This article will propose a more authentic learning environment for students of the social sciences, one that is not only learner-centred but community-centred. Drawing on the principles of social pedagogy, cultural-based learning, place-based learning and co-production, this article advocates engaging community groups as co-producers in the generation of knowledge, enhancing learning within – and beyond – the university. By not using the community simply as a source of research data or placement opportunities, the curriculum is more likely to produce reflexive graduates better equipped to engage with complex global problems, enhancing their global citizenship and that of the wider community.
Developing community-facing learning in the social sciences
Jessica Belue Buckley and Søren S. E. Bengtsen
Janet Haddock-Fraser, Peter Rands and Stephen Scoffham (2018), Leadership for Sustainability in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury, 221pp., ISBN: 978-1-350-00612-6
Sónia Cardoso, Orlanda Tavares, Cristina Sin and Teresa Carvalho (eds) (2020), Structural and Institutional Transformations in Doctoral Education: Social, Political and Student Expectations. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 410pp., ISBN: 978-3-030-38045-8
Creating multi-sensory learning environments
Sabine Krajewski and Matthew Khoury
In this article, we argue that physical rooms cannot be replaced by virtual space without literally losing the student’s body and that experimenting with rooms and active learning is imperative for improving and advancing students’ learning. Our case study offers insight into a ‘soft room experiment’ without hard furniture or audio-visual equipment at one Australian university and makes recommendations that will be useful in many other educational environments. Our qualitative research project is based on feedback from students and staff as well as on class observation. Findings show that learning spaces need to be designed with appropriate pedagogies in mind, be multifunctional and ideally also multi-sensory.
Penny Welch and Susan Wright
In this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences, authors from a range of academic disciplines – music therapy, political geography, social policy, international communications and law – explore some contemporary concerns in higher education.
A Critical Disability Studies perspective
This article explores the portrayal of disability through the Disability Service web pages of Welsh universities in order to understand their potential impression on disabled applicants. The method of Qualitative Content Analysis enables consideration of multiple dimensions including use of language, terminology and photography, as well as discussion of academic, cultural, social and logistical aspects of student life. The development of a primarily concept-driven coding frame enables consideration of the absence of certain criteria as well as the frequency and prominence of others. The ensuing discussion considers, from a Critical Disability Studies perspective, the sector’s portrayal of the construct of disability. This article proposes a call to action to challenge deficit-based interpretations of disability and advocates an affirmative stance towards disability in higher education policy and practice.
Olivia Mason and Nick Megoran
The increased reliance of universities on a pool of highly skilled but poorly paid casualised academic labour for teaching and research has emerged as a defining feature of higher education provision under neoliberal New Public Management. Based on seventeen visual timeline interviews with academics in the North East of England, this article augments and extends existing studies of precarity through a framing of dehumanisation and humanisation. Specifically, we suggest that casualisation is dehumanising in four ways: it renders individuals invisible; it leaves them vulnerable to exploitation; it denies them academic freedom; and it hampers them in constructing a life narrative projecting into the future. We conclude that casualisation is not simply the product of a reprehensible political economy, but that it is an afront to the very meaning and dignity of being human.
Steven Roberts and Karla Elliott
Raewyn Connell famously theorized hegemonic masculinity, explaining its dominance over femininity and “subordinated” and “marginalized” masculinities. Attending to representations of the latter, we argue that “men in the margin” are commonly wrongly and/or simplistically depicted as regressive and violent in response to their marginalization. Focusing on representations of working-class boys and men, we illustrate the stereotypical treatment of “men in the margin” more broadly, making clear that this goes against Connell's treatment of such men. Conversely, privileged boys and men are commonly held up by critical studies on men and masculinities scholars as paragons of progressive change. The characterization of boys and men in the margin as regressive and patriarchal impedes the ability to address problems like violence, misogyny, and homophobia and overlooks the possibilities for transformation that emerge among marginalized communities.
The case of a Swedish course for professional principals
This article considers the conditions, possibilities, and challenges of creating what is referred to here as a ‘reflective space’ within a higher education course for principals. It is informed by the findings of a qualitative research inquiry conducted in the interests of enhancing the principals’ learning and professional praxis and the university educators’ pedagogical praxis, within a Swedish course for school and preschool principals. Analysis of the findings highlighted two significant patterns. The first relates to the transformative benefits of creating a ‘reflective space’ for the principals attending the course. The second is more ambiguous and reflects their relation to and engagement with scientifically constructed knowledge. Based on these findings, the article offers considerations relevant for creating ‘reflective spaces’ as a means to enhance the quality of learning in higher education. Additionally, some guiding pedagogical implications are included in the final remarks.
Walking on the edge: Educational praxis in higher education
Lill Langelotz, Kathleen Mahon, and Giulia Messina Dahlberg
This special issue is a collection of articles that emerged from a series of symposia on praxis in higher education, aimed at critically exploring challenges and possibilities for educational praxis, including its role in the contemporary university. The collection highlights the need for asking critical and uncomfortable questions about what is and what could be in higher education. It calls for more focused attention on the consequences of what we do as teachers and university communities, both intentionally and inadvertently, so that higher education can be more socially just and responsive to student and societal needs amidst contemporary challenges. In explicating the concept of ‘educational praxis’, the editorial introduces the metaphor of ‘walking on the edge’ to illustrate the concept's ‘uncomfortable dimension’ in terms of academics’ responsibility to engage critically with challenging issues in endeavours to address educational concerns.
Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta, Giulia Messina Dahlberg, and Sylvi Vigmo
This article focuses on the Swedish context of upper and post-upper secondary education provided in two sectors, universities and the Swedish Folk High School. The article is centred on the analysis of the support services offered by fifty-five university and Swedish Folk High School institutional websites to individuals and groups designated as being ‘peripheral’. Taking as a point of departure a ‘practiced policies’ theoretical position, the study focuses on the ‘situated nature’ of institutional policies, that is, how policies become operationalised in local institutional contexts. Of interest is the nature of expectations placed on participants in the provision of support, and the ways in which different target groups are conceptualised and categorised. The findings of this national scale mapping, that build on two ongoing projects concerning equity and social justice, are discussed in terms of fundamental dimensions of democracy that shape students’ opportunities to access upper and post-upper secondary education.