Improving academic induction for higher education lecturers in professional fields

Submitting Institution

University of Cumbria

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education

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Summary of the impact

Across the Higher Education sector, in the UK and in much of Europe, university lecturers in professional fields are usually appointed on the basis of their practitioner experience and expertise, and they may have little prior experience of teaching at Higher Education level or of research activity. The impact of the research in this case study has been on individuals, Heads of Department, academic developers and universities across the UK in influencing changes in academic induction practices leading to enhanced professional development of university lecturers in professional fields, especially in teacher education, nursing and the allied health professions. The dissemination of the research included the publication by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) of guidelines for academic induction of teacher educators.

Underpinning research

This research began in 2005 as a practitioner research project focused on the experiences and academic induction of teacher educators newly appointed to Higher Education posts. The project was partly funded by ESCalate, the education subject centre of the HEA (£5K). The early research consisted of an interview-based case study during 2005 and 2006, with 16 participant teacher educators newly appointed to Higher Education posts within the previous 5 years. The selected education department was highly unusual at that time because, since the year 2000, it had made it mandatory for all newly appointed lecturers in teacher education to complete the same postgraduate certificate in teaching and learning in Higher Education required of new academics in other subject disciplines. The research findings highlighted the widespread but flawed assumptions being made by university and education department leaders and academic developers about the ability of teacher educators to 'transfer' their teaching skills across from schools to Higher Education settings.

The principal investigator was Dr Pete Boyd, and all of the research team were staff of the Faculty of Education at St Martin's College, one of the legacy institutions which became part of the University of Cumbria on its formation in 2007. Following dissemination through conference papers and workshops, the need was identified for national guidelines to support academic induction for teacher educators, and this was commissioned and published by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) (Boyd, Harris & Murray 2009). Prior to 2006 there was very little empirical research on the topic, but since then there has been a considerable growth of relevant papers. A research paper reporting on the original case study by the University of Cumbria team was published by Boyd and Harris (2010), and the work is being continued as a longitudinal study. A second edition of the guidelines was also funded by the HEA.

Throughout the project the authors of the guidelines have facilitated annual national workshops for newly appointed lecturers in teacher education funded by ESCalate and, more recently, by the Teacher Education Advancement Network (TEAN).

The teacher educator project expanded to include a focus on newly appointed lecturers in nurse education, and the findings were published as a case study paper (Boyd and Lawley 2009). The research team won funding from the Health Science and Practice subject centre (£12K) for a national survey based study of the experiences of lecturers in nursing, midwifery and allied health professions, and the first stage of this project was published in a research report (Boyd, Smith, Lee and MacDonald 2009) and in a journal paper (Smith & Boyd 2011).

The findings of the research that relate to its impact include:

  • That academic induction of professional educators benefits from planned provision rather than being left solely to take place through informal academic socialisation.
  • That the workplace context of newly appointed lecturers in professional fields, including accountability and quality assurance frameworks, may lead them to hold on to their identities as practitioners rather than more quickly build new identities as academics.
  • That departments need to offer paradigmatic identity role models and trajectories for newly appointed academics in professional fields.
  • That unrealistic expectation by institutions for immediate research outputs, often combined with weak workplace support for individuals, is creating considerable levels of stress and unsatisfactory academic induction for professional educators.
  • That an assumption that had been commonly held across the sector (that newly appointed teacher educators do not need (re)training in teaching in Higher Education) was flawed.
  • That many lecturers in nursing and the allied health professions, but especially in nursing, experience considerable tensions around their need to maintain 'clinical' skills and practical hands-on experience.
  • That a sociocultural perspective on the workplace learning environments of university lecturers in professional fields provides useful insight into their identity and practice.

Key researchers:

  • Dr Pete Boyd has held academic development posts at the University of Cumbria (and formerly at St Martin's College) throughout the period of the research: Senior Lecturer in the central teaching and learning unit from 2004 to 2008, Principal Lecturer from 2008 and subsequently appointed as a Reader in Professional Learning in the Faculty of Education, 2010.
  • Caroline Smith has been a Senior Lecturer in physiotherapy at the University of Cumbria throughout the research period.
  • Kim Harris was a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cumbria from 2004 to 2011, and Senior Lecturer at the University of Worcester since September 2011.
  • Other contributors to the research Dr Sue Lee (Principal Lecturer in nursing) and Iain MacDonald (Senior Lecturer in radiography), both employed at the University of Cumbria throughout the health research project period.
  • Liz Lawley was a Senior Lecturer in nursing at the University of Cumbria during the nurse lecturer case study project, but returned to clinical practice in 2008.
  • External partners in the teacher educator Guidelines (authors) include Kim Harris (as above) and Professor Jean Murray, University of East London.

References to the research

• Boyd, P. & Harris, K. (2010) Becoming a university lecturer in teacher education: expert school teachers reconstructing their pedagogy and identity. Professional Development in Education 36 (1-2), 9-24.


• Boyd, P. & Lawley, L. (2009) Becoming a Lecturer in Nurse Education: The work-place learning of clinical experts as newcomers. Learning in Health and Social Care 8 (4), 292-300.


• Boyd, P., Smith, C., Lee, S., MacDonald, I. (2009) Becoming a Health Profession Educator in Higher Education: The experiences of recently-appointed lecturers in Nursing, Midwifery and the Allied Health Professions. Health Science and Practice Subject Centre, Higher Education Academy. (Funding from the Health Science and Practice subject centre of the HE Academy 12K). Available at [accessed Oct 2011]


• Smith, C. & Boyd, P. (2012) Becoming an Academic: The reconstruction of identity by recently appointed lecturers in Nursing, Midwifery and the Allied Health Professions. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 49 (1), 63-72.


Research Grant 1: Pete Boyd, Principal Investigator/Becoming a Teacher Educator/ESCalate, subject centre of the HE Academy/Sept 2007 to August 2008/£5K

Research grant 2: Pete Boyd, Principal Investigator/Becoming a Lecturer in Nursing, Midwifery and the Allied Health Professions/Health Science and Practice, subject centre of the HE Academy / April 2008 to August 2009/£12K

Details of the impact

A key tool for dissemination and impact of the research on teacher educators was the publication of the Becoming a Teacher Educator guidelines in 2007, and as an updated second edition in 2011:

Boyd, P., Harris, K. & Murray, J. (2011) Becoming a Teacher Educator: Guidelines for induction (2nd Ed.). ESCalate, Higher Education Academy: Bristol. Available at

In developing the second edition of the Guidelines, teacher educators based in Further Education Colleges were identified as an additional group, and their perspectives were researched in order to provide guidance for wider audience, in addition to updating the original guideline aimed at the Higher Education context. The Guidelines were designed primarily for an audience of newly appointed academics in the field of teacher education; however they were also aimed at those responsible for the support, management and professional development of those lecturers. In order to maximise the buy-in to the Guidelines, the authors organised workshops in association with EScalate (the Education subject centre of the HEA), with participants asked to engage with key research findings and to respond to draft versions of the guidelines. The inside cover of the first edition acknowledged, by name, 55 colleagues from a total of 28 UK universities who had contributed to their development in this way. A further group of teacher educators, including those working in both HE in FE contexts, contributed through review of the second edition in 2011.

The need for teacher educators to engage with pedagogy for Higher Education and specifically for teacher education is a key message of the research (Boyd & Harris 2010) and the Guidelines (Boyd, Harris & Murray 2007; 2011). The debate on this issue was stimulated by the research, the publication of the Guidelines, and through academic induction workshops based upon them. The gradual change in the policies of UK Universities with Teacher Education departments, moving to inclusion of newly appointed teacher educators in their mandatory requirement for all new lecturers to complete a postgraduate certificate programme in teaching and learning in Higher Education, has been directly influenced by this work.

In addition to being made available online and open access, hard copies of the Becoming a Teacher Educator guidelines were posted to all Heads of Teacher Education Higher Education departments with a covering letter explaining their significance. Copies were also made available at relevant UK based conferences including British Educational Research Association (BERA), Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) and ESCalate. Workshops focused on the Guidelines and papers reporting the underpinning research were presented at the above conferences during 2007 to 2010, and to UCET management forum (December 2007).

As well as dissemination in the UK (and at UK based international conferences), research papers and the Guidelines were presented at international conferences including the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) conference in New Orleans (February 2008) and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference in New York (March 2008). In addition, a pragmatic journal paper, reporting on a comparative study of the teacher and nurse educators, citing the Guidelines and focused on the implications for practice for academic developers, was published in the International Journal for Academic Development which is a key publication for the international community of academic developers (Boyd 2010).

The study on lecturers in nursing was disseminated by conference presentation (SEDA 2008) and by publication of a journal paper (Boyd & Lawley 2009). The work, focussing on lecturers in nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and radiography, was also published online by the HEA, and disseminated by the Health Science and Practice subject centre network. Conference presentations were used for dissemination, in addition to the publication of a research paper (Smith & Boyd 2012).

The main direct beneficiaries of the research are newly appointed university lecturers in teacher, nurse, and allied health professions education, who have changed their approach to academic induction in response to the research, and benefited from better induction processes. However there has been impact on the community of academic developers and line managers who have adjusted their practice and policy in supporting the newly appointed lecturers. We would argue in turn that the students of these lecturers have benefitted from the more effective induction of their lecturer. Specifically, the changes have included universities and relevant departments placing more emphasis on nurturing informal workplace learning opportunities, on support for grading and feedback on student coursework, on building professional identity, on early and sustained focus on scholarship and research, and on requiring qualified teachers to complete mandatory programmes for teaching and learning in higher education which in the past they may have avoided.

The authors of the Becoming a Teacher Educator guidelines have also facilitated national academic induction workshops based on the research insights. Workshops have been organised by ESCalate and by TEAN, and from 2007 to 2013 a total of 272 recently appointed lecturers in teacher education have attended, from a wide range of UK Higher Education Institutions. Follow- up evaluative feedback gathered by TEAN from workshop participants has been very positive, and comments have related to a range of academic areas, from teaching; "I am much more explicit about my pedagogy", to research activity; "[I have] developed an improved understanding of the requirements of scholarship and research", and to general confidence; "I feel much more confident in carrying out my role than I did previously", indicating the variety of benefits that improved induction approaches based on the research findings can have for individual practitioners.

Dissemination and impact of the research internationally includes the appointment of Dr Boyd as external research consultant to a related funded research and development project at the University of Porto to develop initial training of teacher and nursing practitioners as Higher Education practitioners. As external consultant, Dr Boyd has contributed to seminars and conferences linked to the project, and has supported members of the research team with analysis and publications. The research presented for this impact case study has informed and influenced the Porto research, including the implications for practice as identified in Portuguese institutions involved in the project and more widely.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Key open access publications:

  • Becoming a Teacher Educator: Guidelines for induction. Available at The first edition of the Becoming a Teacher Educator guidelines (Boyd, Harris & Murray 2009) won the BERA/Sage Practitioner Research Award (post-16) in 2009, and publication of the second edition of the Guidelines, informed by further on-going research, was again funded by the Higher education Academy (Boyd, Harris & Murray 2011).
  • Becoming Health Profession Educator in a University. Available at
  • Collated evaluative feedback from participants in the annual Becoming a Teacher Educator academic induction workshops. Available on request.

Contacts for corroboration:

  • Discipline Lead for Education, Higher Education Academy, to corroborate the impact of the guidelines.
  • Professor at the University of Porto. Principal investigator: Initial training of helping professionals and identities of trainers: a study of teaching and nursing, to corroborate of the impact of the research on Portuguese research and practice.