An event like last week's conference always gives food for thought, and certainly that was especially true of Stephen Heppell's closing talk which inspired many in the audience. If one were to think of universities along the lines of "rip it up and start again" what would they look like? How's that for triggering a discussion? Well we're already working on it here as part of an exploration of the future of learning and we'll keep you posted! On even a relatively small scale, however, it is possible to make change that has a significant impact on both the student learning experience and in the 'job satisfaction' levels of academic staff.
One possible route to this is through strengthened linkages between teaching and research, a theme that we have discussed earlier on this blog. Alan Jenkins was over in Galway a couple of weeks back and ran a number of sessions with academic staff, many of whom would consider themselves as very active researchers. Alan is heavily involved with the "Reinvention Centre" at Warwick and Oxford Brookes Universities. Named after the report of the Boyer Commission in the US, the centre tries to provide a stimulus to staff and students to engage in real research activities in the undergraduate years.
They also ask questions about what should constitute appropriate assessment artefacts. Should we obsess with the traditional report, or is there some latitude to embrace a range of media? Indeed, an example on their website is where students in Sociology at Warwick produced a video documentary on the increasing intrusion of market ideas into higher education.
For those interested in this theme and in its application to this subject area, the centre is running a conference in September.