The article presents a system-wide change initiated in the faculty of education at a major teachers’ college aimed at developing students’ reading, and written and oral communication proficiencies, while focusing on clarity and coherence, and the use of rich, correct and precise language for purposes of studying, teaching and research. The ‘philosophy’ section introduces the theoretical basis of the process, defines the essence and the nature of the academic change and explains its context and timing. The ‘process’ section reports on the survey, which addresses students’ perspectives on the subject of academic writing, describes how the agenda was implemented and how the commitment among the faculty members was developed. The ‘outcome’ section presents the characteristics of the agenda as were designed by the steering committee and the analysis of the discourse that took place during the faculty seminar sessions. The advantages of a participatory action research approach when implementing a broad academic-pedagogical change are discussed.
This paper clarifies the vision of a system-wide pedagogical agenda to develop students’ reading, and written and oral proficiencies, in a faculty of education. It articulates the theoretical basis and the organizational setting for the faculty change, describes the actions that were implemented, the parties within the faculty community that were involved in it, and demonstrates some data that have been collected during the process. The college reforms and the current trends in the literature regarding disciplinary literacy place the faculty-wide agenda in a timely context. The three-year working plan outlines the advancement of a system-wide pedagogical change, step by step, based on insights that were obtained during the PAR.
The PAR demonstrates how the dean’s initiative, which is based on theoretical literature and anchored in the faculty’s context, was gradually transformed by the members of the faculty community to a wide-scale agenda. Each phase added new components and redesigned the faculty agenda (Giachello et al., 2003; Kemmis & McTaggart, 2005). This process transpired beginning with the approval of the faculty board, through the students’ survey, via characterization of the nature of the change by the steering committee, and finally the discourse that developed during the sessions of the faculty seminar.
Leading a system-wide agenda of change in an academic teacher college provided me with an excellent opportunity for conducting action participatory research. The present study, a disciplined process of inquiry, was carried out in parallel to the directing of the faculty-wide process, in order to improve and refine it (Stringer, 2004). Reading the theoretical literature; collecting and analysing student perceptions; documenting and exploring the processes in the steering committee and the faculty seminar; and concretizing the ideas—helped me to develop the knowledge, consolidate the approach, make choices about modes of operation, involve community members, take actions, develop insights about what was taking place, and plan the stages necessary for leading the educational change and improving the practice. Working on two planes simultaneously research and action in the field, using the advantages of the PAR model, created an effect of cross-pollination, empowered me and the faculty members, and promoted our status to that of knowledge creators (Stringer, 2013). In this case, the research as a social practice led me to an exploration of the faculty modes of actions as a way of extending the theory and practice of action research (Kemmis & McTaggart, 2005). Furthermore, this combination of academic commitment and educational activity is a norm which the faculty seeks to promote among the academic staff and students.
Several avenues of research are being planned for the future, which will refine the insights about the process and its impact on the teaching and learning processes in the faculty. Analysing the pilot programmes in each department and unit will allow us to identify the specific areas in which the development of reading, and written and spoken communication are manifested in each programme. Assessing the programme’s implementation, and evaluating the processes and learning outcomes (including gender effects) will allow us to draw conclusions about its continued implementation.
Only time will tell what contribution the faculty agenda of developing education students’ communication proficiencies is making, and how it will impact their future pupils. I strongly believe that the faculty-wide process will enrich student’s language and associative range, strengthen their intellectual self-image and provide a foundation for their professional authority as educators, now and in the future. In addition, I hope that this paper will inspire educators in similar colleges to promote their own ideas and initiatives in their particular settings.