Part 6 From STEM practitioner to OU tutor

6.1 Making the change

By Diane Butler [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

As you learned in Part 2, Open University tutors require a broad set of personal attributes, skills and values to be successful in the role. These qualities are reasonably generic across all aspects of the tutor role so the personal attributes which make for a good tutor in one subject are very likely to be the same in any other.

However, there are specific differences between tutors in different disciplines and that is, of course, the subject-based knowledge and any related workplace experience they bring to their role.

In many countries the university workforce is changing, with many people from a variety of different professions, embarking on a parallel career as a higher education (HE) educator. The sector describes these staff as dual or blended professionals as they combine their practitioner role in industry or other settings with a teaching role. The experience of these dual professionals is immensely valuable in teaching settings.

Students often report that exposure to teachers who have real expertise in the workplace makes a significant difference to their learning and helps them recognise the relevance of their learning to real-world issues, and to their own future employability.

In addition, it is suggested that dual professionals offer a bridge between the HE sector and the needs of industry/professional practice.

This may well resonate with your motivation to consider teaching with the Open University. You may wish to combine your career in industry or other fields with some teaching, perhaps because you want to give something back to the discipline field you belong to or because you feel that you would enjoy developing the next generation of professionals in your field.

Whatever your motivation, your subject expertise and workplace experience is highly valuable, but it is important to acknowledge that you may be a novice in the new environment of education.

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The three key dimensions of practice for dual professionals in higher education

Activity 1

What added dimension do you feel that this idea of the dual professional can bring to the tutoring of Open University students?

Do you agree that tutors with a combination of teaching expertise and specialist/subject based knowledge and its application in other sectors can be of value for students?

Write a short post to the discussion forum which explains your views. Read and comment on other forum contributors’ postings, particularly where there are common or radically different views or emerging ideas.

The OU is very conscious of its responsibility to assist tutors in their development as educators in HE and all, regardless of their background in education, are supported to become teachers in their subject and in supported open learning – the OU’s method for delivering quality open and distance learning (Part 3.3). This developmental support occurs in two distinct phases:

  • Induction – describes the training and development opportunities offered to tutors within their first two years or probationary period.
  • Continuous professional development (CPD) - describes the ongoing commitment to further development in the tutor role.

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6.2 Induction