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.
The case of a Swedish course for professional principals
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.
Using Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice, this study examines the practices of Swedish students when entering higher education. Logistic regression is used to examine relationships between the educational resources and geographical origins of students born 1973–1982 (N = 382,198) and 1) their probability of migration when entering higher education and 2) the type of institution they entered. The results indicate that students’ practices differ by geographical origin, suggesting that students use migration in different ways to access higher education. For example, the students with the highest probability of migration are students originating from rural areas with high upper-secondary grades and students from large urban areas with low grades. Implications for expanding access to higher education while also creating sustainable communities are discussed.
A critical educational praxis perspective
Melina Aarnikoivu, Matti Pennanen, Johanna Kiili, and Terhi Nokkala
This article discusses the potential of multidisciplinary peer-mentoring groups to facilitate individual and institutional change. To do this, we view peer mentoring as a form of critical education praxis (Mahon et al. 2019), the purpose of which is to create a space for reflexive thinking and asking critical questions. The data were collected by interviewing all thirteen participants – doctoral students and more established scholars – of a multidisciplinary peer-mentoring pilot project. The results show a variety of both individual changes and desired changes within the university, which were brought into view as a result of the sharing of experiences, views and ideas in an open, confidential, multidisciplinary space. Based on these results, we argue that multidisciplinary peer mentoring has a high potential to offer an excellent space for collaborative, critical dialogue, which could ultimately facilitate change among individual academics, but also potentially more widely within higher education institutions.
Supporting students’ experiences through praxis
Heidi A. Smith
One way in which higher education has responded to globalisation and the emergence of transculturality has been to expand its focus on internationalisation at an unprecedented rate. Traditionally this occurred through international students and their contact with local students. A longitudinal case study into the student experience of transculturality in the Erasmus Mundus Transcultural European Outdoor Studies Masters programme found transcultural self-growth and transcultural capabilities of resilience, intelligence and the ability to work through fatigue to be central to their experience. Using Kemmis and Smith’s (2008a) themes related to praxis (doing, morally committed action, reflexivity, connection, concreteness and a process of becoming) this theoretical article explores the place of critical transcultural pedagogical praxis in supporting transcultural learning experiences of higher education students.
The benefits of student investigation of wrongful convictions in a higher education setting
Active learning, with students engaging in research or activities within the community, is a favoured approach in contemporary higher education. To support this approach, the Criminology and Forensic Studies programmes at the University of Winchester have included student research into miscarriages of justice. The students interrogate evidence from a criminal trial to attempt to establish if there has been a wrongful conviction. This article discusses the importance of this work for students of Criminology. It considers the contribution to the learning experience of the range of opportunities available to undergraduate and postgraduate students and evaluates the potential impact on curriculum and learning development during the degree programme, in addition to the benefits for future employment.
Cultural polarisation in social science courses
Jose Leonardo Santos
University social science instructors sometimes encounter student silence or quarrels around culturally contentious subjects. In a culture that promotes distrust around the issues they teach, how do professors perceive and cope with such difficulties? Preliminary research using qualitative interviews with teachers from two different US universities explores problems they encounter and strategies they employ in the face of student struggles with nuance and a phenomenon referred to here as polarisation anxiety. Professors strategise how to teach the complexity of phenomenon some students have been culturally predisposed to oversimplify, polarise or remain silent about.
Barbara Robertson and Mark J. Flowers
The course materials students are expected to utilise in online instruction vary. Studies have shown that students tend to enjoy online courses with lecture videos more than those without, but few studies have measured the impact of lecture videos on student outcomes. Do lecture videos increase student understanding and retention, thus improving student outcomes? Students were provided with one or more study aids, video lecture, PowerPoint or instructor-created notes for learning about the role of the Electoral College in US presidential elections. We assessed student retention and understanding of the Electoral College with a quiz as an indicator of student outcomes. We found that the video lecture in combination with a PowerPoint was the most effective study aid.
This article aims to determine the feasibility of a course on education-related topics based on dialogue-based peer learning (DBPL). According to the literature, the procedures of DBPL are as follows: (1) read texts, (2) formulate individual opinions, (3) express individual opinions in turns, (4) ask and respond to questions, (5) adjust personal opinions. A quantitative survey, an open-ended question on learning perceptions and four paper-and-pencil tests on educational topics were employed to determine the effectiveness of the course for participants’ learning. Most of the participants performed well in the tests and perceived the benefits of the DBPL method for comprehension and for critical thinking on educational topics. The first three steps in the procedure outlined above were identified as key to the results of the study.