data names organisation

Does the name of a learning & teaching unit affect staff perceptions of being understood and valued?

Building blocks

The always impressive Alexandra Mihai recently shared this list of Higher Ed learning and teaching support/development units on Twitter. This led me to muse on whether someone might run an analysis on what the different names in use tell us about this part of the sector.

This is something that I tried myself on a much small data set (n = 66) gathered from a survey that I ran last year in Australia. I was mostly interested in factors that might influence the perceptions staff in these centres (‘edvisors’ in my study) have about how their work is understood and valued. The results were not statistically significant – though maybe this is overrated – but a handful of interesting themes emerged that might inform future work of this kind.

I found that there were three common themes in the naming – something education oriented (teaching, learning, teaching & learning, etc), something descriptive about their work (design or develop) and something aspirational (innovation, futures, etc). Often these were combined. I had also surveyed edvisors about their perceptions that their work was understood/valued by direct managers, other edvisors, academics and managers/leaders in other areas based on a 7 point Likert scale.

These are the notes that I put together as I was analysing some of this data – it’s really a pre-first draft.

The names of edvisor units in HE institutions may contribute to understanding and valuing of edvisor work because this is commonly where academics will be referred to receive pedagogical, design or technological support for learning and teaching. I conducted thematic analysis on the names of units provided by respondents to see if key themes would emerge in the way institutions describe edvisor units and, by association, the work they do or the purpose they serve. I found that 15 unit names included a variation of an aspirational term like transform, innovation or future and 11 included more descriptive, functional language such as design or develop. 52 unit names included either learning and teaching (or teaching and learning), learning, teaching or education. There were also overlaps where unit names could include words from several of these groups.

I compared the mean values for feeling understood and valued for edvisors working in units with names with a variant of education or learning and teaching with those working in units with a variant of future or innovation. I also compared these values for units with a name containing design/develop against those with a variant of education/learning, as well as doing a third comparison of these values between units with a variant of innovation/future and those with a variant of design develop. Within each of these comparisons I looked at whether a unit name included a term on its own, included both terms or included neither.

The names of units that they work for appear to have very little impact on the mean values edvisors’ perceptions of being understood or valued by any of the stakeholder groups. The most interesting differential in all of these values was found in perceptions of being understood and valued by academics when edvisors worked in units with variants of both education/learning and design/develop in their name.

If this is an area you are interested in working on or discussing further, I’m happy to chat.