker is Associate Pro Vice Chancellor (Education and Students), University of Brighton.
Anderson, L., & Mallanaphy, C. (2020). MKE White Paper - Education Focused Career Tracks in UK Business and Management Schools Current practice and recommendations for progress. https://www.bam.ac.uk/bam-community/scholarship-and-education/white-paper.html
Billot, J., Rowland, S., Carnell, B., Amundsen, C., & Evans, T. (2017). How experienced SoTL researchers develop the credibility of their work. Teaching & Learning Inquiry, 5(1), 101–114. https://doi.org/10.20343/teachlearninqu.5.1.8
Bradley, S. (2021). Call for action. In Academic career progression: rethinking pathways (p. 43). Advance HE. https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/academic-career-progression-rethinking-pathways
Chartered Association of Business Schools. (2019). Annual Membership Survey 2019: results and analysis (p. 14). Chartered Association of Business Schools. https://charteredabs.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Chartered-ABS-Annual-Membership-Survey-Results-2019.pdf
Potter, M., & Kustra, E. (2011). The Relationship between Scholarly Teaching and SoTL: Models, Distinctions, and Clarifications. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 5. https://doi.org/10.20429/ijsotl.2011.050123