Finding Flow in what you don’t know… the time of the non-specialist?

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Non-specialist teaching is an important but as yet largely under-recognised, under-researched world. This chapter firstly focuses upon data collected in a study from one strand of a HEFCE-funded teaching and learning project. Generic problems, support issues and coping strategies associated with non-specialists teaching specialist subjects in HE were explored. This exploration of exactly what it is to be a non-specialist teacher provides important insights into the fundamental and broader complexities of non-specialist teaching in HE. A threefold categorisation of non-specialists was produced: the subject non-specialist; the teaching non-specialist; and the true non- specialist. The study has revealed that non-specialist teaching is not synonymous with new or novice teachers dealing with subject-matter for the first time, but can equally be applied to the experienced academic, though is not always prioritised in terms of supporting staff finding themselves in that position. A perceived deficit between an individual’s subject-matter knowledge and teaching knowledge whatever their experience is likely to lead to concerns regarding their ability to teach a particular subject. The study has contributed to a better understanding of the limits of what can be expected from non-specialist teachers and the irrationality of the expectation that is sometimes placed upon them. It was concluded that institutional and/or departmental support strategies need to be sufficiently sensitive to the various types of non-specialist and the complexities of non-specialism in today’s changing HE environment. With the very real need for ‘personalised’ academic support, the chapter goes on to suggest adopting or at least considering recent adaptations of Csikszentmihalyi’s optimal ‘Flow’ framework, allow staff the opportunity to reappraise their approaches to teaching and learning and instilling the confidence and motivation to be creative within changing/new roles that would make their work more enjoyable and enable greater confidence.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCreating Communities: developing, enhancing and sustaining learning communities across the University of Bedfordshire
EditorsMark Atlay, Annika Coughlin
PublisherCETL - Bridges, University of Bedfordshire
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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