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Conversations to Change Teaching

Conversations to Change Teaching

AUTHOR : By Joy Jarvis and Karen Clark Edited by Karen Smith

ISBN : 9781913063771

Edition No : 1

Publication : May 1, 2020

Extent : 96 pgs

ISBN : 9781913063788

Edition No : 1

Publication : May 1, 2020

Extent : 96 pgs

ISBN : 9781913063795

Edition No : 1

Publication : May 1, 2020

Extent : 96 pgs

ISBN : 9781913063801

Edition No : 1

Publication : May 1, 2020

Extent : 96 pgs


This book highlights the importance of academic staff having focused conversations about teaching.  The emphasis is on using this approach to build individual and team capacity and to bring about institutional change. It emphasises the distributed nature of expertise in teaching which exists at all levels in universities and how conversation can be harnessed to develop and share this.  Drawing on research related to dialogue, coaching, communities of practice and building learning organisations, the text identifies simple yet effective ways to engage in learning conversations, develop educational practice, and achieve institutional goals.

Critical Practice in Higher Education provides a scholarly and practical entry point for academics into key areas of higher education practice. Each book in the series explores an individual topic in depth, providing an overview in relation to current thinking and practice, informed by recent research. The series will be of interest to those engaged in the study of higher education, those involved in leading learning and teaching or working in academic development, and individuals seeking to explore particular topics of professional interest. Through critical engagement, this series aims to promote an expanded notion of being an academic – connecting research, teaching, scholarship, community engagement and leadership – while developing confidence and authority.


Chapter 1 Why conversations to change teaching?

Chapter 2 Conversations around peer review

Chapter 3 Developing collegial conversations

Chapter 4 Creating and sustaining group conversations

Chapter 5 Conversations with students about teaching

Chapter 6 Building reflective conversation in assessment of teaching

Chapter 7 Leading conversations to change teaching


Joy Jarvis is currently Professor of Educational Practice at the University of Hertfordshire and a UK National Teaching Fellow. She has experience in a wide range of education contexts and works to create effective learning experiences for students and colleagues. She is particularly interested in the professional learning of those engaged in educational practice in higher education settings and has undertaken a range of projects, working with colleagues locally, nationally and internationally, to develop practice in teaching and leadership of teaching. Joy works with doctoral students exploring aspects of educational practice and encourages them to be adventurous in their methodological approaches and to share their findings in a range of contexts to enable practice change.

Karen Clark is programme leader of a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education at the University of Hertfordshire, which attracts colleagues from every academic school at the institution. She is engaged with a range of work involving professional learning and recognition, curriculum development and staff-student collaboration. She draws on conversations about teaching both formal and informal in many different contexts from peer review, programme development and teaching observation to lunch groups and chats fueled by coffee and cake.

Karen Smith leads collaborative research and development in the School of Education, at the University of Hertfordshire, where she engages in externally funded research and evaluation and supports teachers to develop scholarly approaches to their practice through engagement in practitioner research. Karen’s research interests are centred around how higher education policies and practices impact on those who work and study within the university system. She is a Trustee of the Society for Research in Higher Education, co-convenes the Higher Education Policy Network and contributes to their professional development sessions with a workshop on publishing learning and teaching research. Karen was recognised as a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in August 2017.

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In Conversations to Change Teaching, Jarvis and Clark provide rich illustrations of the different forms of conversations around teaching that can and are held formally and informally in universities today. Through examples from their own practice and drawing on some pertinent literature we are led through different strategies and approaches that reflect the potential strengths of conversations whilst being mindful of the power relations involved in some conversations, for example, teaching observations and the observee-observer dynamic. The authors bring to the fore the importance of paying close attention to our language and willingness to listen and learn by all involved with the conversations and how to use noticing as a way of structuring how we talk with each other about teaching and learning. 

Throughout the book, the authors reflect the values of the scholarship of teaching and learning to underpin teaching conversations so practice is enhanced based on evidence-informed approaches. Opportunities for staff to engage with the scholarship of teaching and learning through and as a consequence of their conversations are identified. Each chapter finished with a useful set of critical questions for practice and a short summary with 1 or 2 key articles suggested for the reader to follow up on. This short book would be of value to all staff involved in supporting and developing the teaching practice of peers, leading teaching development programmes and staff keen to maintain their own professional development with regards to their own teaching practice.  

Dr Jane Pritchard, Oxford Brookes University

Published during the COVID-19 global pandemic, Conversations to Change Teaching is likely to be remembered by its readers far into the future. Readers will reflect and remember where they were when they first read this important and timely book. At home. At home and in isolation, physically removed and separated from their students and colleagues, missing the very thing this book investigates - conversation.  

Building on notions of reflective and collaborative practice, the authors have found ways to share their deep knowledge of and passion for the role of conversation in personal, professional and pedagogical practice. What is unique is the way they have surfaced, revealed and framed the contribution of the daily practices of work place conversations in higher education. The reader never loses sight of the students who are the raison d’être for the authors.  

As one reads the words of Jarvis, Clark and Smith something magical occurs as they describe, analyse and structure the way conversations can help individuals and institutions develop their understandings and practices of teaching. The joy of this book is the way it is written. A book about conversation is rendered in ways that are at once academically sinewy and delightfully accessible. The metaphor used for giving feedback on teaching - the popular television programme The Great British Bake Off - initially appears quirky and charming, but what it does is to nail what works and what doesn’t when talking about teaching with colleagues. Moreover, the power of this cleverly chosen popular reference will surely launch future conversations over a piece of cake about pedagogy. Here again, the authors render the complex business of development of teaching in accessible and memorable ways.  

Finally, an observation about this book’s written style. I read the book across a bank holiday weekend and found myself reading aloud huge chunks of written words. Somewhat surprised at first, I realised I was hearing and savouring the cadences, rhythms and tones of the writers’ voices and also appreciating the rich and generous content of the chapters. I have already shared this book with my colleagues in the university I lead. I am longing for the day when we can have conversations about this book, hopefully face to face, as we focus on the future of teaching and learning in higher education in an uncertain world. Conversations to Change Teaching will, I am sure, become a much read, well-thumbed, treasured and talked about book in many higher education contexts.

Dr Keith Robert Thomas, Director General, University of Technology, Mauritius
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