Editorial: a full order of magnitude

Published in June 2019
DOI: https://doi.org/10.24384/pyqp-3378

Volume 10. A full order of magnitude. I have always enjoyed Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” columns and blog and his appositely titled second book, I Think You’ll Find It’s a Bit More Complicated Than That (Fourth Estate: London, 2014) expresses how I feel about this slim volume. HEJLT remains a challenge. We need a “vision quest”. How do we reconcile flow with deadlines? And what does that question have to do with the underpinnings of learning and teaching? Are we still seeking grand unification through an exercise in academic publishing? In 2015 HEPI and the HEA conducted a qualitative investigation into the meanings and narratives behind the NSS survey numbers. One of their six recommendations was that:

Where teaching benefits from being research-informed or research-led, the benefits need to be clearly communicated to students (HEA, HEPI 2015, 8).

In this issue of HEJLT (10.1), Didi Griffioen, Aron Groen and Jason Nak (2019)  publish the results of a systematic review of the literature into the integration of research into teaching. Among their observations:

Studying the design and effects of curricula is a complex endeavour, but it is also an important one, as the curriculum has been shown to be an important carrier in the transmission of knowledge from one generation to the next…

Beyond their educative function, universities and other higher education institutes have wider roles in society, the economy and culture. Universities serve as something of the memory and, if you will, the psyche of society. They don’t hold this alone by any means but they are among those who do. As Griffioen, Groen and Nak (2019) observe, research in the curriculum serves rationality by providing the vision and norms towards which steps can be planned and taken. Where the literature leads beyond the contemporary epistemic bias towards quantitative empiricism, we need to accept the challenge to look beyond the givens of the past to more rationally driven, pragmatic and reliable ways of learning and knowing about the world; learning and knowing how to do what we need to do.

Learning outcomes always figure large in my teaching. It is useful to repeat this for each generation of teacher. Helen Taylor and Don Jack take a healthily extreme view about the utility of stating intended outcomes for each “lesson” or teaching session.

We sought to determine whether pre-defining outcomes for each lesson would have benefits for teaching and monitoring student progress.

As they put it:

it is not the terminology that matters but the intention behind the terms. Our intention is to shift the teacher’s perception to focus on what the learner is learning rather than what the teacher is teaching. … An aim is what the teacher intends to teach and an outcome is what the student will be able to demonstrate they can do.

Concluding that learning outcomes are an extremely useful design tool, whatever else they might do:

We found that outcomes helped teachers to plan more efficiently and stage lessons more critically, often maximising opportunities for practice and production. They also helped teachers to broaden their focus, allowing them to get more complete picture of each student’s skills and abilities.

Drawing together research and teaching, Chris Satow, Ingrid Medby and Helen Walkington describe the inception of a project to co-create a digital research skills guide for Geography students. This paper brings out the complex interaction between research as practice to be learned, and research as a means to learning other practices. Yes, research in the discipline is a transferable skill, but it is also a route to other, wider skills.

Rounding off this collection, Kay Fretwell reviews a collection, Post-Sustainability and Environmental Education: Remaking Education for the Future edited by Bob Jickling and Stephen Sterling( London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). This important book is “… a philosophical exploration of new, alternative visions for education… :

the intention is to invite deep contemplation rather than offer concrete solutions. It is a call for readers to embrace imagination, hope, courage, rebellion, and new ways of thinking and being in the world.

Here, as we look out over the bastions of any institution the landscape looks troubled. Higher education has given the world so much, but now, it can be called into question. How can we square the issue of education enabling us to be both “… more clever vandals of the Earth and of each other or … midwives to a decent, durable, and beautiful future” (pp.ix-x).

Author profiles

George Roberts

George Roberts is Principal Lecturer Student Experience in Educational Development. He has been at Oxford Brookes since 2000 and joined OCSLD in June 2006 as an Educational Developer (e-Learning). In his previous role he advised the Head of e-Learning and the Senior Management Team of the University on policy for off-campus e-learning and e-learning partnerships. He leads the MA Education (Higher Education) and teaches on the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE) as well as conducting other educational development activities: workshops and consultancies. He completed a doctorate (July 2011) at the University of Southampton on biographical narratives of adult users of a community IT centre on a large estate. He also undertakes research into the pedagogical, social and technical dimensions of e-learning nationally and internationally and is interested in the interactions between personal identity and the values and beliefs that are embedded in the artefacts of Learning Technology. George is editor of the Higher Education Journal of Learning and Teaching (HEJLT). Previously, George taught on the Open University MA course, “Language and Literacy in a Changing World”. He was on the Executive Committee of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and head of the organising committee of the ALT-C conference from 2005-2007. For 10 years before joining Brookes he was an instructional designer in the international energy industry. If you want to know more about his professional activities online: https://plus.google.com/107024825185905450353/about http://rworld2.brookesblogs.net/