Symposium: the potentially transformative power of theory when put to work in professional practice contexts: observations towards a 'pedagogy of change': overview

Perselli, Victoria (2014) Symposium: the potentially transformative power of theory when put to work in professional practice contexts: observations towards a 'pedagogy of change': overview. In: BERA Annual Conference 2014; 23-25 Sep 2014, London, U.K.. (Unpublished)


Diverse contemporary perspectives regarding what education is and what it is for, combined with a general sensibility that change, rather than continuity, is a relentless and irreversible feature of professional life-experience 'in postmodernity', can be evidenced through a range of discursive themes and research modalities pertaining to life in higher education institutions currently reverberating across the globe. Collocations such as inclusive education, widening participation, reflective practice, lifelong learning, quality assurance, audit culture, have been constructed or co-opted- as is the way with language - via aspirant agendas of accountability, improvement, excellence, impact and so forth, to keep everyone permanently on their toes; an assumption behind these being that administrators and academics are part of a more general populous characterised as 'the learning society', with higher education ('HE') acting as a vehicle through which substantial portions of this populous will eventually pass. Well-worn metaphors and models of social science research, such as 'Mode 2' (Gibbons et al, 1994) 'Triple Helix' (Etzkowitz & Leyesdorff, 2000), 'Third Space' (Whitchurch, 2008), further reveal and reinforce the notion that former boundaries and divisions have indeed collapsed, HE workers now being juxtaposed variously as administrators, teachers, researchers, policy makers and most recently business folk; conduits for the generation, transferal or mobilization of knowledge 'in new times' (Quicke 1998). A visible response to the multiple expectations of HE and the perpetual motion of postmodernity more generally has been the proliferation of research modes and methodologies that seek to articulate the variously imbricated positionalities and subjectivities of HE workers: institutional research, higher education research, educational development, the scholarship of teaching and learning, academic development all constitute efforts to describe, interpret and influence what HE is, what it is for, what HE workers do and the matrix of relationships between HE and wider society - but often with very scant dialogue between them. The papers in this symposium illustrate distinct pedagogic practices, here tentatively characterised as pedagogy of change (Perselli, 2013), which productively inform and shape the various problematics posed in – and on – higher education as an embodied, experiential and professional reality. They represent the challenge of how to be, how to do and how to make, as a community of scholars, in the contradictory and at times politically quixotic environment that constitutes Western interpretations of the university. They constitute a resistance to the theory-austerity that is arguably being imposed on learners and teachers by central government in England specifically, whereby 'what works' is king.

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