In this blog Assistant Professor Anne Tierney gives an insight into the Routes to Dissemination Fair at the University of Glasgow on 19th November 2019.

As an academic on the teaching and scholarship pathway, it’s important to get outside of the institution, and develop your external network. We’d do it within disciplines, with membership or learned societies, research collaborations, meetings and conferences. It’s just as important in teaching and learning, but sometimes it’s something that we overlook.  

I attended this event, organised by Dr Scott Ramsay, Good Practice Adviser in LEADS (Learning Enhancement and Academic Development Service ) in my role as one of the editorial team of JPAAP (Journal of Perspectives of Applied Academic Practice ) and as a member of the Advisory Board of the Improving University Teaching international conference.  This is the second time the event has been held, and the second time I have contributed.  

This event is important as it supports academics who have an interest in developing their scholarly activities and taking steps to make their projects public. Many universities have Teaching and Scholarship career tracks, but it can be a challenge for academics, trained in disciplinary norms, to make the leap to making their teaching and learning activities public, in whatever form they aspire to.  

This year there were a series of presentations from academics at different stages of their pedagogic research journeys, and each of them shared their experiences and challenges. There was also a discussion about the teaching and scholarship pathway at Glasgow, and another about evolving university ethics policy. 

My contribution was to highlight two opportunities for academics: to encourage colleagues to present at IUT, or to encourage them to write a journal article for JPAAP. However, the discussion often encompasses wider conversations around other journals and conferences. 

Journal articles are the common currency for most academics, especially in times dominated by REF. Common questions regarding JPAAP are around article formats, the reviewing and editorial process, and opportunities to review. JPAAP is moving into its seventh year of publication, and its purpose is to give opportunities to novice authors to publish their first paper in pedagogic research (part of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning). The journal has a variety of article formats: original research, reflective analysis, case studies, on-the-horizon works in progress, literature reviews, opinion pieces and book reviews. The ethos of the journal is to give support to novice authors, and, while this is the central purpose of the journal, we have attracted several papers from well-known authors, which results in more interest in the journal in general. We also welcome novice reviewers, who join the reviewing team, and contribute to the review process.  

An alternative to a journal paper is a conference paper, and Improving University Teaching offers an annual opportunity to share one’s practice with an international audience. Like JPAAP, the conference offers a number of presentation formats: papers, 90 minute workshops, 60 minute workshops, roundtables, digital showcase and poster presentation. There are two conference prizes; The People’s Choice Poster Award for best conference poster, and the Ginny and Bill McKeachie Award for best presentation. The conference itself runs on a four day format, with social activities interspersed with the academic work: Day 0 is a day trip to the area surrounding the conference venue, and is a great opportunity to network and get to know fellow participants at the conference. Day 1 of the conference is a whole day of presentations, posters and a welcome reception and dinner in the evening. Day 2 is a morning of presentations, and an afternoon city tour. Day 3 is a day of presentations, awards, and a closing reception. This year’s conference will be hosted by the University of Padua, and the conference theme is Towards Sustainable Assessment. The call for paper proposals is currently open, with a deadline of Friday, 7th February, 2020. 

Why do I think this is important? Engaging with pedagogic research, as an academic within disparate disciplinary areas is often a solitary, isolating pursuit, and can sometimes seem like a thankless task. However, there are lots of academics who do it, and Routes to Dissemination is about offering an opportunity for those academics to get together and share their experiences, their anxieties and their triumphs. And sometimes collaborations grow out of these meetings. Perhaps academics with shared interests decide to write a paper together, or investigate a problem together, or perhaps someone decides that they ARE going to submit an abstract to a teaching and learning conference. Learning is a social activity and we shouldn’t forget including ourselves in that. My colleagues joke that I am all about the importance of coffee, and seriously, some of our best thinking about teaching and learning is done over a hot cuppa.