Higher education could be different

The title of this blog posting was one of the underlying themes of a conference last month at the University of Edinburgh, organised in conjunction with the Society for Research into Higher Education. The conference ‘Higher Education as if the World Mattered’ contained a good store of ideas for those looking to develop new expressions of university education.

One can look at the conference as a set of researchers responding to Ron Barnett’s suggestion that our current notions of university education are radically impoverished. The ideas in circulation ranged from the fundamental to the eminently practical. Professor Nixon in one keynote address argued that universities need to offer opportunities for ‘dialogical interaction between students and between students and teachers’, but in a way that avoids any shallow or narrow consensus.

Dispositions are often downplayed in higher education, as if the only things that matter are knowledge or competency. Noel Entwistle highlighted the importance of a student’s willingness to apply effort and make their own decisions about learning. Professional education was a particular focus of the conference, with the keynote from Melanie Walker and Monica McLearn highlighting the need for professionals who are focused on the public good.

My own contribution to the conference was on the place that social relations might play in professional education. Imagine what it might be like if professionals learnt further ways to take decisions in light of the perspectives, attitudes and concerns of their clients; and if we all found new paths to joint action between client and professional.

Of course, if you want to realise a new form of education in your own setting then plenty of hard work is still required, but a conference like this can help to open up some new ways forward. (Most of the conference papers are provided as downloadable ‘Event Files’ if you scroll down the conference web page.)

Dr Peter Kahn, Centre for Lifelong Learning

Sir Alastair Pilkington Teaching Prizes

The EdDev team (Patrick, Stuart, Sarra, and Ian) have been working with colleagues from across the University to help select this years recipients of the Sir Alastair Pilkington Awards. These coveted awards are in recognition for University of Liverpool staff who have made an outstanding contribution to pedagogy and the enhancement of the student experience.

This year, the selection process was undertaken in two stages. Firstly, Teaching Awards were made to staff in who had made an important contribution to learning and teaching in their Faculty. These winners were then invited to present and answer questions about their practice to their peers and a judging panel. From this the recipients of the Alastair Pilkington prizes for each faculty were chosen. It was pleasing to see that many of the award winners had undertaken Educational Development programmes and had been supported by the e-Learning Unit with their teaching innovations, many of which are now used as examples of good practice on iTeach. The award winners for each of the Faculties were as follows:

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Implementing the HEAR: Supporting Student development

On 25th April 40+ staff enjoyed a presentation by Rob Ward of the Centre for Recording Achievement. We invited Rob as a direct result of discussion at a previous event exploring the role of the Academic Advisor. His extensive knowledge of the origins, development and current position of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) made for an entertaining and informative session.

Rob described HEAR and its purpose, but also drew on the real experiences of other universities as they work towards  implementation. Most universities are developing a HEAR (only seven so far seem to have decided against doing so), and all are at different stages. Rob’s presentation can be viewed on the following page: https://stream.liv.ac.uk/cvs2r3ar.

A key message from Rob is that an inclusive HEAR should be part of a system to support students’ development throughout their studies and provide evidence to help them to move forward into employment, training or further study with confidence. Certainly all the signs are that employers see real benefits in the HEAR. The Association of Graduate Recruiters have developed a series of pamphlets in support of HEAR.

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