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IBLC 10 - Question - What's your label? (Teacher, Facilitator, Academic...?)

The cloud relating to Peter Bullen's keynote is having some interesting 'spin-out' into the labels...

Cloud created by:

Mark Russell
1 June 2010

The cloud relating to Peter Bullen's keynote is having some interesting 'spin-out' into the labels we used to define our role. i..e Teachers, academics, facilitators, researchers?

I thought it would be useful to bring that discussion to a seperate cloud. So what's your label and why?


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Dominic Bygate
8:07am 2 June 2010

I think it would be useful to think about students' expectations here - what label do they give us? And how does this change/evolve as they engage in the learning and assessment process.

Mark Russell
3:11pm 2 June 2010 (Edited 2:48pm 16 June 2010)

Hi Dominic, a useful thought. I wonder though, as an aid to the complexity, what would happen if we labeled ourself differently from the label that our students / learners (customers - yuk) give us?


Bex Lewis
7:47pm 2 June 2010

I have a really interesting battle with 'labels', as I have at least 3 (paid) roles within my institution. My official titles (with accompanying levels of access to things, and expectations from the students) are:

Blended Learning Fellow (Instiutional)

Lecturer (0.4) History

Associate Lecturer, Media Studies

Interestingly, in feedback from the History students last week, I was told that I was too informal, and they want more clarity in the division between me as a tutor and them as a student... whilst the Media Studies students find it helps them engage!

(If you wonder where the link between the 3 is, my PhD was on Second World War Posters - so communication is the big link!)

Sarah Flynn
12:56pm 3 June 2010

Thought I would share my experience of mooting my EdD title with my EdD cohort....the small cohort aside from me mainly work in schools and are very happy with the label "teacher".

When I mooted my draft title, which is “Development of teacher identity as a new academic: what shapes a successful journey?”, I was met with incredulity that lecturers might even possibly have an identity as a teacher, and that lecturing was "totally different" to teaching.

Where do I sit? I would describe my style as more of a facilitator, when people ask me where I've been I might reply "I've been teaching" (never lecturing) and yet I use "lecturer" in my job title. Is it a linguistic anomaly depending on need of an adjective-verb-noun or something more fundamental in terms of how we like to be identified?

Fascinating stuff!


Jon Alltree
5:54pm 7 June 2010 (Edited 2:49pm 16 June 2010)

I think there is a real ambiguity in the way we use the terms.. I don't teach/lecture/facilitate so much nowadays.. but when I used to teach more, if I was asked what my job was, I used to reply a 'university lecturer'  because that is the term I felt was most readily identifiable by non-academics. But if asked what I actually did at work, I would say I 'teach' physio students'... but my teaching style was defintely facilitatory wherever possible (I have never thought that teaching implies an instructional way of working - but some people seem to think that what it implies).

So I'm not uncomfortable with being a lecturer or teacher or facilitator... but I don't know if I am alone?


Chris Kirkland
8:32pm 13 June 2010

The job title is Lecturer but during my everyday work I am refered to as a Tutor. I think the Tutor label is closer to what I do. I find it interesting the continual search for a name for those that turn up in my classroom: Student, Learner, Client, Customer. Ithink that we should worry less about what we call ourselve and accept that in a research led environment the tasks and relationships will be continually evolving and so the definitions for the names will have to change to keep up. Jon Alltree you are not alone.

Jon Alltree
7:05am 14 June 2010

Thanks Chris - good to know I am not alone!

This discussion reminded me of some research I did a while back where I interviewed staff about their pedagogic pracitces and as with role titles, there was no common agreement about what constituted a lecture or seminar or tutorial etc - this is an extract from the results... 

As with seminars and tutorials, there was not a consistent way to distinguish between a workshop, a practical and a laboratory session – what they were termed was probably due to local practices or conventions. Once again, from a students’ perspective, what is probably most important is that they understand the purpose of the session and the expectations of the contributions of all concerned are known. From the perspective of a community of practice that can extend into the workplace, using the normative descriptions of that community should take precedence over some notion of standardising the terminology across disciplines.

Guy Saward
11:41am 14 June 2010

Its interesting to see UK institutions adopting, or thinking about adopting, US practice of using professor as a description (with all its variety of prefixes).  Will be interesting to see how that plays out with both the public and the profession.

Martin Oliver
11:00am 16 June 2010

I think there's a real problem here - but it might be that we take it too seriously.

The problem is that the labels are so contested, so bound up with professional identities and as a consequence so political and threatening.

The reason we might be taking it too seriously is because we're not just labels. I'm a conference delegate at the moment, a tutor in the break later when I check my online course, a researcher if I ever get time to write... and so on. The labels describe things I'm doing (and can stop doing); they come and go. They only matter if we take them too seriously (e.g. by turning them into contracts).

Gráinne Conole
12:04pm 16 June 2010

Great question! I remember having a *real* identity crisis when I moved from a clear role as an academic Chemistry Lecturer to a central institutional role to doing with learning and teaching innovation. I didn't know how to describe my self and almost felt as if I was demoted although ironically it was a promotion! Now that e-learning is a more established field I have some sense of clearer belonging. I agree Martin that of course we have multiple roles - I would certainly describe myself as researcher, facilitator, teacher (to a lesser degree), learner etc. But I think roles do carry meaning/weight which has an impact so I think they are important. The problem is we are in a process of transition and hence the terms we are using dont have clear and distinct meanings anymore....

Guy Saward
1:24pm 16 June 2010

@Martin - agree totally about multiple roles.  While I agree with Steve that what you do is in some ways more important than titles, semiotics or political correctness argue that labels are crucial in framing how people think.

However, @Gráinne, I think the rise of dual professionals and portfolio working mean that a single label for a single person becomes harder.  So to friends and acquaintances I may "work at a University" (though this doesn't say whether I am a VC or a cleaner), "teach at a university", "teach and research at a ...", "teach, research, promote good practice in teaching ..."  and before you know hopefully you are in a conversation getting behind the label. 

To avoid prejudicing the matter, I don't have any title on my business card.

Gráinne Conole
1:44pm 16 June 2010 (Edited 2:38pm 16 June 2010)

yes good point guy and interesting that you dont have anything on your card. Of course even saying 'I work in a university' is a loaded statement! ;-)

Rebecca Galley
2:47pm 16 June 2010

I'm not sure that this isn't an issue outside of learning and teaching too. My career route has not been a direct one and I've had several different jobs. What to call myself has always been problematic. Not sure whether this is because of blurring of job roles generally, or a more personal reluctance to be defined by a job title. I still say I'm a teacher even though I no longer have any students under my wing, just because I feel that it explains where I'm coming from best.

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