The research that is being conducted on education…a few brief words…


Marc Brennan

Let’s talk about this:

The Canadian provincial government pays millions of taxpayers’ dollars every year on research on education (Côté & Allahar, 2011). This research holds consequences for the way people are educated. This means the way they see world, the jobs they work, the lives they lead, and the hills they climb. Translation? It is some of the most important research that can be conducted and it must be taken seriously.

I woud argue that more focus needs to be placed on the who, what, where, when, and why of this research, and what kind of impact it is having on policy.

Some of the issues at hand…

HEQCO is an arms-length agency of the Ontario government whose mission is to bring evidence based research to policymakers (HEQCO, 2013). An external report, published on the HEQCO website claims that “HEQCO is performing at the top level of international excellence” and that “the quality of the research and the quality of its communication are in a word, superb” (Whitehead, 2011). Research contracts are awarded to the team proposing the best value – which means cost of the research becomes at least part of the decision process. Might it be true that one gets what one pays for? It’s also not clear to what extent the research HEQCO conducts has any impact on policy being implemented. In the United Kingdom, for example, Gorard (2002) found that educational research is not translating into policy-making. If these claims are correct then an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money is evident.

Gorard (2002) also claims that many people that receive contracts for educational research experience pressure to produce results that will support a predetermined plan. These ‘shadow research communities’ (Côté & Allahar, 2011, p.53) “show signs of biases in producing research that supports the policies of those hiring them.”

I believe that educational research, all research, has to be utterly independent from the needs of policy makers and/or other political pressure groups. Without this independence the results of the research are undermined.

There’s got to be a way.

I agree with Côté and Allahar (2011) that a new journal devoted to public policy issues should be launched in Canada. It should be financed with government money to ensure tax dollars are being well spent and it should be independent of government influence to help avoid bias.

There also needs to be a tighter relationship between research, policy, and practice (Lubienski, 2013). I cannot think of more important subject matter for a country than policy in education. This policy is the steering mechanism for the direction the country will head into future storms and calm waters. Good research has to be conducted and it needs to underpin policy.

From there practice needs to follow.

Côté, J. E., & Allahar, A.L. (2011). Lowering higher education: The rise of corporate  universities and the fall of liberal education. Toronto: The University of Toronto Press.
Gorard, S. (2002). Political control: A way forward for educational research? British Journal of Educational Studies, 50(3), 378-389.
HEQCO. (2013) About us. Retrieved from
Scott, J., Lubienski, C. & DeBray-Pelot E. (2009) The politics of advocacy in education. Educational Policy, 23(3), 3-14.
Whitehead, Lorne A. (2011, September). Review of the higher education quality council of Ontario. Retrieved from

Why is the cost of higher education so high in Ontario?


By Danielle Pinto

Higher Education Fees Overall

I believe we get a great education in Ontario that our government does help support. I also feel we pay a lot less than the United States. However, Ontario pays 29 percent more than the Canadian average. This information was found on This website also has a few pdfs that I thought were interesting, that discuss topics such as the impact of government underfunding, the post-residency fees for graduate students, and the radicalized impact of tuition fees. I am curious to hear what others have to say regarding our tuition rates (specifically for university).

If you look at the university fees by province: Ontario has the highest ranging from $2,574 to $8,756.

Hidden Fees

Another view I have is that as full-time students, there are a lot of added costs that are not fully explained to us and we often pay these fees without questioning them. There are also fees that we are required to pay, regardless of whether we use the service or not. For example, as a Brock University student who commutes to Brock from Hamilton I am required to pay $175 fee for a bus pass that I will not use at all. On top of this fee, I am also required to pay for a parking pass to park my car on campus at Brock. Even these parking fees have increased over the years.

What are some other hidden fees that you have noticed over your years in post-secondary education?

Is the student debt worth it?

Hepburn (2006) writes an interesting article on whether higher fees in post secondary education are still worth the cost. She notes that “According to Statistics Canada, the net worth of Canadians with bachelor’s degrees is 70 percent higher than that of high-school graduates. Those with master’s and doctoral degrees have a net worth 2.7 and 3.5 times higher” (p. 4). I agree with Hepburn’s views that the student debt now will pay off in the long run. Although Hepburn also writes that even families from disadvantaged backgrounds feel that the degree is worth the “sticker price”, she fails to include families from disadvantaged backgrounds that do not enroll their children in post-secondary education. The Toronto Star supports this point, saying that “Cuts to government programs, such as unemployment insurance, combined with increases in post-secondary education costs are making it hard for the lowest income Canadians to compete in the knowledge economy.”

One thing that bothers me however is this notion that currently in our economy there is this big push for higher education. The standard undergrad degree and diploma is not being accepted, but rather employers base how valuable you are on education and experience. I feel that students who aren’t getting the appropriate experience end up back in college or university in another program that is either supportive of their future career, or another career to add to their credibility as a potential employee.

Has your student debt been “worth it” to you?

Keeping Teaching in the Trading Zone


The FEED Summit
Nicola Simmons

In the fall I attended the one day Faculty Engagement in Educational Development (FEED) summit. The symposium was organized around a short video by Christopher Knapper, a well known person in the Canadian educational development community, and panelist responses to his video. Panelists represented diverse perspectives: faculty, educational developer, librarian, faculty and librarian union representative, senior administration, and UK educational development. Small table groups discussed perspectives in response to trigger presentations – and these discussions, in combination with my own educational development history, left me with some thoughts.

Points to Ponder

1. We in Educational Development (ED) have done a lot of great stuff over a very few years (in terms of culture shifts, it’s pretty amazing work.)

2. We have an EXTREMELY limited body of literature in Canada specifically to draw on about that work – and we’re not getting international literature into the conversations as often as we should (either we do the second or get busy on the first; I’d go with making our own good work more public – do I see an EDC journal in our future?). Lee Shulman (2005) and others’ comments about disciplinary pedagogy aside (and based on his talk at ISSOTL he’s shifting some thoughts on that), I agree with Weimer (2008) about the real challenges in publishing only in disciplinary journals – we don’t get enough traction for the messages.

3. Given the questions seem not to have changed much in the 25+ years I’ve been in the business, I suspect they may not be the right questions. Maybe it’s not about engaging more faculty. I suspect a question we haven’t figured out how to ask is: What do we do with the very few bad faculty (and I pose this in my current roles as a faculty member) who really are not doing the job for which they were hired? This will NOT be a popular question to pose.

4. What’s the productive middle ground that lies somewhere between tooting the horn on our successes (that sometimes sound like we’re avoiding critique) and bemoaning how bad things are. I’d like to see powerful (in all its good senses) critique of our work that helps move us forward.

5. Build on what others are doing: See stuff coming out of Ireland – National Academy for the Integration of Research and Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL). Read the International Journal for Academic Development (IJAD) often. Read the Professional and Organizational Development Network’s (POD) journal. Read the Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of teaching and Learning (CJ-SoTL) and Teaching and Learning Inquiry (TLI) – yes, these last two are journals for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning – and we in ED need to know what is coming from that field. Think about ways of starting a separate conversation from what’s in the papers about the challenges in higher education …. and what medium might be best for that.

Looking ahead

My biggest concern for the future of ED: that our push towards department based work will phase us out as centres. Centres will continue as long as they continue to be one of the few transdisciplinary spaces on campus – a place where diverse disciplinary perspectives can meet to discuss issues that truly are shared across these traditional boundaries. While I believe in situated cognition (Baxter Magolda, 1999), and that there may be times a department-specific workshop is important, educational development came into being to create shared spaces, or ‘trading zones,’ as Galison (1997) called them; permitting ourselves to be pulled into the past of situating this work in departments deprives faculty, in my opinion, of the very thing we set out to do: create spaces where teaching rather than the content of the discipline would be the central focus.


Baxter-Magolda, M. (1999). Creating contexts for learning and self-authorship. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Galison, P. (1997). Image & logic: A material culture of microphysics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the professions. Daedalus, 134(3), 52-59.
Simmons, N. (2008). Navigating institutional SoTL cultures: Faculty developers as conversation catalysts. Presentation at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSoTL) annual conference, Edmonton, October.
Weimer, M. (2008). Positioning scholarly work on teaching and learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2(1).