This special issue is devoted to a study of an action research-based reform of a US university study abroad programme to make it a genuine intercultural immersion experience. The four-year collaborative reform process combined participatory organisational redesign, the development of a comprehensive active learning approach and the teaching of intercultural competence through ethnographic immersion and community engagement in Seville, Spain. The case is an example of the development of intercultural competencies through guided behavioural change, of action research to reform higher education programmes and of active learning combined with formative and summative evaluation. The reader will learn about the experiences of the staff, faculty and mentors in the Consortium for Advanced Studies Abroad (CASA)-Sevilla study abroad programme and those of the sponsoring US universities as they together achieved a fundamental reform of a decades-old study abroad immersion programme. This special issue has many authors because this was a collaborative action-research project with continuous group work and brainstorming. The authors’ names are placed in the sections where the authorship is clear, but, as befits a collaboration, many of the ideas are the result of the combined thinking of all the authors. Authorship of the various sections has been allocated mainly to clarify for readers the most relevant author to contact to learn more about particular dimensions of the process. The guest editors took on the editorial duties on behalf of this larger group.
Eva Infante Mora, Davydd J. Greenwood, and Melina Ivanchikova
Gina Hunter and Nancy Abelmann
Welcome to this special issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences. As guest editors, we are delighted to be able to share the experiences of the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI, www.eui.uiuc.edu), a multi-disciplinary course-based initiative that fosters student research on their own universities and is
housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I). EUI is at once a pedagogical approach, a teaching community and a digital archive. EUI also works as a research agenda committed to student engagement with university practice and policy – and thus to institutional critique. In this editorial introduction, we provide an overview of EUI’s history, innovations, organisational structure and guiding values. We also introduce this issue’s authors – faculty members, an administrator and a former student – all of whom have taught with EUI and have documented here the ways in which taking the university as a research subject transformed their courses and teaching, and in some cases, their programmes and learning.
a new instrumentalism or 'Much Ado about Nothing'?
The purpose of this article is to explore the development of qualifications frameworks as a key element in the Bologna Process, which aims to develop a European Higher Education Area by 2010. By setting up descriptors of learning outcomes, a European qualifications framework is intended as an instrument that enables Europe to coordinate and exchange qualifications. Furthermore, the article analyses the proposal of a national qualifications framework in Norway and institutional responses to it. Despite general support for the idea of a framework, the analysis shows that the institutions question the possibility of a qualifications framework that fits all types of educational programmes.
With reference to curriculum theory the article concludes that the idea of a qualifications framework based on measurable learning outcomes represents a turn towards an instrumental curriculum approach in higher education, in contrast to a traditional curriculum approach which foregrounds disciplinary content and its mastery. Drawing on institutional theory the article also questions the possible impact of qualifications frameworks in higher education.
Eva Infante Mora
Evaluation is essential to the analysis of the performance of academic programmes and is a central feature of the academic accountability movement. Most study abroad programmes, however, lack evaluation protocols, even though establishing them and acting on the results would contribute to their credibility. This final section of a comprehensive account of the reform of a study abroad programme presents how CASA-Sevilla has developed evaluation strategies to inform pedagogical changes in each successive semester to improve student-learning outcomes. The programme’s aim is to achieve a 360-degree assessment by treating students holistically and including all involved faculty, staff, community partners and host families. The aim is also to be transparent in pointing out the problems in the programme’s performance and use them as an impetus for improvement. This section is written to share what we have learned in hopes of starting a more robust dialogue among study abroad programmes about evaluation.
Issues of coloniality in international academic collaboration
Hanne Kirstine Adriansen and Lene Møller Madsen
This article studies issues of coloniality in so-called capacity-building projects between universities in Africa and Scandinavia. Even fifty years after independence, the African higher education landscape is a product of the colonial powers and subsequent uneven power relations, as argued by a number of researchers. The uneven geography and power of knowledge exist also between countries that were not in a direct colonial relationship, which the word coloniality implies. Based on interviews with stakeholders and on our own experiences of capacity-building projects, this article examines how such projects affect teaching, learning, curriculum, research methodology and issues of quality enhancement. We analyse the dilemmas and paradoxes involved in this type of international collaboration and conclude by offering ways to decolonise capacity-building projects.
Contemporary undergraduate courses in research methods are challenging to teach because of the wide scope of the subject matter, limited student contact hours and the complexity of supervising research projects undertaken by novices. Focus group assignments within class offer an interesting and enjoyable way for students to develop and apply research skills and reflect on the process of being both a researcher and a research participant in social science disciplines. Using focus groups enables deep learning, formative assessment and the development of reflexive research skills. This article discusses the use of focus group assignments as a key assessment tool in a Sociological research methods course taught at Monash University, Australia. The use of focus groups as a teaching tool is further assessed through analysing the reflections and evaluations given by students participating in the course.
My Ethnography of the University (EUI) course 'Muslims in America' introduces undergraduate students to the racialisation of Islam and Muslims in the U.S. at large, and in the University in particular. In this article, I describe how an anti-racist pedagogy coupled with student ethnographic research can yield a rich learning process. Beginning with one of the key debates in the scholarship on Muslims in the United States, I introduce students to the productive ways in which a multiracial history of American Islam can inform their ethnographic research. Additionally, I elaborate the potential for student research to transform university policy. The University offers a valuable ethno- graphic site for the critical study of the history and place of Muslims in U.S. society, politics and culture.
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 cases of Denmark, Norway and Sweden
Bettina Dahl, Eirik Lien, and Åsa Lindberg-Sand
The aim of the Bologna Process is to make higher education systems across Europe more transparent. It is crucial for this purpose that confusion concerning the characteristics of the systems should be replaced by conformity. But, as we will show, conformity brought about at one level may create confusion at another. The curricular aspect of the Bologna Process focuses on a shift to outcome-based and student-centred programmes. Syllabi should now be based on intended learning outcomes (ILOs) and should be adjusted to general level descriptors for qualifications. However, the Bologna documents give no explicit recommendations about the use of grading scales. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the reforms of higher education induced by the Bologna process included a change of grading scales and referred to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). Through these three case studies, we describe and analyse the political process and argumentation underpinning the decisions to change the grading scales in each country. This includes the problems, both experienced and perceived, with the old grading scales, the various national assessment traditions and the new grading scales. The purpose of the change was not the same in each country, but the ongoing adaptation to a seven-step grading scale was thought to ease the international recognition of the national grades, making mobility easier. Though a seven-step grading scale was implemented in both Danish and Norwegian higher education and also by an increasing number of Swedish higher education institutions, the translation of grades only works on a superficial level. The grading scales designed are fundamentally different as classification systems; they attach different numerical values to grades with identical labels and they relate differently to norm- and standards-referenced judgements of learning outcomes. The information condensed in similar grades from the three countries cannot be equated. The vision of simple transparency turns out to be an illusion.
Digital Media and Contested Visions of Education
Wesley Shumar and Susan Wright
, this special issue questions their potential impact on teaching and learning in higher education. Do these media fulfil some administrators’ dream of reorganising higher education in terms of economic rationality and inexpensive reusable learning