Fulbright Research Project Scholarly Networks

Scholarly Networks: Social Networking for Academics

While chatting with Colleen Dube (Executive Director of the Fulbright Commission in Ireland) about the personal and professional impact of receiving a Fulbright scholar award, I realised that although “Fulbright changed my life” seemed to be a popular refrain, no one had ever really explored why that was so and in what specific ways Fulbright had changed their lives.

Following this discussion (and many more like it), I am pleased to announce a new research endeavour between higher education institutions in Ireland and the United States.

Using the Fulbright scholarly network as the context, this international research project examines the role of scholarly networks in lifelong professional learning for faculty in higher education.

Some of the questions that we hope to explore with this research include:

  • Why are some academic staff more engaged with building a research community and are better at building social networks, while others struggle on alone?
  • Can joining a scholarly network improve your academic profile and what are the downsides (if any)?
  • Where are these networks? How do you join one? Is there a secret handshake? How do you find out what’s the right place, right time, and who are the right people to be around?
  • Whose advice can you trust when everyone in the network is competing for the same resources and opportunities?
  •  Why are some disciplines so much better at engaging their researchers and collaborating in these networks?
  • What effect does academic culture have on the success of a scholarly network?
  • Where do all the different disciplines meet? Or do they?
  • How does a scholarly network stay relevant and important to the individual members?

In the first stage of this study we examine the Fulbright award as an interdisciplinary ‘club’ or social network where knowledge is shared across academic fields and opportunities for research and publication with people from different disciplines are created. We ask whether the nature of the Fulbright award in particular creates opportunities for international relationships, both personal and professional, to be developed?

Stay tuned to this blog for updates (and outtakes!) on the how this research project develops.

Fulbright Research Project News Personal Experiences of Fulbright Research Projects University of South Florida

USF Fulbright Symposium

On Wednesday 3rd April I will be delivering the keynote speech, “Further & Adult Education in the ‘Path’ of the Perfect Storm” at the USF Fulbright Symposium.

My talk will explore the recent changes in adult and higher education in Ireland. I will also outline American transformative learning theory as applied to internal and external learning spaces for the individual.

I would be delighted to engage in a broader dialogue and discussion about how American transformative learning theory can enhance the teaching-learning environment for teachers in adult education in Ireland, at the Fulbright reception following the presentation.

The hashtag for the event is #FulbrightUSF should you wish to join the conversation online.

Handout FB USF Key Note Delivered 02042014

Research Projects TEQ Research Project

Introduction to the TEQ Project

TEQ Professional Development in Higher Education Research Project

Further education teachers must hold a professional teacher education qualification (TEQ) in order to register with the Teaching Council of Ireland. The TEQ research project is a longitudinal study examining how professional training programmes can prepare teachers to engage deeply with ways of thinking and practicing that are unique to the world of adult learning.

Adults return to formal education for a reason. Perhaps they want to learn or improve a skill, gain a qualification to increase job prospects, bridge a gap in their knowledge, or become more comfortable with new technology. However varied and complex the motivation, one thing is certain: their learning experiences will often conflict with their world. They very often have to resolve significant personal and emotional difficulties in their learning journey in order to move on forward in their lives. Professional training programmes for adult educators must recognise these experiences of adult learners; and train teachers to create, offer and facilitate a supportive teaching-learning environment (TLE) for their adult learners.

As Einstein said ‘The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking’. We have to think in a different way when developing and delivering these new TEQ programmes for adult educators. We have an opportunity to approach professional development for teachers in an innovative and creative way that meets the needs of Irish society into the 21st Century. This research project will inform that thinking and the development of new programmes.

The findings from the research will contribute to the economic and cultural wellbeing of Ireland through the provision of excellent TEQ programmes for educators in adult education at a national level. The findings should also provide insights for education policy makers into how they can adapt current policy to improve educational opportunity for everyone in our society.

Doctoral Research RDLE Effect Research Projects

Introduction to the RDLE effect

Thinking and Talking Across The Disciplines – the RDLE effect

The transformational effect of technology on how we live, and its application to different work disciplines are some of the ongoing societal challenges of the future. Radically rethinking our education system in order to cultivate creativity, innovation and thinking across the disciplines is one way of preparing for this future.

Post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers need to develop cross-disciplinary skills to communicate with, and apply their research to, industry organisations working in a similar discipline (such as IT or medicine) and with organisations working in other disciplines. Therefore researchers must develop new and different skills and perspectives. They must also learn insider inquiry; how to be immersed in local situations and generate contextually embedded knowledge that emerges from direct experience. Transforming graduate and post-graduate thinking and learning beyond their disciplinary boundaries is central to the transition from university to working life and to the need for research-based responses to the societal challenges identified earlier.

This study explores how an R&D project environment can create opportunities for researchers to develop the skills of insider inquiry and the ability to think and talk across disciplines; exploiting the potential of their research, which was carried out in their primary discipline, while being aware or open to its application in other disciplines. More precisely, the aim was to identify how to create learning spaces that enable one to think beyond one’s own discipline; to inquire from the inside; and to communicate across professional disciplinary divides. The overall objective was to explore how distinctive learning spaces can be built into R&D learning environments (RDLEs) in order to create opportunities for cross-disciplinary transformative learning to occur.

Doctoral Research Extended Doctorateness Research Projects

Introduction to Doctoral Education at the ‘Eye’ of the Perfect Storm

There is evidence of change in the context in which doctoral education is developing; in the need for research-based responses to the grand challenges facing society; and in the employability of the PhD. Key features of these changes identified by the EUA and the IUA, include quality research training, inter-disciplinarity, partnerships with industry, and a mentality of innovation. Researchers need to develop cross-disciplinary thinking in order to work with someone else within the discipline, outside the discipline or in practice. Therefore, PhD research has to contribute in different ways, and the researcher must develop new and different skills and perspectives. In particular, the researcher must come to see that to explore and exploit the value latent in their thesis research, it may be necessary to interact directly with researchers from other disciplines and, together, to progress from multi-disciplinary interaction to interdisciplinary outcomes.

The aim of this study is to identify how to create doctoral learning spaces that enable one to think beyond one’s own discipline, to communicate across traditional disciplinary divides, in order to exploit the potential in the thesis research while not diluting the (disciplinary) core of the research.

The TCD/UCD Innovation Academy was the context for Phase 1; and the University of Georgia will host Phase 2 in 2014. Results to date identify aspects of the learning space that impact on student’s ability to communicate across the disciplines, and to move from ‘intra-disciplinary’, to ‘multi-disciplinary’ to ‘inter-disciplinary’ ways of thinking and practicing.

Further steps will be identified for developing both doctoral programs at TCD (Irl) and UGA (USA). The need for more research into creating cross-disciplinary doctoral learning spaces in general is identified.