Throughout the pandemic I, like many of my peers, have been worried by the overriding narratives around education, particularly HE, that have (and still are) being perpetuated by the media and certain parts of government about education. Debbie McVitty has written an excellent piece on WonkHE about this, and the need for for public engagement with pedagogy.
It’s a great article and does encapsulate the issues around internal university discourse, students’ developing understanding of learning, the work and research that is part of contemporary university life and public perceptions i.e. the lecture and the exam. In the article Debbie calls for more public engagement with pedagogy . Whilst this statement from the Russell Group about blended learning is welcome, it does speak volumes that this is needed at all. And, is this engagement?
In the article Debbie goes writes:
“I see this public engagement in pedagogy work less as the responsibility of institutions and organisations than as a possible emergent area of thinking and practice.” . She goes on to say “this would require people to adopt public personas in ways that are not established at scale in the UK.“
Whilst scholarship around pedagogy is now an established field, it is still quite precarious. It’s still not universal in the sector to get formal recognition and promotion based on teaching practice. Whilst the number of Chairs related to learning and teaching is increasing, many staff still face issues around getting adequate official time allocation for developing their teaching practice. So much of the engagement with pedagogy is still at an internal level, which makes wider public debate even more challenging.
However, that discussion needs to take place. Even being able suggest that maybe we shouldn’t be asking our children “what did you learn in school/college/uni today” to “how did you learn in school/college/uni today” could enrich parts of wider public discourse.
One thought did come to mind though. Maybe what we need are Professors of Public Engagement for Learning, in the same way we have those roles within science. For example Professor Hannah Fry, Professor of the Public Engagement of Science at the University of Birmingham. I know many people who would be brilliant in a role like this, who are passionate, successful, articulate and steeped in knowledge about pedagogy and are excellent communicators.
As the pandemic has highlighted there is a real need for public engagement around teaching and learning to create informed, evolving conversations around the realities contemporary education. I wonder if any Uni would be confident and forward thinking enough to do this . . .