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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.

Open access

Active learning in criminal justice

The benefits of student investigation of wrongful convictions in a higher education setting

Jill Dealey

Abstract

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.

Open access

Anxiety and learning

Cultural polarisation in social science courses

Jose Leonardo Santos

Abstract

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.

Open access

Barbara Robertson and Mark J. Flowers

Abstract

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.

Open access

Shih-Hsiung Liu

Abstract

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.

Open access

Penny Welch and Susan Wright

In this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences, authors from Denmark, the United States, Taiwan and the United Kingdom analyse serendipity in anthropology teaching, the use of lecture videos in political science, peer dialogue in education studies, polarisation anxiety among social science students and active learning in criminology.

Open access

Minestrone Stories

Teaching anthropology through serendipitous cultural exchanges

Regnar Kristensen

Abstract

Serendipity should not be restricted to cutting-edge science and research alone. A proactive approach to the unexpected can also strengthen classes in anthropology and the humanities. But how can you teach if classes are influenced by accidental arrangements and discoveries not sought or considered? I shall tap into two projects of teaching-by-serendipity through indirect cultural exchanges. The two projects in question were named Minestrone Stories, referring to the Italian minestrone soup, usually made of the vegetables available and thereby providing each village in Italy with its own variant. However, the two ‘Minestrone soups’ in question included more ingredients. The teaching-by-serendipity projects targeted what students, teachers and citizens in confined areas of Copenhagen had available, inciting them to indirectly exchange vegetables, songs, services and stories with each other, thus stirring them together. In this article, I reflect on how this stirring provoked an unusual teaching experience and moments of unexpected learning.

Open access

Thomas J. Eveland

Open access

Penny Welch and Susan Wright