Academics’ perceptions of collaboration in higher education course design

Catherine Newell, Alan Bain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


There is little empirical research related to the readiness and capacity of academics for team-based collaboration. This case study used the existing literature about collaboration as a term of reference to examine the perceptions of a group of academics engaged in course design and how prepared they were individually and as teams for collaboration. The study found that participants recognised and understood the key elements that distinguish collaboration from other forms of interaction. However, they did not express a depth of understanding about the cognitive and social capacities required for collaboration and the skills, structures and processes necessary to enable team-based collaborative practice. While the participants felt they were willing and largely prepared as individuals for collaboration, closer scrutiny indicated substantial variation in their reports about the willingness, knowledge and skills of the teams on which they served. In addition, participants reported that current conditions at the institutional level serve as inhibitors to collaboration in course design. This included the absence of committed leadership and organisational supports for collaboration. Participants described the dominant culture as more supportive of individualised, competitive and hierarchical work practices. Under these work conditions, participants noted a reliance on individuals’ goodwill to collaborate in the absence of broader organisational structures and support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)748-763
Number of pages16
JournalHigher Education Research and Development
Issue number4
Early online date01 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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