Higher education

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The Politics of Student Loan Cancellation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 16/09/2022 - 12:00am in

Biden’s action on student debt indicates that Americans may be ready to move on from the austerity politics that defined the Republican Party from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump....

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Why Should Schools Be Mental Health Care Providers?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/09/2022 - 12:00am in

Caring for students’ emotional needs is now an unspoken part of the contract you sign as a university professor. ...

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Becoming a Better College Teacher

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/09/2022 - 1:26pm in

As I mentioned a while ago, the Center for Ethics and Education at UW Madison has a podcast, which we’re quite proud of and for which, frankly, I’d like to build the audience. Here’s a recent episode about becoming a better college teacher. It’s grounded in an essay I wrote for Daedalus in 2019, which is really just the story of how, possibly, I became a better teacher (and possibly I didn’t), and drew heavily on blog posts I’ve done at CT over the years [1]. I really like this episode: a recent (2020) UW graduate, Grace Gecewicz, who is now a middle school teacher, interviewed me basically trying to draw out some of what I say in the essay [2]. But about half way through the interview morphs into a conversation, in which she also talks about her own experiences, which are probably the most interesting part of the podcast. If you do enjoy it, recommend it to your friends.

[1] I was invited to write the essay, and was very anxious about it. There was the fact that it would be published in a journal that circulates much more widely than anywhere I normally publish. But it was more: how do you say that you think your entire profession is pretty bad at its main task, and tell the story of how you think you became better at that task yourself, without coming across as a self-righteous prig? You can judge for yourself how successfully I achieve that aim.

[2] Its not only one of my favourites. A student told me earlier this week that before taking my class a year ago she read the essay and decided I would probably be ok. She also told me that this episode is a favourite of her dad’s.

Book Review: Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization: Practical Tools for Improving Teaching, Research, and Scholarship edited by Abby Day, Lois Lee, Dave S.P. Thomas and James Spickard

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 20/08/2022 - 7:00pm in

In Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization: Practical Tools for Improving Teaching, Research, and Scholarship, Abby Day, Lois Lee, Dave S.P. Thomas and James Spickard bring together academics from across the globe to explore tangible actions those within the academy can take to foster diversity, inclusion and decolonisation. If there were a global syllabus for academics, this collaborative work should be required reading, writes Ellen … Continued

A tool for navigating your research career

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/08/2022 - 1:00am in

In this cross-post, Christina Boswell introduces a newly developed tool to help researchers map the activities they are engaged with the aim of exposing where activity is clustered. The tool has been designed to help researchers be more strategic and selective in what they take on and supports reflection about career priorities and goals. When I … Continued

Book Review: Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Global Challenges and Alternative Futures by Anke Schwittay

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/07/2022 - 7:00pm in

In Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Global Challenges and Alternative Futures, Anke Schwittay proposes imaginative strategies to secure radical change to higher education and resist the instrumentalisation and commodification of knowledge, teaching, learning and research. This powerful, bold, vivid and engaging account is an antidote to the challenges of our times and offers a critical-creative-imaginative manifesto for alternative educational and … Continued

What does it mean to be a student in European higher education?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/07/2022 - 8:00pm in

Students, even those from different countries and cultures are all too often thought of as a homogenous bloc. Drawing on research undertaken for their new book, Constructing the Higher Education Student, Rachel Brooks discusses the different ways in which students are imagined, by themselves, as well as policymakers and educators in Europe. Assumptions are often … Continued

For learned societies, diversity, equity, and inclusion should be a central focus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/07/2022 - 8:00pm in

Reporting on the findings of a recent survey of learned society members, Jonathan Roscoe discusses how diversity, equity and inclusion has become an increasingly salient issue for learned societies and suggests how societies might adapt to be more inclusive. Learned societies are central to the way academics organise to collaborate, publish research and promote their … Continued

Book Review: Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Global Challenges and Alternative Futures by Anke Schwittay

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 9:26pm in

In Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Global Challenges and Alternative FuturesAnke Schwittay proposes imaginative strategies to secure radical change to higher education and resist the instrumentalisation and commodification of knowledge, teaching, learning and research. This powerful, bold, vivid and engaging account is an antidote to the challenges of our times and offers a critical-creative-imaginative manifesto for alternative educational and social futures, writes David Hayes

Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Global Challenges and Alternative Futures. Anke Schwittay. Bristol University Press. 2021.

Book cover of Creative UniversitiesAnke Schwittay’s Creative Universities is a very welcome and timely contribution to existing critical pedagogical scholarship and literature. It not only provides an interdisciplinary critique of the existing institutional and epistemic boundaries of the contemporary neoliberalised university and its corporate-managerialist conception of creativity. It also offers imaginative strategies for counter-hegemonic resistance and radical change in education and society.

Central to Creative Universities is the development of what Schwittay calls ‘critical-creative pedagogy’. This includes the conceptual strands of ‘whole-person learning’; the incorporation of creative techniques and strategies from design and the arts into social science teaching, learning and assessment; an emphasis on the unification of theory and practice; and the notions of critical hope and ‘generative theory’ as antidotes to purely negative or destructive critique.

The specific strength of the book is its adventurous and experimental interdisciplinary scope, which should resonate with educational practitioners and researchers engaged in social scientific ‘rendezvous disciplines’: places where ideas from a range of disciplines meet and interface, such as contemporary critical criminology and critical pedagogy. Creative Universities recognises the politicised nature of education and the need to articulate counter-hegemonic narratives and discourses that challenge the instrumentalisation and commodification of knowledge, teaching, learning and research.

Though not explicitly stated, the book can be seen to be informed by an anarchist perspective on education in that it seeks to address existing power relations, hierarchical structures and relationships, and develop emancipatory alternative futures based on social and ecological justice. Creative Universities would be well worth reading in conjunction with Judith Suissa’s Anarchism and Education, as Schwittay’s concept of ‘whole-person learning’ can mutually inform and support Suissa’s notion of ‘integral education’, which challenges the academic-vocational dichotomy that persists in universities.

Multicoloured hexagonal blocksImage Credit: Photo by Steve Huntington on Unsplash

Via qualitative research strategies, most notably critical ethnography, Schwittay argues for the need to map and articulate what are often marginalised, oppositional voices and to capture a ‘pluriverse’ of experiential accounts. An illustration of this is the argument for decolonising the monocultural, monoepistemic and monocosmological curriculum of Western universities and engaging in counter-coloniality/post-colonial narratives and perspectives. This would challenge dominant ideologies, discourses and research agendas in the social sciences and develop epistemological alternatives based on indigenous, social and ecological justice.

In terms of resisting the marketisation and corporatisation of education, Schwittay offers hope for those confronted by the inexorable and increasingly virulent neoliberal juggernaut and its colonisation of the lifeworld of universities. The author addresses the ideological dominance and one-dimensional economic rationality of the business model of education, with its managerial culture, privileging of STEM subjects and increasing vocationalisation of the curriculum.

Schwittay critically examines the implications of these developments for the arts, critical social sciences and humanities, which are potential sites of resistance and oppositional thought and practice. Included here is an analysis of the prevalence of regimes of risk assessment, calculative reason and management, with a nod to the first generation of Frankfurt School critical theorists and their critique of instrumental or one-dimensional thought and behaviour. Educational practitioners may be mired in Max Weber’s iron cage of bureaucracy and subjected to the categorical imperatives and necessities of punitive and panoptic managerialist governance. Yet, Schwittay offers concrete hope beyond this oppressive target culture and the seemingly omnipotent techno-bureaucratic systems of surveillance, discipline, monitoring and control.

Schwittay operates with a multi-dimensional conception of the student as producer, as opposed to the neoliberal model of the student as a progressively docile client/consumer and a passive recipient of knowledge. Echoing the focus of other critical pedagogical discourses, Schwittay provides a critique of the ‘naturalised’ employability discourse and its conception of students as self-optimising, perpetually networking, self-disciplining, entrepreneurial subjects.

What is galvanising for the reader is that this negation of the existing order is allied with a progressive vision of students as dialogical and relational co-producers of intersubjectively generated knowledge, ethics and practice. A spirit of mutual aid, benevolence and social cooperation pervades Schwittay’s militantly optimistic and pragmatic book. The call is for developing students as global citizens and activists, imbued with both a responsibility to otherness, which follows from the relational character of the self and is based on the notion of the subject as constituted by its relationship to the other, and a responsibility to act.

In Schwittay’s powerful, bold, vivid and engaging account, the educational experience can be existentially transformative, with social and environmental issues becoming central to the evolving identity of the self. Throughout the book, there is a dialectical tension between the forces of reaction and containment and the prospects of alternatives in a universe where aesthetic and ethical reason are being increasingly eclipsed by economic rationality.

In the context of ‘whole-person learning’, the notion of ‘embodied learners’ may be of particular interest. This represents a challenge to the metaphysical foundations of Western reason and Western universities. Schwittay offers useful illustrations of whole-person learning, including the use of creative and critical autoethnography, where personal biography, experiential, embodied, emotive accounts or micro-stories are linked to wider social structures and processes and the development of conceptual and theoretical knowledge.

Schwittay demonstrates how methodologies and practices that are usually found in the arts can be creatively and imaginatively transposed to social science disciplines – trans-disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity can be seen as the guiding philosophy informing the argument. Neoliberal ‘restructuring’ in universities is often accompanied by the message of ‘synergy’ as an ideological justification for dissolving departments and merging disciplinary fields, which merely serves to separate and divide disciplines that would otherwise have the potential for meaningful, collaborative work. The author illustrates the rich potential of these collaborations by providing the historical example of the Bauhaus design school as a model for participatory pedagogy that offers an anticipatory illumination or prefiguration of cooperative communities of knowledge and practice.

When discussing ‘socially engaged design’ and differentiating it from neoliberal conceptions (that is, commercial design), Schwittay’s vision of radical educational theory and practice evokes the spirit of Karl Marx’s 1843 ‘Letter to Ruge’ – ‘the world has long dreamed of possessing something of which it only has to be conscious in order to possess it in reality’. Throughout, there is a powerful and abiding message of concrete hope that another educational world is a real imaginative possibility via the medium of educational praxis.

Another important feature of design education identified by the author is that it fosters students’ tolerance for ambiguity. In a neoliberal universe where binary thinking and logic continue to pay dividends, subtlety, nuance and ambivalence – which might otherwise be seen as characteristics of a more advanced and mature civilisation – are often run roughshod over by a one-dimensional, goal-orientated brutishness that is bereft of empathy and humility.

Increasingly, the ability to see things as polysemic and to be comfortable with ambiguity and critical inquiry-based learning appears to be a dying art. As Schwittay suggests, the victim of this order of things is the kind of creative problem-solving celebrated in critical pedagogy, which prepares students for tackling ‘wicked problems’ in the social sciences and wider society. The author provides detailed descriptions of teaching activities based upon the principles of design thinking and methods. For those planning and designing undergraduate degree programmes in the social sciences, Creative Universities is a veritable treasure trove of ideas for reflexive practice.

Education in Western universities stands at a crossroads – Schwittay’s timely and much-needed book is an antidote to the challenges of our times and offers a critical-creative-imaginative manifesto for alternative educational and social futures.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Banner Image Credit: Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash.

 

Rankings affect the financial sustainability of English universities, just not for the elite

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 8:00pm in

University rankings are often presumed to be value neutral, creating equal opportunities for the institutions they order to compete around fixed indicators of quality. However, highlighting new collaborative research, Roxana Baltaru shows how university rankings in the UK have differential effects, producing divergent incentives and pressures for institutions to respond to them. The financial sustainability … Continued

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