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Open access

Daring spaces

Creating multi-sensory learning environments

Sabine Krajewski and Matthew Khoury

Abstract

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 multi-functional and ideally also multi-sensory.

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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.

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Beth Pickard

Abstract

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.

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Olivia Mason and Nick Megoran

Abstract

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.

Open access

Creating a reflective space in higher education

The case of a Swedish course for professional principals

Katina Thelin

Abstract

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.

Open access

Editorial

Walking on the edge: Educational praxis in higher education

Lill Langelotz, Kathleen Mahon, and Giulia Messina Dahlberg

Abstract

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.

Open access

Sangeeta Bagga-Gupta, Giulia Messina Dahlberg, and Sylvi Vigmo

Abstract

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.

Open access

Aimee Haley

Abstract

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.

Open access

Multidisciplinary peer-mentoring groups facilitating change?

A critical educational praxis perspective

Melina Aarnikoivu, Matti Pennanen, Johanna Kiili, and Terhi Nokkala

Abstract

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 (), 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.

Open access

Transculturality in higher education

Supporting students’ experiences through praxis

Heidi A. Smith

Abstract

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 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.