Signature Pedagogies

I just finished reading about signature pedagogies by Shulman (2005). A signature pedagogy is not something that I have considered before so I am going to post some of the quotes that I like, and my response to them.

Erik Erikson observed: “If you wish to understand a culture, study its nurseries” (p.52)

If you wish to understand why a person is the way they are, examine how they were raised. Thus if you wish to understand why a person teaches the way they do, examine how they were taught.

“Signature pedagogies are important precisely because they are pervasive” (p. 54)

The way that a discipline is taught goes far beyond any one faculty or university. Rather the way that knowledge is imparted in a discipline tends to cross all boundaries, whether the boundary is an institution or a geographical area. The rituals & modes of educational instructions is similar within the discipline. Why is this the case? Perhaps it has to do with the way people have been taught in a discipline

“Since faculty members in higher education rarely receive direct preparation to teach, they most often model their own teaching after that which they themselves received” (p. 57)

This actually makes the argument for the role of an educational developer. If you have not received instruction on how to teach, mimicry is a coping strategy. How faculty cope with being in a teaching role when they have never been taught how to teach? They copy by following the signature pedagogies of their profession, by teaching as they were taught. Thus pedagogies develop tremendous inertia in a field. In order for change to happen, an instructor must be aware that there are other ways of imparting information. The role of the educational developer is important for being a coach/advisor/support when  someone recognizes that there are other (better?) ways. It is important for a change facilitator to be present in that nexus otherwise the moment may pass.

One more thought: “Professional action is often characterized by tension between acting in the service of one’s client and acting in a manner that protects the public interest more broadly … Every profession can be characterizes by these inherent tensions, which are never resolved, but which must be managed and balanced with every action” (p.58)

A professional pedagogy must work to balance the tensions, to provide students with the ability to deal with the tensions. Any changes to the way that information is imparted must ultimately be in support of helping professionals cope with this tension. Change must be effective and not just change because it is the current ‘trend’ in education. Instead, does that new way of teaching support the students in their future. The research of a educational developers can really be important here.


Shulman, L.S. (2005) Signature pedagogies in the professions, Daedelus 134 (3) 52 – 59,

Educational Development Challenges

As part of the course I am taking on Educational Development I had to read two papers and answer the question: Consider what is it about educational development that makes it engaging and challenging at times, sometimes at the same time. Here are my thoughts:


  • Defensive Position – Constantly having to justify why you do and why you do it. Even with senior administration there is a lack of education about the position. The perception of others may be that the position is unnecessary or a waste of money
  • Uncertain Career Path. Often Educational Developers are seen as “Tier two” academics (if they are even seen as academics). The career path may have no progression or movement opportunities. Climbing the ivory tower can be difficult as there can be a prestigious in the position
  • Unrecognized as Academics. Many Educational Developer have no recognition of their service or rewards typical for academics. Thus there is exclusion. Excluded from research & evaluation opportunities


  • Support. Tremendous outside support from other Educational Developers
  • Valued. Individuals at institutions value the advice and offerings of Educational Developers
  • Unique Talents. To be successful in this role, a variety of skills and abilities are needed.
  • Interesting. The position itself is multi-faceted. Like a unique job every day? I suspect this is a career for you


The first paper listed below was, in my opinion, the most interesting one as it looked at the position of an educational developer with respect to gender. Typically women occupy fewer positions in higher education. Gender imbalance increases as you climb the corporate ladder in higher education. This is not the case, however, with Educational Developers where women dominate in numbers in the field and in positions of leadership. Why do women hold greater numbers of positions and leadership roles in this discipline? Possiblely is is due to the supportive and service nature of the position. The job is typically coded with “feminine” words and skills. While these skills are a benefit in the position, they may be seen as a liability when attempting to climb the ivory tower.

Most Educational Developers have doctoral degrees and are very qualified for their position, yet the positions themselves may be uncertain or ambiguous; the position is often not valued by the institution. Is the marginalization due to the “pink ghetto” phenomenon? The position is not typically underpaid, but is often in the periphery and can be systematically excluded. How to fix this marginalization? Bernhagen and Gravett suggest being explicit in the work done, its importance and the role you have. Also, in academia, it is important not to neglect or undervalue scholarship



Bernhagen, L. and Gravett, E. (2017) Educational development as pink collar labor: Implications and recommendations., To Improve the Academy, 36(1), 9-19. DOI: 10.1002/tia2.20053

Kensington-Miller, B., Renc-Roe, J. and Moron-Garcia, S. (2015) The chameleon on a tartan rug: Adaptations of three academic developers’ professional identities, International Journal for Academic Development, 20(3), 279 – 290. DOI:


Educational Developer

Lately I have be interested in the field of Educational Development. My burning questions seems to be: What is an Educational Developer? What do they do? Is this a field that I am interested in pursuing?

Fortunately there is an 8 week, fully online course that I am taking to answer these questions.

This was the email I got:

Introduction to Educational Development – an international course for new and would be educational developers.

This fully online, free of charge, 8 week course has been devised to provide an introduction to educational development. What is it, who does it, what is like?

Educational development has been variously described as supporting faculty / academics to improve the student experience by using evidence based good practice in classrooms, lecture theatres and labs. But what is it like to be an educational developer? Might this suit you as a career? How do you get into the field?

How could I not sign-up? The first day is today, there seems to be a lot or reading, listening & discussing. Looks fabulous. Now I just need to convert Eastern Standard Time to my time zone for a meet up at the end of the week…

Here are two great blog posts about being an educational developer: Part 1 and Part 2