Blog 81

Teaching Commons Journal Club - November meeting

Mandy Frake Mistak, Teaching Commons

The Teaching Commons hosted a November meeting of the monthly Journal Club where we discussed an article entitled Shifting Identities and Blurring Boundaries: the Emergence of Third Space Professionals in UK Higher Education (Whitchurch, 2008). Despite its British context, Journal Club attendees dialogued at length the similarities we experience within our own professional contexts of working in a Canadian institution. As we gathered, we talked about the current and changing contexts of working, in our various roles, in an Ontario university. We queried how these experiences differ from those employed in other Ontario universities, in the college sector, and elsewhere across the country. We agreed however, that we are in a time of emergent inter-professionality, where what we do as teachers, educational developers, librarians, and so on is constantly changing. In the current context of higher education, the expectation is that we will sustain quality services and teaching to increasingly large and diverse student populations with little or no increase in resources. Consequently, the boundaries between our professional identities and practices have become blurred.

The article suggests that individuals employed within the institution are not only interpreting their roles more actively but that they are contributing to the creation of a third space as the move laterally across boundaries between both professional and academic domains. We analyzed our collective roles among those in attendance for the November Journal Club and discussed how this particular statement may or may not resonate with our daily work. A number of educational developers, for example identified that our activities in the Teaching Commons at York University support the development of good practice and innovation in teaching and learning and how being in partnership with people across the institution: faculty; librarians; learning support; and administration, we are facilitating the creation of a conceptual and physical ‘third space’ in which ‘collaborative professionalism’ (Whitchurch, 2008) between those who have a role in learning and teaching can be enacted. Through dialogue and professional development, we promote understanding of theories of learning and teaching required for student success. This encourages relationships that lead to ‘blended professionalism’ (Whitty, 2008) and sustainable approaches to academic practice.

It would be so interesting to hear from others across our campuses about their take on this notion of third space, or as Whitchurch also refers to as being blended professionals. Does her description resonate with you in your everyday work? If so, how are you negotiating this blurring of boundaries? How is your role changing in order to meet the demands of our expanding and diversifying higher education environment?

The Journal Club is an opportunity for colleagues interested in exploring innovation in teaching and learning to collaboratively read and discuss literature in the field. Participants are provided with a journal article identified as a topic of potential interest to be discussed in an informal gathering at the Teaching Commons. Join us for our next Journal Club Monday February 12, 2018 at 2pm in the TC Lounge.

Do you have an article to share or a topic you would like to discuss? Are you interested in leading a conversation of the Journal Club? Contact Lisa Endersby, Educational Developer (

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