Contextual Statement

This statement is a work in progress but reflects my thoughts on what I do as an educator and what drives that process. I’ve undertaken this task as an initial step in the CMALT accreditation process.

I have been a lecturer in health care ethics for about twelve years which has involved teaching ethics to both undergraduate and postgraduate students from broad ranging health related disciplines. I also have supervision experience and have held programme leadership roles. In terms of research, I have several areas of focus: the use of technology in ethics education, exploring ethical issues in health care practice (usually using the Values Exchange digital learning technology as the research tool), and, more recently, a growing interest in students’ perceptions of the ethical review process for research that involves them. The majority of my research is undertaken collaboratively and inter-disciplinary. Latterly research opportunities have arisen through relationships fostered through a number of Communities of Practice to which I belong.

In the past few months my interest in research ethics within the SoTL (and SoTEL) has been piqued, through my own experience undertaking international research and noticing the variation in ethical review process and outcomes in different countries and at different institutions, and also attending teaching & learning conferences and seeing what people have been ‘allowed’ to do! For example, collecting data in the form of videoing students in the class over the course of a semester is viewed very differently, depending on the country and institution. The ethical ‘risks’ involved and the level of protection for students in the research process seems to vary and this raises complex issues around equity of access to conducting SoTL and SoTEL. This thinking has led me to choose the study of ethical review in teaching and learning research as the focus of my PhD. Of particular interest is the way ethical review does not often seek students views on research affecting them. From a pedagogical (and ethical) perspective this troubles me.

My teaching and research is underpinned by the philosophy of values-based practice, a decision-making ideology proposed by Rokeach (1979), Fulford (as cited in Petrova, Dale and Fulford, 2004) and more recently Seedhouse (2001, 2005, 2009). The main premise of values-based practice is that all decisions are a mix of evidence and values yet our values often remain hidden. Through my teaching and research I aim to illuminate the values within the decisions we make and highlight the complexity of ethical decision-making. Stemming from this ideology is the notion of democratic decision-making where diverse perspectives are accepted and highly valued. I feel very strongly that everyone’s voice has value and that social media and distinct digital technologies enable this voice to be heard and seen. I consider the learning process underpinned more through the experience of learning about and from others, than the content itself. For me educational technologies provide a rich opportunity to learn the value of transparency, openness and authenticity for both personal and professional development.

Reading broadly on the numerous learning theories I find myself particularly drawn to connectivism and the writing of Siemens (2005), Tschofen and Mackness (2012), and Bell (2011). Interestingly the four key principles of connectivism, described by Tschofen and Mackness as autonomy, openness, diversity and connectedness mirror closely the underlying theoretical underpinnings of my own teaching. This synergy lends itself to further exploration and provides an interesting overlap between pedagogy and the practice of ethical decision-making.

I’m particularly interested in the way Siemens (2005) talks about “the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity”, while Tschofen and Mackness (2012) argue for a greater emphasis on the individual, “An understanding of the individual in connectivism…has not been explored in any detail to this point” (p.125). My interest in this stems from my own experience during the past decade using the Values Exchange as student user, educator, development contributor and researcher, coupled with my more recent delving into such tools as VineCamera, Bambuser and Twitter. I am an individual; a part of a collective, yet a unique individual. I have learned from, and through, a networked learning community but would argue that my learning has been very personal and individualistic. My students too are individuals yet also are contributors to, and recipients of, the collective learning experience.

The body of connectivism literature provides a rich opportunity to add an additional theoretical lens to my teaching and research, allowing me to consider the interplay between the shared principles of connectivism and the theory of values-based practice, and through this exploration help enhance my students to learn “the  ability to construct and traverse connections” (Downes, 2007) through our collective and individual explorations of broadly sources digital technologies.

My reading has also introduced me to Self-Determination Theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) which focuses on the external and internal motivational factors of action.  Again the elements of autonomy, competence and relatedness are present, with the theory proposing that the extent to which action is enabled or disabled depends on the extent to which these elements are supported. This gives me further connections between what and how I teach.

I remain committed to exploring my teaching practices, reflecting on the theories, processes and products that contribute to the motivations and connections of the individual and collective learning experience. The literature reveals few examples of the use of digital technologies in ethics education so from a professional development perspective there is significant value in exploring this area in greater depth. In addition, my teaching has recently broadened to include the redesign and subsequent delivery of a media and communications paper. This process has introduced me to a new focus on the use of mobile social media but also importantly has centered on transdisciplinary relationships across the university. The CMALT accreditation process will provide the impetus for structured exploration and reflection as well as helping motivate me to make this examination a priority. Through the accreditation process I hope to be able to extend my understanding of myself as a teacher, learner and researcher; to use this experience to facilitate positive change in my teaching practices and in doing so contribute to the learning of students and academic colleagues.


Bell, F. (2011). Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning. The International Review of Research in open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from:

Downes, S. (2007). What connectivism is. Retrieved from:

Petrova, M., Dale, J., & Fulford, K.W.M., (2006). Values-based practice in primary care: easing the tensions between individual values, ethical principles and best evidence. British Journal of General Practice, September 2006, 703-709.

Rokeach, M. (1979). Understanding Human Values. New York: Free Press.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55, 68-78.

Seedhouse, D. F. (2001). Health: The foundations for achievement (2nd ed.). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Seedhouse, D. F. (2005). Values-based decision making for the caring professions. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Seedhouse, D. F. (2009). Ethics: The heart of health care (3rd ed.). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for a digital age. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from:

Tschofen, C., & Mackness, J. (2012). Connectivism and dimensions of individual experience. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from:


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