Reflecting on my Scope of Practice (Inspired by Karen Costa’s interview on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast)

In one of my favorite podcasts, Teaching in Higher Ed, I came across and interview with Karen Costa (and I wrote about another interview with her on another one of my favorite podcasts a while back, go check that out!) about articulating our Scope of Practice. And since I am feeling extremely overwhelmed at the moment, this came at a perfect time and feels really meaningful to do.

The main idea that I am taking away from this episode is to become clear about what our “Scope of Practice” is. Useful questions here are “what am I qualified for?” (and obviously we should be very careful when attempting to do things that we aren’t qualified for — as academic teachers, we are probably not qualified to provide psychological counseling, and attempting to do it will likely hurt both whoever we are trying to help, and ourselves), and “what are my responsibilities?” (because maybe it is actually someone else’s job to do stuff that for some reason ended up on our desks).

She suggests using a two-column table: “Mine” and “Not Mine” to sort through things. For example, she mentions “refer, refer, refer” as one thing that is hers, and then counseling as not hers. I started on my own “mine — not mine” table, and I find it really helpful to see that for example, it is “mine” to read widely related to my field, and share my insights and ideas freely (for example on this blog), but that it is not mine to make sure all my colleagues are trying to stay on top of new literature, too, or to try to catch them up on what I have read if they don’t want to talk to me about it. Obviously, this exercise becomes even more helpful when it is not just me who is clear about what I see as mine or not, but if this is communicated with colleagues. And maybe it becomes clear that there are things that fall through the cracks because everybody sees them as not theirs, then we might have to live with those tasks being delegated (even possibly to us). On the other hand, maybe it also becomes clear that there are a lot of people that feel like certain tasks are theirs, and then maybe that can also take work off someone’s desk. As Karen states: it is “not me-work, it’s we-work” — it is something to do in community with trusted colleagues, with friends, with the team at work. And I would love to do this now!

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