Professional development in pedagogy with technology in higher education: A brave new world?

Professional development in pedagogy with technology in higher education: A brave new world?

The IPDA (International Professional Development Association) conference at the University of Stirling in 2016 witnessed a number of highlights. One highlight that led to much post-keynote discussion was Jan Vermunt’s recommendation for us to explore the hidden themes within education. In education there are any number of such themes. One example is the assumption that using technology for teaching in higher education is representative of pedagogical best practice. This assumption is present in the pre-election Conservative Party Manifesto (2015), with its 17 references to ‘technology’. ‘Technology’ is equated with all sorts of ‘good’ things: ‘jobs and enterprise, getting people into work and boosting apprenticeships’ (2015, 17). In our research paper we presented what Vermunt (2016) phrases as an example of an educational ‘black box’. We explored the complex range of personal, social and professional factors that influence selected practitioners’ pedagogy with technology in higher education. The practitioners in the research sample do not share the policymakers’ view that using technology for pedagogy in higher education is representative of best practice. The research sample (n=23), who have all applied technology to teaching in higher education express reservations that are similar to the researchers who have published in this area (for example Bers 2008; Drotner, Siggaard Jensen, and Christian Schroder 2008; and Marsh et al. 2005). The paper presents an argument that professional development with technology for pedagogy ought to take into consideration personal, social and professional factors. We dispute the policymakers’ unequivocal support for using technology in pedagogy. In our paper, we argued that pedagogical technology skills need to be met through professional development that is based on research and evidence-based practice as opposed to being driven by economic and political agendas (Leask and Younie 2013).

Our paper is framed by the policy landscape of ‘TEL’ (technology enabled learning) in England. The term TEL is defined by Kirkwood and Price (2014) as the application of information and communication technologies to teaching and learning. In the paper we argued that TEL, as a term, is just that. It is a ‘term’ that is an end destination in itself. There is little advice as to how we reach a situation of technology enabled learning in higher education. The current Conservative government’s commitment to technology in pedagogy is evident. ‘Security for families’ is equated with ‘jobs’ and they are in turn equated with ‘investing in science and technology’ (Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, 17). The paper was presented at a time when ‘Britain’s world-beating universities’ are being encouraged ‘to make money from the technology they develop’ (Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, 21). Vermunt (2016) argues that teacher education can be characterised by the possession of what he refers to as ‘so many black boxes’. In these ‘black boxes’ there are ‘missing conversations’. The respondents reveal an absence of professional development that develops ‘affective’ (or personal needs) or ‘professional’ skills. At best they are socialised into using technology in education and we argue that this is not good enough.


Ewan Ingleby & Barbara Wilford
School of Social Sciences Business and Law Education Department, Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK, Email:


Bers. M., 2008.  Blocks to robots: learning with technology in the early childhood classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Conservative Party Manifesto. 2015. Strong leadership, a clear economic plan, a brighter more secure future.”  Available from:  [Accessed June 1st June 2015].

Drotner, K., Siggaard Jensen, H., and Christian Schroder, K., 2008. Informal learning and digital media. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Kirkwood, A., and Price, L., 2014. Technology enhanced learning and teaching in higher education: what is “enhanced” and how do we know? A critical literature review.  Learning, media and technology, 39 (1), 6-36.

Leask, M., and Younie. S., 2013. National models for continuing professional development: the challenges of twenty first century knowledge management. Professional development in education, 39 (2), 273-287.

Marsh, J., Brooks, G., Hughes, J., Ritchie, L., Roberts, S., and Wright, K.. 2005. Digital beginnings: young children’s use of popular culture, media and new technologies. Sheffield: University of Sheffield Literacy Research Centre.

Vermunt, J.D., 2016. Keynote address. Paper presented at the IPDA conference, 25-26 November, Birmingham, UK.


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