Critical Pedagogy Against the Mass Market?

Last year, a small group of researchers at Liverpool set out to understand how principles of ‘critical pedagogy’ – the approach to teaching that insists students must play an active and leading role in their own learning strategies – are being implemented in the University of Liverpool.

The research focused upon a small number of modules that apply principles of critical pedagogy in that way students are assessed. It drew upon in-depth interviews with a sample of the staff members that co-ordinate eight modules in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences to explore how successfully those principles are applied in the assessment of those modules.

In our research we found a range of innovative and sometimes challenging ways that module leaders sought apply the core aims of critical pedagogy. We found a range of forms of assessment that:

  • allow the structure of learning to be defined by student learners’ lived reality, rather than a predetermined or designed structure.
  • encourage students to be ‘free learners’, able to challenge the physical and ideological structure of their pedagogical environment and relationships.
  • move students to action and involvement in the world in ways that promote and further the causes of social justice and democracy.

The module leaders we spoke to were committed to allowing students to challenge the dominant ways of reading the world, and to do so in a more open ways. The key motivation for others was to introduce to students an understanding of the social and political dimensions of their subject. There is evidence that such approaches to assessment are important for ensuring the engagement of a more diverse range of participants in education. Critical pedagogy approaches can be important to a widening participation agenda.

Continue reading Critical Pedagogy Against the Mass Market?

Congratulations to seven new ULTRA Fellows

I am delighted to announce that seven more Fellowships of the University of Liverpool Teaching Recognition and Accreditation (ULTRA) framework were awarded at a meeting of the Recognition Panel recently. Many congratulations to our new ULTRA Fellows! Their achievement demonstrates their commitment to excellence in providing the best learning experiences for University of Liverpool students.

Fellowship is awarded in one of four categories, in recognition of excellent practice in learning and teaching in higher education. The achievement of the seven members of University of Liverpool staff is shown below:

Dr Steve Barrett Physics Senior Fellowship
Dr Alan Greaves Archaeology, Classics & Egyptology Senior Fellowship
Dr Richard Huzzey History Senior Fellowship
Ms Helen Orton School of Health Sciences Senior Fellowship
Dr Luciane Vieira De Mello Rigden School of Life Sciences Senior Fellowship
Dr Judith Walsh Continuing Education Fellowship
Ms Cath Williams School of Health Sciences Senior Fellowship

ULTRA provides an experience-based route to professional recognition of experience and expertise in learning and teaching. The framework is accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) which means that achievement of Fellowship of ULTRA brings with it nationally-recognised fellowship of the HEA.

Dr Janis McIntyre

For further information please go the ULTRA website, or contact Dr Janis McIntyre at Janis.mcintyre@liverpool.ac.uk

Funding Postgraduate Study in the UK: issues of widening participation and sustainability

On the 24th April 2015 Dr Martin Gough of the Educational Development Division, in his role as Convenor of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Postgraduate Issues Network, organised the seminar, ‘Funding Postgraduate Study in the UK: issues of widening participation and sustainability’. You can find a report on this seminar in a recent issue of The Times Higher Education (no.2202, 7-13 May, p8) by Holly Else, ‘State-backed master’s loans: is an ‘own goal’ looming?’.

One of the issues raised at the seminar, and the focus of the THE report, concerned the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s plan to extend the student loans scheme to taught master’s provision. That would appear to be better than nothing but there is the potential for new problems arising from such a scheme.

One of the speakers, Tony Strike (University of Sheffield), explained how the separate HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme has been offering specific schemes for using funds. This is proving to be successful in encouraging historically under-represented groups of students to progress into the postgraduate level, with a view to enhanced access to the professions outside higher education. Meanwhile Paul Wakeling and Sally Hancock (University of York) explored the characteristics and perceptions of those generally who both do and do not progress into postgraduate taught study, and Brooke Storer-Church provided a brief response and update on HEFCE’s work in this area.

The THE report omits to mention the other speaker, Gill Clarke (UKCGE and University of Oxford), and her HEFCE-sponsored project on international comparisons on quality, access and employment outcomes in taught and also research postgraduate education. Gill was able to contribute more to the broader question of what characteristics will be more sustainable for a system of postgraduate education as a whole, to ensure adequate student numbers and the health of UK universities. One of the lessons arising out of the comparative study is the need for resources to support more flexible study patterns.

More details about the seminar, and speakers’ presentations, can be found here.

Martin Gough organised another seminar in this series earlier in the academic year on ‘Dimensions of well-being in postgraduate education’. Further information can be found here.