Institutional learning and teaching strategies

The following is the next section of the Process component of the Ps Framework section of my thesis. I have an inkling that my bias towards ateleological processes comes through a bit strong in this. May have to balance it up with some additions later on.

Does anyone have some literature references that are friendly towards the idea of institutional learning and teaching strategies? (Beyond some of the following)

Institutional e-learning is the next section I’m working on.

Institutional learning and teaching strategies

The development institutional learning and teaching strategies are a recent phenomenon (Gibbs, Habeshaw et al. 2000) arising from many of the same pressures behind the increasing adoption of strategic planning approaches briefly discussed in the previous section. Changes in government funding approach contributed to universities becoming more strategic in their approach to learning and teaching, increasingly integrating and embedding such policies, and increasing the evaluation of teaching enhancement (Gibbs 2003). Responding to increasing demands for quality assurance of student learning has emerged as a major focus for many institutional strategies (Trowler, Fanghanel et al. 2005).

These drivers have contributed to university teaching becoming an object of policy with the definition of mission and specification goals becoming part of the definition of learning and teaching excellence (Clegg and Smith 2008). Universities create learning and teaching strategies to outline goals, priorities and actions aimed at improving learning and teaching (Radloff 2008). Learning and teaching improvement strategies become the focal point for self-regulation (Harvey and Newton 2004). Such strategies operate at the institutional level and enable the institution to publicly define its approach and drive internal reform (Clegg and Smith 2008).

Learning and teaching strategies, however, suffer many of the common problems associated with teleological processes as outlined above. Trowler (2002) points out that significant parts of the theoretical literature suggests that the operation of strategy is non-linear and unpredictable. The time scale associated with strategic plans means that strategic goals may become irrelevant as new opportunities and obstructions overtake the best laid plans (Gibbs, Habeshaw et al. 2000). However, government requirements for strategic plans expect clear statement of mission and long-term objectives (Cowburn 2005).

The relevance and importance of learning and teaching strategies to academics is significantly greater than other institutional strategies associated with human resources or facilities (Clegg and Smith 2008). The style and language used in strategies and policies impact how academic staff will react and the extent to which they will engage with these devices (Radloff 2008). Academic staff filter strategies and policies through their experiences, epistemologies and ideological beliefs (Fanghanel 2007). There may be only a weak relationship between how teachers make sense of challenges and respond to cultural pressures and rationally derived analyses and plans (Gibbs, Habeshaw et al. 2000). Academics at on UK university – when considering a learning and teaching strategy judged by management to be successful – report limited ownership of the strategy, consider it to have unrealistic goals, perceive it to threaten their autonomy, report that it contributes further to strategy overload, lacks any acknowledgement of local contexts, and that it symbolizes the bureaucratization of teaching (Newton 2003).

The assumption that learning and strategies are necessarily aligned with the other strategic foci of the institution is not always correct (Clegg and Smith 2008). Different institutional strategies focused on different aspects of the institutions’ operation often seek to achieve diverse purposes. The different aims and objectives of these different strategic plans increase misalignment and conflict (Cowburn 2005). Clegg and Smith (2008) use the example of UK government research evaluation policies that pressure academic staff to conentrate on research at the expense of teaching to illustrate the role government policies play in increasing this misalignment and conflict.

While there are those that aspire to the development of a blueprint for learning and teaching strategy, Newton (2003) suggests that there is no such blueprint and the search for one is flawed, even naïve. Clegg and Smith (2008) conclude that strategy is non-linear, the site of multiple contradictions, and work that is “accomplished through rhetorical forms in which desiring is as important as rational argument”. The development of improved teaching and learning practices is most likely to occur via collective and collaborative approaches that result in change processes that are contingent and contextualized and outcomes that are unpredictable and fuzzy (Knight and Trowler 2000). There is recognition that innovative and quality teaching can only be achieved through the use of a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content and pedagogy to develop appropriate context specific strategies (Mishra and Koehler 2006).


Clegg, S. and K. Smith (2008). "Learning, teaching and assessment strategies in higher education: contradictions of genre and desiring." Research Papers in Education.

Cowburn, S. (2005). "Strategic planning in higher education: fact or fiction?" Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education 9(4): 103-109.

Fanghanel, J. (2007). "Local responses to institutional policy: a discursive approach to positioning." Studies in Higher Education 32(2): 187-205.

Gibbs, G. (2003). "Implementing learning and teaching strategies." from

Gibbs, G., T. Habeshaw, et al. (2000). "Institutional learning and teaching strategies in English higher education." Higher Education 40(3): 351-372.

Harvey, L. and J. Newton (2004). "Transforming quality evaluation." Quality in Higher Education 10(2): 149-165.

Knight, P. and P. Trowler (2000). "Department-level Cultures and the Improvement of Learning and Teaching." Studies in Higher Education 25(1): 69-83.

Mishra, P. and M. Koehler (2006). "Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge." Teachers College Record 108(6): 1017-1054.

Newton, J. (2003). "Implementing an institution-wide learning and teaching strategy: lessons in managing change." Studies in Higher Education 28(4): 427-441.

Radloff, A. (2008). Engaging staff in quality learning and teaching: What’s a Pro Vice Chancellor to do? HERDSA’2008.

Trowler, P. (2002). Higher education policy and institutional change: Intentions and outcomes in turbulent environments. Buckingham, SRHE and Open University Press.

Trowler, P., J. Fanghanel, et al. (2005). "Freeing the chi of change: the Higher Education Academy and enhancing teaching and learning in higher education." Studies in Higher Education 30(4): 427-444.

2 thoughts on “Institutional learning and teaching strategies

  1. Pingback: PhD Update #14 – Moving to a new day « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

  2. Pingback: Institutional e-learning strategies « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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