Lecturer conceptions of communities of practice within UK Higher Education: A phenomenographic analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Aylmer, A. 2022. Lecturer conceptions of communities of practice within UK Higher Education: A phenomenographic analysis. Prof Doc Thesis https://doi.org/10.48773/9829y
AuthorsAylmer, A.
TypeProf Doc Thesis
Qualification nameEdD Doctorate in Education

The neoliberalisation of UK HE has been the result of a gradual commodification of practices which have significantly changed how universities are managed and regulated. Increased market competition has given rise to an ‘economy of quality’ which has refocused sectorial priorities relating to themes such as value for money, league table rankings and student performance data. The introduction of the Higher Education and Research Bill in 2016 illustrates the most recent example of ‘new public management’, compounded by the introduction of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) and the Office for Students (OfS). These developments have intensified the focus on teaching quality and associated professional development opportunities. One particular model of enhancement that has been gaining popularity within HE is the use of communities of practice (CoPs), which are widely seen to increase academic collaboration, autonomy and pedagogical enquiry through a ‘bottom-up’ approach to professional development. However, limited research has been undertaken to examine lecturer conceptions of these increasingly championed forms of development specifically within this neoliberal environment. Whilst the need to enhance teaching quality is magnified within the current UK HE environment, the wider implications of engaging in forms of CoPs within a neoliberal environment, underpinned by a consumerist, competitive and audit driven culture, is largely unexplored.
Through the application of a phenomenographic analysis, this study explores lecturer conceptions of CoPs specifically within the current UK HE context, with a particular focus placed on Lesson Study (LS). Through the use of focus groups and one to one interviews in a large UK university, four different conceptions, or ‘global themes’ were identified. Whilst the results demonstrated a positive disposition to CoPs and LS as forms of professional development, a range of neoliberal practices were conceived as inhibiting academic staff engagement. My results also suggest that the HE environment is contributing to the emergence of the ‘entrepreneurial self’ and a more individualised application of what is termed ‘coopetition’, a fusion of cooperation and competition, which has the potential to influence how and why lecturers choose to collaborate with peers within a CoP.

KeywordsCommunities of Practice; Higher Education; Lesson Study; Actor-Network-Theory
PublisherUniversity of Derby
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.48773/9829y
File Access Level
Output statusUnpublished
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Aug 2022
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