Public seminars

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.

For the 2014-2015 academic year there will be just 12 seminars, taking place on weeks 1, 3, 5 and 7 for each term. As before, seminars will run on Thursdays (4.00 to 5.30pm) on level 2 of Littlegate House, 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.

Dr Søren Smedegaard Bengtsen (Aarhus University)

Week 1 - Thursday 30 April 2015

The darkness of doctoral supervision: researching the non-formal aspects of the PhD as a potential for a new doctoral pedagogy

Traditionally doctoral supervision has been researched from an organisational perspective and/or a disciplinary perspective. The organisational perspective includes the formalised aspects of doctoral supervision such as how institutional and departmental rules, regulations, systems of induction and guidelines for contract-making influence the supervision process. The disciplinary perspective typically includes informal aspects such as studying doctoral supervision within communities of practice in which tacit knowledge, implicit norms and habits, codes of power and hierarchy frame the relation between supervisors and students. However, more and more attention is given to what I call the non-formal aspects of doctoral supervision, which destabilise traditional and paradigmatic understandings of doctoral pedagogy and learning processes during the PhD.  The non-formal aspects include (a) extra-curricular activities such as the participation of the doctoral student in research work outside the departmental responsibilities and even outside the PhD project, (b) support systems and learning processes performed as part of private and non-academic activities and relations, and (c) resistance, opposition and unruliness in doctoral students’ approach to the institutionalised parts of the PhD.

This poses the question to what degree traditional supervision processes and institutional frameworks and guidelines help the doctoral student in gaining momentum and completing the PhD. Also, it points to the ‘darker sides’ of the PhD, where the institutional powers are exhausted and where the disciplinary and academic norms and values no longer apply. Should such non-formal learning spaces of the PhD be shunned, or could they help us form a new doctoral pedagogy for doctoral education in the future?

Dr David Hay (King's College London)

Week 3 - Thursday 14 May 2015

Teaching through research of scientific image-making practice: theory and case studies of the leukocyte cascade

It is difficult to imagine teaching STEM subjects without the use of images: Not only are so many of our science models represented visually, but also the collection and analysis of much science data depends on visual technologies which allow the gather of otherwise intractable phenomena. As Bruno Latour explains in Science in Action, however, “there is a world of difference between science knowledge-making and learning ready-made science”. Through a detailed analysis of the images of leukocyte recruitment: an interdisciplinary research field which combines chemistry, blood and protein biophysics, protein biochemistry, molecular biology, histopathology, and immunology, I explore the role of images in textbooks, review papers and original research reports, seeking to make generalizations about teaching the image-work of STEM subjects in research-like ways.

Drawing on the last three decades of research in science studies, science history and philosophy of science I will present a view of experimental science which is tightly linked to scientific model-making and I will relate this view to new case studies (interviews and observations) of researchers’ readings of the images leukocyte recruitment. I endeavour to supply answers to questions concerning: 1) tensions between the learning of textbook knowledge and participation in new knowledge-making: 2) the legitimate place of students’ laboratory observation work in the STEM curriculum; and 3) the similarities and differences between the reading path of textbooks, review papers and original research. In particular I model the different types of questions which guide researchers’ readings in different directions according to their model-making goals and in doing this I provide a framework which might be used to organise their students’ readings.

Towards the end of this presentation I will turn to the growing literature on “drawing to learn in the sciences” drawing out a set of deliberate recommendations for the design of teaching in STEM subjects.

Dr Janice Malcolm (University of Kent)

Week 5 - Thursday 28 May 2015

Discipline and workplace learning in practice: an exploratory study of academic work

This seminar reports on a research project, funded by the Society for Research into Higher Education, which set out to investigate contemporary academic work in the social sciences from a sociomaterial perspective. It explored the interactions of institution, department and discipline in enacting academic work, and traced the relations and conflicts negotiated by academics at different career stages and in different university settings. The study involved close shadowing of social scientists as they went about their work, observation of social, professional and technological interactions and the gathering of visual and textual data, as well as interviews. Conducting ‘close-up’ observational research on academics was a real challenge, but the study was fruitful in offering new insights into the multiple and complex demands of the contemporary academy, and the strategies social scientists use to create space and time for their intellectual work.

Prof Dr Bernadette Dilger (University of St. Gallen)

Week 7 - Thursday 11 June 2015

Design-based research in higher education

Design-based research (DBR) has become a considerable methodological approach in the educational context using the construction of learning scenarios in order to conduct research in the field of instructional design. Since its foundation in the early 1990s (Brown 1992) and its further exploration through the design based research collective (Design-based research collective 2003) it aims towards the further development of theory of learning through designing learning environments and its reflexion, especially in the context of higher education. The close link between systematic reflexion and application in the designs on the one hand and the collaboration between researcher and practitioners are enhancing the constructions of ‘informed designs’ and transferable theories of middle range. In the talk I will present the methodological issues of the DBR approach and its pitfalls. The experiences of an innovation project from the faculty of business, economics and social science at the University of Cologne, in which experiential and research based learning in the bachelor program was implemented, are presented. In the program we applied the DBR paradigm. As the coordinator of the project, I would like to reflect on the DBR approach, its potentials and questions in the application and derive consequences for working with the DBR approach in higher education.