Learning mobility in professional practice: transforming workplace learning in higher education

Mitchell, Maxine (2016) Learning mobility in professional practice: transforming workplace learning in higher education. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

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This study investigates how educators as adult learners learn within the higher education sector and how to design for effective professional learning, from the perspective
of the educator. The researcher had observed, and the educational literature suggests, that professional development activities are often perceived by educators as frustrating, irrelevant and time consuming, resulting in resistance to taking part in such events and perpetuating the status quo of professional learning practice in higher education. To add new thinking and new evidence to create a shift in the perception of professional learning, the researcher targeted higher education teachers who may have found professional learning frustrating but had
navigated a pathway through the complexities to grow and develop their professional practice in ways that are personally meaningful to them. Such educators demonstrated a natural motivation to engage in professional learning.

The central argument of this thesis is that designing for effective professional learning needs to take a bottom-up, inside-out approach. This approach recognises that personally meaningful professional learning that challenges and changes how educators learn needs to start from the inside by exploring the educator’s inner belief system, ever-changing identity and developing sense of self. However, when investigating how educators learn, attention is also given to the complex, strongly connected relationship between the individual and the institution. Within this study, a way of making sense of the relational nature of the educator and the institution is by using the metaphor of the higher education ecosystem to represent the
inextricably linked system of humans and their environment.

Four key concepts are introduced and developed as the thesis progresses and matures to the point that the concepts themselves evolve in an inter-connected, inter-related manner. First, the researcher introduces, builds and applies the concept of learning mobility to
challenge the status quo of professional learning in higher education. The researcher’s concept of learning mobility is the educator’s choice to learn, work, communicate,
collaborate and connect in any configuration, across learning contexts and boundaries for continuous professional learning and personal growth. Building on the idea of the educator’s learning mobility is the second concept of the wholeness of professional learning, which is
concerned with how educators come to the learning, how educators learn, and what educators do with the learning, to bring about personally meaningful change in professional practice.

The concepts of learning mobility and the wholeness of professional learning led to theorising the third concept of professional learning mobility. This concept provides an
alternative approach to the design of effective professional learning as it shifts the focus towards understanding how individuals experience learning continuously across and within their inner (internal, personal) and outer (external, professional) worlds. Exploring and maturing a deeper understanding of these three concepts throughout the thesis contributed to
theory building about how educators learn.

Finally, this evidence-based theory building introduces the abstract concept of the third space, which was identified after considering the rationalities of the head space and the irrationalities of the heart space, and their powerful influences on the learning process. The third space of professional learning mobility represents the educator’s own growth and development that transcends the complexities of institutional structures, conditions and policies that are outside the educator’s control. The third space represents the educator’s emotional and mental resilience to respond to the disruptive nature of being human as we
become conscious of who we are on the inside. This space is conceived as a transformative space that offers a sense of wholeness, giving individuals the inner motivation and courage to connect to themselves and others. A united revelation emerges across the four concepts to discern that it is the mobility of the learner and the learning which becomes significant to address the educator as adult learner’s natural human desire for growth, development and
freedom.From the study, the “7Cs” design principles were derived in order to foster the
educator’s professional learning mobility: context, control, connection, complexity, courage, continuity, and creativity. The '7Cs of professional learning mobility' are used to design dynamic learning environments that take into account the educator’s inner and outer worlds and their need for choice, autonomy and freedom to authentically engage in their learning. The 7Cs, framed within a conceptual model that encompasses the head space, heart space, and third space provide an opportunity to theorise the educator’s learning mobility in professional practice that could be used to transform professional learning in the higher education workplace. Overall, this study represents an evidence-based approach to contribute
to theory in adult learning to support a shift in the practice status quo of professional learning in higher education.

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis. doi:10.26192/5bf5f809ed34d
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - No Department (1 Jul 2013 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - No Department (1 Jul 2013 -)
Supervisors: Reushle, Shirley
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2017 06:03
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2019 05:07
Uncontrolled Keywords: workplace learning; higher education
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390307 Teacher education and professional development of educators
Identification Number or DOI: doi:10.26192/5bf5f809ed34d
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/32626

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