The Learning Institute has a regular public seminar programme on higher education each term. The seminars are open to everyone and there is no need to book in advance.
The Hilary 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.
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.
The speakers for HT 2014 are:
Professor Angela Brew (Macquarie University) and Professor David Boud (University of Technology, Sydney)
Week 1 - Thursday 23 January 2014
Experiencing higher education as an academic practitioner: negotiating academic identity
A study of academic identity carried out in Australia and England is illuminating how academics in different university contexts and with different career orientations position themselves and interpret what is possible as they navigate the influences they encounter. The seminar focuses on an element of the second stage of this study: in-depth interviews with mid-career academics in English and Australian universities. Using the theoretical resources of Margaret Archer it will discuss issues in academic formation such as how experiences are changing across countries, academics’ experiences of negotiating a complex and perplexing set of institutional and national constraints, and what enables academics to construct a productive career in higher education.
Dr Anna Wilson (University of Stirling)
Week 2 - Thursday 30 January 2014
Making the development of critical thinking visible in undergraduates’ experiences of research
The development of critical thinking has long been recognized as one of the central aims of higher education. Yet debates about how generic and transferable “critical thinking” skills are, how best to teach them, and whether or not they can or should be directly assessed, continue. While much effort has gone into identifying the characteristics of expert critical thinking, the nature of critical thought as applied by students transitioning from novice to expert remains under-researched. If we are to effectively develop critical thinking in our students, we should ask the questions, What does critical thinking, when practiced by students in unfamiliar contexts, look like? Do we provide undergraduate students with opportunities to show their critical thinking in action—or do we, for the most part, leave it hidden? And, if critical thinking can be made visible, how can we recognize and hence develop and assess it?
This seminar describes an attempt to reveal the dynamic processes of critical thinking as it happens, before endpoints or conclusions are reached, as undergraduates engage with the unfamiliar context of research. The data come from an ongoing, multi-institution project based in Australia. The examples described show students thinking critically in a variety of different ways and directing their criticality at a range of different objects. The data also highlight correlations with developing expertise, fluency in the disciplinary discourse and confidence. Understanding these variations and correlations may be crucial to recognizing and scaffolding the development of criticality.
Dr Helen Boulton (Nottingham Trent University)
Week 3 - Thursday 06 February 2014
The changing nature of pedagogy for the 21st century student
How appropriate is the term ‘pedagogy’, interpreted by Knowles (1990) as ‘the slave who led children to school’ for universities in the 21st century? Learners should be seen as active participants in the learning process rather than passive recipients of knowledge. This seminar will examine what learning means to the 21st century student, identify some of the current challenges facing HE lecturers through discussing the impact of new technologies, the changing expectations of students. The seminar will start by deconstructing the term ‘pedagogy’ and discuss how appropriate this is for students in universities today. We will examine how challenges are impacting on pedagogy and how we can support the process of learning through planning and structuring activities. We will then consider how we can locate new technologies to enhance learning and teaching within proven practices and models of teaching. Key theories of pedagogy will be discussed within the context of the learning and teaching in the changing landscape of Higher Education.
**CANCELLED** Professor Richard Bolden (University of the West of England)
Week 4 - Thursday 13 February 2014
What is Academic Leadership? Reflections on identity, influence and change in UK higher education
Please note: this seminar has been cancelled due to the flooding in and around Oxford.
Recent trends in higher education, such as increasing participation rates, internationalisation, funding, policy and market competition, have challenged traditional assumptions on the nature and purpose of HE and its place in society. Throughout this period, it has been argued, there has been a general shift away from ‘collegial’ towards more ‘corporate’, ‘entrepreneurial’ or ‘managerial’ approaches to leadership and management informed by private sector practices. Whilst a ‘business like’ approach to running universities may be understandable given the size and budgets of these organisations and the competitive environment in which they operate, the utilitarian ethos that underpins such an approach may be experienced as conflicting with the normative values traditionally associated with academic work. To this extent emerging forms of leadership and management practice may be experienced as conflicting with ideals of collegiality, academic freedom, education and scholarship, ultimately distancing and disengaging the very people that universities seek to influence and involve in institutional governance, strategy and change.
In this seminar Professor Bolden will present findings from a recent study of academic leadership in UK universities and explore their implications for how we think about, develop and engage people in the leadership of academic work. He will draw on a range of concepts and perspectives, including social identity and distributed leadership, to consider how power and influence is conceived and enacted in HE institutions. He will conclude by reflecting on the implications for leadership theory, practice and development more broadly and the challenges and opportunities of engaging professionals in the leadership of groups, organisations and professions.
Dr Paula Burkinshaw (University of Leeds)
Week 5 - Thursday 20 February 2014
Learning Leadership: Higher education leadership as communities of practice of masculinities
Less than 15% of Vice Chancellors are women, whereas women make up 51% of the UK population, almost 50% of early career academics and approaching 60% of higher education students. The context for this significant under-representation of women at Vice Chancellor level in Higher Education is the growing conversation globally about ‘the missing women’ in senior leadership across all sectors, not just in Education.
This paper, one of several culminating from my PhD research into the under-representation of women at Vice Chancellor level in UK Higher Education, specifically explores how gendered leadership cultures shape privileged identities and how much this constitutes higher education leadership communities of practice of masculinities (Burkinshaw, 2013), thereby contributing to the under-representation of women at the top.
In particular, the paper explores how the making of identities of women ‘at the top’ requires their ‘fitting in’ to leadership communities of practice of masculinities. Paechter’s (Paechter, 2003) concept of Communities of Practice of Masculinities is being explored throughout the research and this theoretical framework underpins the data analysis and discussion presented in this paper. The data has been generated from in-depth interviews with 18 women at the top of universities between September 2011 and April 2012.
In essence, the paper debates the impact of gendered leadership culture on the making and doing of identities of women ‘at the top’ and offers narratives of women in Higher Education leadership to the contemporary discourse about why there are so many women missing from senior roles.
Dr Celia Hunt (University of Sussex)
Week 6 - Thursday 27 February 2014
The Pros and Cons of ‘Therapeutic Education’ with Adults: the example of creative writing for personal development
In recent years the term ‘therapeutic education’ has been used as a negative to critique approaches to learning that encourage emotional expression (Ecclestone and Hayes, 2008). Such approaches, the authors maintain, whether in primary, secondary or tertiary education, lead learners towards a diminished sense of self and detract from their ability to develop their reasoning skills. By contrast, Celia Hunt’s research into the effects of the Masters in Creative Writing and Personal Development at the University of Sussex - a programme that could be described as a form of therapeutic education - reveals that combining emotional expression through the practice of creative life writing with supportive group work, reflection through learning journals and essays, and critical reflection through seminar discussion and the study of theory, helps adult learners to think more flexibly, independently and creatively, and to develop a stronger sense of agency for writing, learning and relations with others. The research also reveals, however, that undertaking this work in an educational as opposed to a therapeutic context is very challenging, both for tutors and students, and great care needs to be taken. In her talk Celia will discuss both the pros and cons of this approach to adult learning.
Henriette Lundgren (Universität Hamburg)
Week 7 - Thursday 06 March 2014
Testing as reflecting? – On the use of personality profiles in workplace learning
At first glance, personality testing does not seem to fit with traditional topics in adult education research. In workplace learning and development, however, these personality tests or profiles are increasingly used with the purpose of self-reflection and team development. This talk will examine the tensions that result from this interplay between professional practice and theoretic approach. In doing so, the practice of personality testing in workplace learning is depicted in three sections—field, participants, and areas of application.
Using ethnographic research methods, the talk will first draw on field data collected in Germany and in Great Britain. In the second part of the talk, findings from a qualitative study that included workshop observations and semi-structured interviews will be presented. The interviews were conducted with test takers to explore their emotional and cognitive learning processes that were triggered by the personality tests. In terms of findings, a number of reflection themes will be depicted and different levels of reflection will be explored—from habitual action to understanding to reflection to critical reflection. I will conclude the talk with some critical questions and careful considerations for instructors, facilitators and trainers who intend to use personality profiles as a reflection tool in workplace learning.
Professor Louise Morley (Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER), University of Sussex)
Week 8 - Thursday 13 March 2014
Lost Leaders: Women in the Global Academy
A powerful cultural ideology has emerged in higher education reform globally that suggests that the essential ingredient in successful organisational transformation is that of leadership. The leaderist turn assumes that individual agency, unimpeachable characteristics and structural positions will result in some organisational members being authorized to exert and display managerial power. There are questions about who self-identifies, and is identified by existing power elites, as having leadership legitimacy, with women having achieved differing, but generally low rates of success in entering senior academic leadership in different national locations. This presentation will engage critically with the international literature and explanatory frameworks that have analysed women’s absences from senior leadership positions in higher education and with empirical data collected internationally from British Council seminars on Women in Higher Education Leadership. Much of the global literature assumes that counting more women into existing systems, structures and cultures is an unquestioned good, and an indicator of vertical career success. There is scant discussion of women’s resistance to entering leadership in post neo-liberal and austerity-driven workplace cultures. It is questionable whether leadership in today’s managerialised global academy is a transformational opportunity and object of desire for academic women, or whether indeed, it is a form of incarceration in an identity cage.