Legitimising a New Space
: The Case of Teaching and Learning Professionals in Canadian Higher Education

  • Sheila Leblanc

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


This qualitative, cross-sectional study centres on professionals in the field of educational development, which has been and continues to change significantly in contemporary higher education. Twenty-eight teaching and learning professionals in three broad classifications from 19 Canadian higher education institutions were interviewed. Data was collected to both describe the formal structures and roles and elicit understandings regarding how the individuals see their roles, identities and social power.Consistent with other international findings, and influenced by the broader changes in higher education, Canadian teaching and learning professional roles appear to be expanding in both depth and breadth. The findings reflect a number of changes and tensions associated with their organisational structure, role design and role classifications. Although they come from a variety of academic backgrounds, the findings indicate a common identity is evolving, underpinned by a set of shared values, strong professional association identification and a shared purpose of bridging and translating needs towards the enhancement of teaching and learning. While respondents described using a variety of power bases and influence tactics to generate change at the individual, group, organisation and system levels their attempts to influence used primarily soft power bases rather than harsh power bases (Kipnis, 1984).The findings support previous research that indicates there is a relationship between roles (structure) and identity (Alvesson and Willmott, 2002, Dutton et al., 1994, Ibarra, 1999, Sluss and Ashforth, 2007) and provide evidence to support the theorised link between identity and action (Alvesson et al., 2008, Ibarra, 1999). Further, it is argued, the interconnectivity of role, identity and power, was expressed through respondents’ attempts to make sense of and in many cases change the social evaluations of them, their team and their work in an effort to legitimise a unique organisational space and enable them to accomplish their change oriented goals. In light of these findings, a theorised process of how an organisational space for teaching and learning work may be legitimised and a visualised “middle space” for teaching and learning work is presented.
Date of Award20 Jun 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorIan Jamieson (Supervisor) & Juani Swart (Supervisor)


  • Higher Education
  • Educational Development
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Organizational change
  • Identity
  • Power
  • Persuasion
  • Role
  • Organizational development

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