Independent counsellor and academic, formerly Associate Professor and Head of Learning Support and Wellbeing at the University of Plymouth.
About this conversation:
|In studying for my doctorate about Learning Development, I was enthused when I came across John Prunty’s criterion for critical analysis in social policy: it should serve the creation of political, social and economic arrangements where “persons are never treated as a means to an end, but treated as ends in their own right.” (Prunty, 1985, p. 136, quoted in Ball, 1997, p. 271). We now know that the continuation and replication of our current political, social and economic arrangements, which construct people primarily as consumers and producers to be the means to achieve the ends of profitability and ‘growth’, for mostly transnational corporations, is leading to potentially catastrophic climate change, amongst other serious global ills. NASA reports that the scientific evidence used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is “unequivocal” on this (Earth Science Communications Team, 2018). So, change is essential to our survival. Can LD be part of the change? In our daily working lives many of us feel boxed in, constrained and unfree. But in working with students and staff we do have opportunities to speak and to act creatively, even if we ‘just’ ask good, critical questions of ourselves and others.
In this conversation I hope to elicit a view of Learning Development based on the notion that our mongrel-like profession, emerging in the UK since the 1990s, can help individuals resist being put into the institutional ‘boxes’ created for them by collectively devising creative learning practices for the benefit of students, staff and, by extension, society beyond the university. In this, I am inspired by Hannah Arendt’s notion of “a world in common” (1958), to see universities as places where we develop learning communities, and thinking outside of rigid boxes with narrow labels like ‘graduate skills’ and ‘employability’; to shape, instead, what Ron Barnett terms “feasible utopias,” albeit starting in small ways or in fleeting moments, to support learning for a sustainable world in common.
Arendt, Hannah (1958) The Human Condition. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
Ball, Stephen J. (1997) ‘Policy, Sociology and Critical Social Research: a personal review of recent education policy and policy research’, British Educational Research Journal, 23: 3, 257 — 274.
Earth Science Communications Team, NASA (2018) Climate change: How do we know? Webpage: https://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ accessed 10.01.19
John works as an independent counsellor and academic, having recently retired from his role as Associate Professor and Head of Learning Support and Wellbeing at the University of Plymouth. He has contributed to the evolution of Learning Development as a distinct field of practice in Higher Education since the turn of the century. He helped set up the UK network of learning developers, LDHEN, in 2002, was the first Chair of ALDinHE from 2006 -2011, and is lead editor of the (JLDHE) Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. He was awarded an HEA National Teaching Fellowship in 2005. John’s work has focussed on issues associated with academic writing, critical thinking, reflection and peer learning. His doctoral study examined Learning Development as a case study of policy and identity construction in UK Higher Education. In addition to his role in HE, John has worked as a counsellor at Derriford Hospital, Plymouth since 2000.
When: Tuesday 22nd January 2019 12:00-13:00 (UK Time)
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