Community of Practice in Action: SEDA as a Learning Community for Educational Developers in Higher Education

Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 2013, Vol. 50, No. 4, 357–365.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) was formed in1993 combining a number of predecessor organisations, including the Standing Conference for Educational Development and the Staff Development Group of the Society for Research in Higher Education.
SEDA was set up to support members of the emergent profession of educational development, originally in the UK and subsequently internationally.
This article explores how colleagues working in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), to improve assessment, learning and teaching practices, became, through SEDA, an active and engaged community.

This article makes use of quotations from informal communications between the authors and SEDA post-holders and other engaged members to illustrate the ways in which the organisation matches definitions of learning communities.


Prior to this period, educational developers in all kinds of HEIs often worked with minimal support, as the field of educational development increasingly became recognised as a key form of support for teachers and others involved in learning development in higher education.
However, SEDA’s establishment provided a step change in the professionalisation of such development processes.
SEDA’s formation, at a time of significant change in higher education in the UK and elsewhere was timely and opportune.

SEDA people delight in opportunities to share stories and compare experiences, seek advice and solicit case studies and evidence for current activities and publications.
The transformative work of SEDA’s Teacher Accreditation committee, in establishing recognition of teachers in higher education, laid the foundations of much subsequent work in universities in the UK and globally.
While SEDA originated as a principally UK-based organisation, one of its strengths has been the ability to embrace international developments in learning and teaching and to welcome international members, conference keynote speakers and delegates, accredited professionals, contributors to our publications and partners in our varied activities.

The authors argue that there are different forms of communities of practice and professional learning communities such as practice-based, task-based and knowledge-based groups and SEDA’s sub-communities work in each of these areas.
SEDA’s practices include collegial networking through its conferences held twice a year, together with a range of free-standing events to disseminate good practice, mentoring of new colleagues and debating innovations to classroom practices, to institutional processes and to national imperatives for change management.

Further, its tasks include advocacy for educational development, responding to national and international consultation exercises, making submissions to national strategic plans and governmental White papers, lobbying for the advancement of professional standards, liaising and collaborating with other related bodies in the UK and internationally, and giving direct advice to ministers, funding councils and agencies.
Knowledge creation and dissemination has been supported by SEDA’s awarding of more than 83 small grants for research as well as its publications, particularly this SEDA journal, Innovations in Education and Teaching.
SEDA’s publications have been important not only in disseminating the ground-breaking thinking of SEDA activists and colleagues working in partnership with them, but also in building the community of practice.
Over 20 years, SEDA has demonstrated its ability both to undertake proactive initiatives and to respond to changing environments, with an admirable level of stability and continuity in a challenging environment

The authors argue that SEDA’s domain of knowledge is the realm of educational development, directed at improving the experiences of students in higher education and both supporting and developing the staff who foster their learning.
The effective shared practices that have emerged from this community have wider reach than its members and affiliates, impacting on university communities worldwide. It is a community characterised by collegiality and mutual support.


The authors conclude that SEDA’s ongoing existence as an organisation as well as a community of practice will rely on its ability to take in its stride a radically changing higher education environment.
This will involve sustaining the best of its current activities while developing further its electronic presence and keeping abreast of future trends.
SEDA will also have to continuously seek to refresh its community by encouraging involvement of new members and affiliates, sharing with them the benefits of current members’ experience without resting on its laurels or becoming complacent.

Updated: May. 04, 2015