The Learning Institute has a regular public seminar programme each term, which is open to everyone interested in research into aspects of higher education.
The Trinity seminars run during term time on Thursdays (4.00 to 5.30 pm), on the dates below and take place on Level 2 of Littlegate House in St. Ebbe's Street.
There is no need to book in advance to attend these seminars.
If you would like to be added to the research seminar mailing list, please contact us on research or (01865) 2-86811.
View the archive of previous seminars run for the previous 2 years.
Please note that there is no seminar on Thursday 25 April, Week 1.
The speakers for TT 2013 are:
Professor Jill Jameson, University of Greenwich
Week 2 - Thursday 2 May 2013
Negative Capability, Values-Based Leadership and Trust: Managing Uncertainty in English Higher Education
In 1817, the poet John Keats wrote in a letter to his brothers that the quality of ‘Negative Capability’ was a key feature that distinguished exceptional creative writers. With characteristically Romantic fuzziness, Keats defined this concept as the ability to maintain a state of ‘being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reason' (Keats and Scott, 2005). Applying this to leadership, as others have done (Simpson and French, 2006), this paper argues that ‘Negative capability’ is a complex, under-rated attribute in higher education leadership. This attribute involves the ability to manage uncertainty creatively, combining high levels of competence with collegial delegation, an unremitting passion for excellence, integrity and the humility required to admit doubt in maintaining an openness to academic staff feedback in resisting ‘irritable’ tendencies to rush to impose the ‘false necessity’ of deterministic solutions. This responds to Bryman’s findings in a review of effective leadership that: “the issue in higher education institutions is not so much what leaders should do, but more to do with what they should avoid doing” (Bryman, 2007). The ability to build staff trust in coping proactively with ambiguity and change may be amongst the qualities that enable institutions to cope with numerous recent government policy challenges affecting English higher education, including significant tuition cuts and increases in student fees. Research findings are reported on changes in leadership values, trust and organisational cultures in higher education during the current ‘age of austerity’.
Bryman, A. (2007): Effective leadership in higher education: a literature review. Studies in Higher Education, 32:6, 693-710.
Keats, J. and Scott, G. F. (2005) Selected Letters of John Keats: Based on the Texts of Hyder Edward Rollins. Boston: Harvard University Press.
Simpson, P. and French, R. (2006) Negative Capability and the Capacity to Think in the Present Moment: Some Implications for Leadership Practice. Leadership, 2 (2), 245–255
Professor Glynis Cousin, University of Wolverhampton
Week 3 - Thursday 9 May 2013
The challenges of classification in research
This talk will centre on a research project I led with Dr.Gurnam Singh on degree attainment disparities between students classified as ‘Black minority ethnic’ students. My focus will be on the troubling issue of classification in research and how we sought to handle this in our inquiry. In particular, I will discuss how we strove to talk about racism while avoiding raciological thinking. To some degree, this issue transfers to those other fields of research which start with an operational category such as that of social class or of non-traditional learner. On the one hand, no-one neatly coincides with a sociological category, on the other hand, it often has some explanatory power. How do we negotiate a path between these two positions? I hope to prompt a fruitful discussion on this question to in relation to its relevance to educational inquiry.
Professor Monica McLean, University of Nottingham
Week 4 - Thursday 16 May 2013
Acquiring undergraduate sociology knowledge: Not everybody walks around and thinks ‘that’s an example of othering or stigmatisation’
Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First Degrees’ (ESRC Grant Number: RES-062-23-1438, November 2008-January 2012) is a study of equity and quality in undergraduate sociology-based social science education in four universities in England in different positions in published league tables. To signal these positions they are called ‘Community’, ‘Diversity’, (regularly rated in the bottom third of league tables) ‘Prestige’ and ‘Selective’ (regularly rated in the top third). The project employs the concepts of the educational sociologist Basil Bernstein (2000) to examine the relations between students' lives and backgrounds; the degrees that they study; and the conditions in their universities and departments.
A brief introduction to the project, including to its methodology and to Bernstein’s ideas about the distribution of knowledge to individuals and groups in society, will be followed by a discussion of findings. First, survey findings revealed unexpected outcomes in terms of the distribution and value of ‘transformative knowledge’. Secondly, drawing on qualitative interview data, will be introduced to unpack the notion of ‘transformative knowledge’ in terms of Bernstein’s proposal that educational systems should give access to ‘pedagogic rights’. Thirdly, it is argued that students access to pedagogic rights in sociology-based social science projects a ‘specialised pedagogic identity’ which is mediated by ‘good’ teaching and requires considerable effort on the part of students and tutors.
Professor Judy McKimm, University of Swansea
Week 5 - Thursday 23 May 2013
Medical education – giving effective feedback
In this presentation, I will discuss the pedagogical underpinnings of giving and receiving feedback, some of the challenges involved in establishing feedback systems and some examples of the strategies that medical educators are using to address challenges and provide a stimulus for discussing feedback more generally and how educators can improve the feedback provided to learners. Whilst many medical and other health professional programmes do well in gathering feedback from students to inform programme development and review, the National Student Survey consistently flags up that undergraduate students feel they don’t receive sufficient, high quality feedback on their performance. This view is echoed to a lesser extent in postgraduate training, where students are working in clinical posts under the supervision of practising clinicians. The primary purpose of feedback should be to enable learners to improve their performance and recognise areas for development and improvement, so it needs to be targeted, tailored to individual’s needs and stage and timely. The nature of feedback is obviously closely aligned to the assessment modalities being utilised (be they written, practical or behaviourally focused) and the teaching and learning activities in which students are engaged and this is where teachers and course designers need to work closely together to build in regular, appropriate opportunities for feedback as a routine part of the learning process. Thinking about assessment of learning as well as assessment for learning helps to embed feedback within both summative and formative assessments and engender a spirit of giving feedback through ‘professional conversations’ or ‘developmental dialogue’.
Dr Dimitrina Spencer, University of Oxford
Week 6 - Thursday 30 May 2013
Experimenting with experiential methods in research and teaching
Anthropological fieldwork usually involves learning in relationships (‘relational observation/reflection’) with people, things and the environment about ways of life and meaning making. What skills would enhance such anthropological approach to knowledge making? If we assume that ‘informed subjectivity’, ‘capacity for inclusion’ and ‘epistemological openness’ may come useful in this anthropological pursuit, what methods of teaching and learning would nurture such qualities in the researcher? In this talk, I discuss some experiential learning approaches. I argue that certain experiential learning may open a space for transformative learning through including and articulating our embodied experience and developing self-awareness about how we learn. Please note that the audience will participate in some experiential exercises.
Professor Sir David Watson, University of Oxford
Week 7 - Thursday 6 June 2013
Leading the British University today: your fate in whose hands?
This paper focuses on two key themes in the recent UK higher education management literature: the limits of institutional autonomy and the freedom of choice of strategic direction. It begins with a historical analysis of “mission choice” by UK HEIs since the Conservative government came to power in 1979, setting this in a context of changes in sectoral organisation and funding. From this is derived a pattern of actual and potential constraints on whole-institution actions related to the following: policy; markets; inherited and accumulated resources (of all kinds); performance (including of leadership and governance); and reputation (including the “reputational reservoir”). From this the author develops the concept of an institution’s “zone of freedom of action,” based on the interplay of opportunities, constraints and resources. He concludes with a prognosis of possible and likely institutional trajectories.
Professor Charles Bazerman, University of California, Santa Barbara
Week 8 - Thursday, 13 June 2013
How to grow as an academic: What you read and cite, what kinds of things you write, and with whom you communicate
Academics write papers, through which they give shape to their intellectual journey, engage in dialog with colleagues, and make their contribution to their academic and professional communities. Personal and professional vitality grows through writing. But the kind of writing one does and the connections one makes with others matter. The genres one writes in, the problems one addresses, the literature one draws on and the communities one engages with make a difference in the problems one solves, the ideas one has, the claims one makes, the professional presence one establishes, and the contributions that endure.
I will present results from research elaborating the effects of reading and citation on thinking and the creation of professional identity, on the way genres focus intellectual tasks and cognitive problems, and the importance of immersing oneself in professional dialog. We will then explore in an interactive workshop what these themes mean for your own work and career and how you can make strategic choices to bootstrap yourself into higher levels of work.