Driving learning development professionalism forward from within
Current conceptions view professions as negotiable, transient territories which are shaped by the discourses that describe them. The voices which influence how a profession evolves arise from both within and outside it. Theories on professionalism have been rigorously applied to teaching and academia. Learning Development exists within both spheres, yet its complex growth patterns have resulted in a fragmented and less theorised sense of professional identity. The rationales which create and fund Learning Development roles lean towards a model of fixing ‘deficits’ in students and their work; meanwhile, Learning Development’s professional association, ALDinHE, rejects those same deficit premises. In this article, using a theoretical framework and terminology from Evans (2008; 2011), I analyse the differences between those states of professionalism ‘demanded of’ and ‘enacted by’ Learning Developers. By coding various external and internal documents which frame job roles, I deduce how the two ‘professionalisms’ interact to resolve their inherent tensions; I identify a point of coalescence around Learning Development as a niche for mediation and demystification. I also explore how Learning Developers believe their profession can best evolve and sustain, via community-internal voices in literature and a survey of 14 ALDinHE members. Findings suggest that Learning Development remains a unique and valued activity, to which professional identity is attached. However, a precise sense among the ALDinHE community of what ‘equals’ a professional Learning Developer remains debated. More coherent is the community’s wish to see its values (Learning Development) permeate across the wider higher education landscape.
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