It’s all just a little bit of history repeating

Making a place

I’ve just finished reading this book – Making a Place: An oral history of academic development in Australia, edited by Alison Lee, Catherine Manathunga and Peter Kandlbinder.

Here are my fairly rough notes and reflections. I found the book to be very frank about academic developers’ experiences, as most of the interviewees have now retired so they can really spill the beans without fear of repercussions!

  • It’s good to know the history of the field in which I’m working. In fact, I think it should be mandatory reading for all new Aussie academic developers.
  • I enjoyed reading about the contributions of people who didn’t necessarily publish or publicise their work – they just got on with doing it.
  • I loved Barbara Falk’s description of the early seminars she ran on uni teaching – still mostly the same topics 50 years on.
  • There are many quotes that still have resonance today e.g.

‘It was vital to have senior people who saw academic development as valuable because one of our biggest problems was that the Deans were always fighting for money. Very often they saw academic development as a waste of time and money.’ (p87) –  Terry Hore & Ian Thomas

‘ …what you got was the setting up of deans of teaching and learning, pro vice-chancellors of teaching; a whole organization sort of alongside the academic development units. I have a feeling that that really sidelined some of the academic development units…’ (p129) – Roger Landbeck

  • I particularly enjoyed the chapter about the history of my own academic development unit (ADU), which was established in the 1980s. Apparently the University of Sydney was ‘the last major university in the country without an ADU….I came to the CTL in 1982 and in the beginning there was just the Director (Michael Dunkin), Mike Prosser and me. We were like a beleaguered little ship in the night.’ (p159) – Jackie Lublin. It was great to read about how everything started, and to be aware the origins of some of the programs we still offer today.

You can read more about the how and why the editors conducted the study here.