Qualitative reflective practice with casual tutors in Inclusive Education

Year: 2016

Author: Bentley-williams, Robyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There is a growing trend in universities to rely on casual tutors to fill the shortfall in permanent teaching staff. However, casual tutors often feel marginalised and excluded from having a voice in designing unit improvements. This research analyses five casual tutors’ perspectives on their teaching, learning and assessing role in inclusive education. The aims of the research were:• to engage with casual tutors in reflective practice linked to improving the quality of inclusive education• to develop a collaborative qualitative reflective assessment model with casual tutors While reflective practice is well-researched, there is a paucity of studies involving reflective practices with tutors and enhancing their conceptual expansion (Bell & Mladenovic, 2013). Reflective processes adopted in this study were designed to consider multiple perspectives of tutors and thereby clarify links between reflective learning and the quality of teaching. Additionally, the research was underpinned by theories of change, action learning (Kemmis, 2011) and collaborative professional learning communities (Loreman, 2011). This qualitative action research study was conducted over a year with casual tutors teaching and marking on a core initial teacher education unit, as part of a university teaching development project designed to enhance student learning. The main research questions linked to this project were:1. In what ways can we embed qualitative moderation into learning, teaching and assessment?2. How can we establish a community of assessors?3. How can we adopt a reflective quality improvement cycle?The project involved the development of a viable qualitative reflective assessment model to capture cross-tutor collaborative perspectives. Five casual tutors who were experienced in teaching and marking on a core undergraduate inclusive education unit volunteered and participated in this research project. Data were gathered through reflective processes and semi-structured interviews. The findings provide a collaborative model for capturing their input and feedback at critical points in the unit delivery and marking process. The results identify tutors’ insights, concerns and underlying principles informing their roles. This investigation highlights the importance of listening to casual tutors’ voices. Their views can inform new ways of looking at issues, leading to enhanced student learning and progressing quality teaching.