Pedagogic frailty has been proposed as a concept that can help to bring a number of key ideas into simultaneous focus with the aim of enhancing teaching in the university context. Frailty is considered to develop as a consequence of a decline in a range of factors which collectively result in an increased vulnerability to adverse actions that are triggered by relatively minor events. The outcome of pedagogic frailty may be a conservative approach to teaching development, and even to feelings of helplessness among staff. The elements of pedagogic frailty can be visualised by concept mapping which helps academics to frame their reflections in personal and context-specific ways.
The key elements of pedagogic frailty are the relationships between personal values and instructional discourse; the relationships between a discipline and its pedagogy; the perceptions of the research-teaching nexus, and the proximity of the locus of control to the teaching environment.
Key to the concept of frailty is the way in which these elements are structured and connected (or disconnected). I need to be clear that I would not wish to label an individual as ‘frail’. It is the connections (or lack of them) between dimensions of the model and/or between profiles of members of a community of practice that would confer frailty in the wider system. Therefore, a particular individual or group of academics could exhibit a strong sense of agency within their professional work, exhibiting control over their professional development trajectories and success in their research. However, attributes of frailty may be observed if members of this group could not make sensible connections between elements within their own profiles (e.g. between research and teaching, or between pedagogy and their discipline), or with their wider community (e.g. others in the department who hold opposing values).
Academic/faculty development that addresses pedagogic frailty will consider mechanisms that can promote resilient behaviours among teaching staff that may evolve from a shared values literacy.
These ideas will be explored further in forthcoming posts in this blog.
Kinchin, I.M. (2015) Pedagogic frailty: an initial consideration of aetiology and prognosis. Paper presented at the annual conference of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE). 9th – 11th December, Celtic Manor, Wales. https://www.srhe.ac.uk/conference2015/abstracts/0026.pdf
Kinchin, I.M. et al., (2016) Charting the elements of pedagogic frailty. Educational Research, 58(1): 1 – 23 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00131881.2015.1129115