Looking to the future – what will the new year bring?

Image by Nasir Nasrallah, 2006

Amidst the complex, ongoing and often troublesome debate around graduate attributes, is interdisciplinarity the much-needed elixir? The latest research commissioned by the HEA in interdisciplinary learning and teaching is summarised in the report here and offers pedagogies of hope for the future.  For me, this is a timely resource in our advent calendar. At the end of one year, we can reflect back on our learning and teaching – high points, low points and moments to blot our forever more… and then look to what we might do differently in the New Year. This resource offers practical ways to add depth and flavour to what we do, and perhaps some chance encounters with colleagues from different disciplines along the way. Happy New Year!

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A love that dare not speak its name?

Lecture at LTH LundThe long-maligned lectures holds sway (if not student attention) in most higher education institutions, and gives many HE professionals their job title.

In her article ‘Lecture me, really’ Molly Worthen bravely pledges her troth to this time-tested practice, so unjustly spurned by modish educators.

In her article ‘Lecture me, really’ Molly Worthen misguidedly chains herself to this archaic practice, so wisely rejected by enlightened educators.

Pieces in defence of the lecture appear regularly – and are met by a celebratory “hooray” from its avid and loyal admirers, and by dismay and bewilderment from its detractors.

Whichever tribe you belong to every vindication or condemnation offers valuable opportunity to revisit dearly held assumptions about the way we teach and the way in which students learn. Engaging in debate about divisive practices like the lecture can reinvigorate our engagement with the big questions: what can a University education do, how should it do it, and how do we as educators and students as learners best achieve our goals?

So, maybe not lecture me, really, but disagree with me, absolutely.

This post was one of our advent learning and teaching treats. To explore all the other treats click here.

What does quality taste like in your institution?

quality streetOne of the big questions facing many higher education institutions in the UK just now is how they deliver transnational education (TNE) through their satellite campuses. This area is fascinating for me, partly because I believe internationalising higher education and the benefits of encountering other cultures, languages and beliefs immeasurable and also because of the implications of TNE for the transferability or rather the translatability for how and what we teach in our Western universities. In fact, TNE makes us look at what we call excellence in higher education in the UK today. As we probe and reflect, it becomes clear that the definition of quality does not look or taste the same across the board. Interesting. The British Council’s Going Global Conference in June 2015 addressed some of these questions in their session on TNE. In the session below the meaning of quality in TNE is explored in depth:

This post was one of our advent learning and teaching treats. To explore all the other treats click here.

The F word

PATRIARCHAL EDUCATION 2014“Feminist pedagogy is not a toolbox, a collection of strategies, a list of practices, or a specific classroom arrangement. It is an overarching philosophy—a theory of teaching and learning that integrates feminist values with related theories and research on teaching and learning.”

And so begins one of the most valuable teaching resources I have seen this year, a Guide to Feminist Pedagogy from Vanderbilt University. Beautifully designed around Shulman’s concept of signature pedagogy, this exquisite exposition of the ‘habits of hand, heart and head’ offers a liberating and exhilarating approach to teaching and learning.

This post was one of our advent learning and teaching treats. To explore all the other treats click here.

How not to be ignorant about the world

I’m sure that many readers will be familiar with Hans Rosling – one of the best TEDtalkers around I think. But perhaps not everyone will be familiar with the Ignorance Project.

The mission of Gapminder Foundation is to fight devastating ignorance with a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand. We started the Ignorance Project to investigate what the public know and don’t know about basic global patterns and macro-trends. We use surveys to ask representative groups of people simple questions about key-aspects of global development.

There are teaching materials produced as part of the project, but they are aimed more at schools than HE – but with some recontextualising they could be useful.

But the main reason I highlight this resource, and in particular the video below, is because I think it could be useful to engage students in active and critical thinking and analysis.

The ‘set-up’ by Hans will be familiar if you have watched any of his other TED talks – comparing the understanding of groups of people, in this instance starting with the audience, with what might be achieved by chimpanzees through random responses rather than through knowledge or understanding. But for this talk Hans is joined by his son Ola, who gives us tips on how we might adapt our thinking so that we can ‘beat the chimps’.

The principles of questioning our everyday ‘taken-for-granteds’ and underlying influences on thought such as the popular media could form the basis for many different types of lessons, and the context of world development makes this especially useful for anyone trying to engage students in education for sustainable development and/or global citizenship issues.

This post was one of our advent learning and teaching treats. To explore all the other treats click here.

Internationalisation in higher education – the view from elsewhere

Image Tup Wanders 2005

Wonderfully, this summary from Canada  is written in French and yet you don’t need to speak French to get the gist of it. The statistics about internationalisation in HE in Canada actually look very similar to those in the UK. This little report, therefore, makes two important points to consider in terms of our learning and teaching. Firstly, that when we are confronted by words that we don’t always understand, let’s focus on similarities rather than differences. This helps us bridge linguistic and cultural barriers and invites conversation and comparison from a starting point of mutual appreciation. Secondly – and even more importantly in the context of increasing internationalisation of HE – a reminder that there is so much to learn from how others see us. We need to talk globally rather than dwell on our internal perspective. We need to live in translation. We need to learn and teach in translation.


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Creativity is a hard concept to define. Steve Wheeler pretty much nails it with this slide, part of his keynote at the Digital Pedagogies conference held in Doncaster on 3 July. By the power of Twitter (and @christinehough): “This”.

This post was one of our advent learning and teaching treats. To explore all the other treats click here.