MEd Academic Practice – My (Global) Reflections 1

As part of the three modules I am completing for the Masters in Education (MEd) in Academic Practice, there is an individual and peer-to-peer reflection element to the learning journey, also compulsory to the end of module assessments…and as always, there is no better place for me to do this than on my blog. If possible, I want there to be more of a response and exchange from readers…but as to how to make this happen is another question entirely. Get involved! I want feedback…

The first session of the curriculum design module ‘Enhancing the Student Experience through Course Design and Delivery (ESEtCDD)’ was in part familiar, overwhelming, fraught with potentials and unknowns…a room full of incredible knowledge and experience, differences of opinion and perspectives through VERY different articulations, languages and dialects, both creatively and scientifically minded, as to how we talk about curriculum, curriculum design and the design process. As standard, wordgirl loved this as it showed a real insight into the mindset of each “learner”.

I decided to start my reflections by heading straight to the library after yesterday’s session to source further reading, texts, information, sources…words to unravel step-by-step over the coming months. I actually got quite overwhelmed during this process as, for a moment, it felt like PhD level research with a world of possibility…a wanted world of possibility when in reality this is ONE MODULE. Rein it in wordgirl, you know there’s always possibility to do more in the future.

I decided to look at two different aspects during this initial secondary research process, firstly, from the international student perspective and internationalising of the curriculum, and secondly, from a structural and development point of view as to how you construct and develop the curriculum and modules. I feel like the top two books ‘Learning, Curriculum and Life Politics’ and ‘Teaching International Students’ are going to be leafed through quite frequently during this module. One thing that I did notice, and I found particularly interesting, was that International Students’ Guide books were next to books on dyslexia, learning difficulties and ‘The Disabled Students’ Guide to University’…for some reason this says a lot (to me anyway), as it has been said that many international students learn as if they have learning difficulties largely dyslexia (I need to find the source of this information). I won’t talk more about the books as they have not yet been read! Also, there have been other points of reference from the last 24 hours that have been particularly insightful and must be blogged.

Curriculum design books 1

Curriculum design books 2

Yesterday, as I was getting the train to the Perry Barr campus of BCU for the day, I came across the Guardian’s latest education article – ‘Once students went to university for education. Now it’s an ‘experience’ by .

“While students once went to university to get a higher education, now they go to be given an “experience” by that university.” – Peter Scott

The notion of “student experience” is unavoidable in university ethos and practice today. So what is the “experience”? Is it the learning journey that we discussed as a group the day before? Or is it the socio-cultural journey that the students develop as they learn in the educational and real-world environments? Is it supportive rather than indicative of Higher Education? As Peter states, ‘First, universities are meant to be places for exploration and experimentation. The whole point is that students do it by, to and for themselves. The danger with universities’ new enthusiasm for managing the student experience is that it may restrict the potential for exploration and experimentation.

As I questioned like Peter, is this just another management mantra: the “student journey”.’ There is so much educational marketing speak out in the public realm at the moment, it is difficult to know what is truth and what is “stuff”, “fluff” or “garble”…padding around the universities’ real policies and curriculum to make it sound like it will do, or what it should do. ‘There is a real risk that the “experience” will trump the “education”. Ideally students’ experiences, whether self-generated or handed down, should support their learning. Most universities try to do this, especially through learning support and course feedback.’ Also noted by Peter was that students’ clubs and societies had the same effect in term of providing learning support…could the extra curricula be more impactful than education itself? As he goes on to discuss, it is believed that students have the right to success and if they don’t succeed that it is someone else’s fault, when this isn’t the case. Surely, the student dictates their learning journey? Peter concludes on something that was repeatedly mentioned yesterday…’“putting students at the heart of the system”. It needs to be decoded.’ In fact, much of Higher Education needs to be decoded…but where to begin?

In the evening, I continued my reflections by watching the TED talk by Linda Hill on ‘How to Manage Collective Creativity’, a must-watch recommendation from Sonia Hendy-Isaac, the module leader. Here are my notes from the talk…perspectives which are very appropriate to the conversations we had throughout yesterday. Professor Linda Hill studies collective genius – the way great companies, and great leaders, empower creativity from many. In this talk, she discusses, ‘what’s the secret to unlocking the creativity hidden inside your daily work, and giving every great idea a chance through a set of tools and tactics to keep great ideas flowing from everyone in the company, not just the designated “creatives.”‘

Linda Hill TED talk 4

Linda Hill helps people to learn how to lead…leading innovation. If we want to build organisations that can innovate time and again, we must unlearn our conventional notions of innovation…innovation is anything new and useful, product or service, a process or way of organising, it can be incremental or breakthrough. Innovation as an Einstein moment is a myth…innovation is not about solo genius, it is about collective genius. Some things go through quickly, not necessarily in order…not considered finished until it is completely a wrap. At the heart of innovation is a paradox, you have to unleash the talents and passions of many people and you have to harness them into a work that is useful. Innovation is a journey, a type of collaborative problem solving usually among people who have different expertise and different points of view. Innovations rarely get created full blown…they are usually the result of trial and error, false starts, mis-steps and mistakes. It can be exhilarating and scary.

Linda Hill TED talk 3

We have to ask ourselves, what is going on here? Innovative organisations are communities that have three capabilities:

  • Creative abrasion – being able to create a market place of ideas through debate and discourse…they amplify differences, it is not about brainstorming…they know how to have heated but constructive arguments to create a portfolio of alternatives…they learn how to enquire and actively listen, and advocate their point of view. They understand innovation rarely happens unless you have diversity and conflict;
  • Creative agility – test and refine that portfolio of ideas through quick pursuit, reflection and adjustment. It is about discovery driven learning where you act as oppose to plan your way to the future. It is design thinking…running a series of experiments not a series of pilots. Experiments are usually about learning;
  • Creative resolution – decision-making in a way that you can combine opposable ideas to reconfigure them in combinations to produce a solution that is really useful. These organisations don’t go along to get along…they instead develop a patient and inclusive decision-making process for both end solutions to arise.

Linda Hill TED talk 1

Another method is to allowed groups to emerge spontaneously around different alternatives…”big table” built on current system and “build it from scratch” built on a new system. “Injecting honesty into the process by driving debate”…”bump them up against reality to find out for themselves the strengths and weaknesses of their approach”. As the need for a solution became more important, it was clear that the big table solution was the right one for the moment, but to make sure that they did not lose the learning they used members from the build it from scratch to start a new group. We are all too busy for this inefficient system to run parallel projects versus the wisdom of allowing talented people to play out their passions.

Collaborative problem solving…discovery driven learning…innovative decision making.

Leadership is the secret sauce…but it is a different kind of leadership. If we want to build organisations that can innovate time and again, we must recast our understanding of what leadership is about. Leading innovation is creating the space where people are willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem solving. Innovation takes a village…building a sense of community and building those three capabilities. Leadership is about creating a world where people want to belong…living at the frontier…a sensibility of a public square where people  will interact, where anyone at any level can talk to the director…where the disruptors and minority can speak up and be heard…let’s bestow credit in a very generous way.

Talented people want to co-create the future…nurture the bottom up and not let it degenerate into chaos. How is the leaders role? Role model, human glue, connector, aggregator of viewpoints. How do you exercise this role? Hire people to argue with you and be deliberately fuzzy and vague. What are these people thinking? I’m not the visionary, I am the social architect creating a space for people are willing and able to share and combine their talents and passions.

Linda Hill TED talk 2

Seeing their role as setting direction…time for them to think about rethinking about what they were about to do. Stop providing answers and stopped providing solutions seeing those at the bottom of the pyramid, the young sparks, the people closest to the customers as the source of innovation and transfer growth to that level. Inverting the pyramid so that you could unleash the power of the many by loosening the string hold of the few and increase the quality and the speed of innovation every day. Leaders have to be visionaries who understand that this was not their role…it is their role is to set the stage not perform on it. If leaders want to create a better future, they have re-imagine their task…to create the space where everybody’s slices of genius can be unleashed and harnessed and turned into works of collective genius.

By happenstance, I found another point of reference through Asia Society New York’s e-newsletter that appeared in my inbox late last night…specifically documentation of their recent event ‘Educating for Citizenship in a Global World’ on 29 September 2015, as part of the Global Business Coalition for Education.

“We must educate a generation of global citizens — versed in human rights, culturally literate, skilled for intercultural dialogue, compassionate and committed to building a better world for all…Global citizenship education is an ethical imperative that must be integrated across curricula and taken on board by students, teachers, school administrators and universities.” – Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General

Sarah Brown Asia Society 1

What does a quality education mean in today’s globalised world? How do we advance that? It is so urgent the political will of the world has pulled behind it….this is starting the new era or maybe the first era of global education. Asia Society acts as a bridge between East and West serving the interests of the people’s of the world across Asia, across the West and more broadly.

“The challenges faced by the international community in providing a high-quality education for all youth, however, are substantial — and collaboration is needed.” – Josette Sheeran, President and CEO of Asia Society

Kevin Rudd, President of Asia Society Policy Institute opened the session by introducing speaker Sarah Brown, British campaigner for global health and education…a passionate humanitarian…woman of action determined to make a difference for the peoples of the world…by instinct they are global citizens. Kevin went on to say ‘education touches us all in one way or another, ignites passion…education is not just an item of social or economic policy, education is an item of foreign and security policy, education unlocks so much around the world, opening a future or keeps those doors closed. It is the most effective engine of equity in the world. Unless every girl and boy is provided with education we can kiss equity goodbye. How do we become effective exponents of education? We must provide the opportunities education delivers to otherwise people condemned to a ragged life and an awareness of differences and differences of perspective. About the world of the 21st Century…how many times have each of us stood up and delivered a speech or given a reflection on the nature of globalisation? Globalisation is preceding at a pace in ways that we can barely measure but our to capacity to evolve as human cultures with a sense which is a real of global citizenship lags far behind. Education is a key to that as well…to cause us in our minds to see ourselves as global citizens of the world, and being a citizen of a country.’

Sarah Brown Asia Society 2

The next speaker was (the very wonderful) Sarah Brown…we are coming out of the Millennium development goals…there are 60,000,000 children that still don’t get an education at all. The challenge is very great, yet I am encouraged that we are seeing a focus on education that we’ve never seen before, and also seeing an unlocking of political will to put education at the forefront of humanitarian crisis. The opportunity to pilot…test…expand different programmes. The voice of the private sector to continue to unlock political will..for them to look at some of the innovate solutions to take down the barriers that prevent children going to school. It is about providing a voice…about providing confidence. The private sector has the key opportunity to test these things out.

Lulu Wang from Asia Society stated political and economic agreements alone are not enough to build a lasting peace…UNESCO’s mission is to build peace in the minds of hearts in men and woman and there is no better way than through education and to start when they are young. The next speaker was Svein Østtveit, Director of the Education Sector of UNESCO, who stated ‘education is recognised as key in development and sustainable growth. The agenda is ambitious where all partners must work together in the best possible way. Today, marks the beginning of the post 2015 era and a truly universal commitment to sustainable development and peace. The 2030 agenda for sustainable development gives a common vision of the world we want for ourselves and future generations, as well as a road map for its realisation.’

“Education whether formal, non-formal or informal plays a critical role in this scheme as it has the potential to empower individuals to become active and constructive agents of sustainable change. If education is relevant and of good quality, that is covers all dimensions learning, cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural, it can nurture and transmit the knowledge, values, skills and attitudes that learners need throughout life to thrive in a globalised world, and contribute to the development of a more inclusive, just and peaceful society.” – Svein Østtveit

Asia Society 3

Holistic and transformative vision of education…what UNESCO calls ‘Global Citizenship Education’ (2014-2017 strategic area for UNESCO). It is a powerful catalyst for change, it equips learners of all ages with skills that are based on and instil respect for human rights, social justice, diversity, gender equality and environmental sustainability…it empowers learners to think and act as global citizens and promote a better world and future for themselves, their families, country and our planet.  ‘Global Citizenship Education’ seeks to respond to the well-established reality of our contemporary world. The local and global are politically, economically, socially and culturally interdependent and interconnected. In this context, younger generations need to acquire new skills and have access to life-long learning opportunities to ensure that they can continuously adapt to our fast changing worlds. Long term solutions to migrations, rise of violent extremism, climate change and poverty that have impact locally, need sustained global responses and the active engagement from women and men across the globe. Education of good quality is not only about learning how to read, write and count, it also promotes sustainable development and a sense of global citizenship.

Josette Sheeran, concluded the discussion by saying ‘we are at a game-changing moment for education, how do we move from aspiration to action?’ The UN has identified major challenges in terms of taking ‘Global Citizenship Education’ to the next level…

  • Revolutionising curricula to be more relevant to this century
  • Incorporating research into how children actually learn bringing this into the classroom throughout the world
  • Developing capacity of teachers
  • Helping school systems manage increased demands
  • Building and focussing the will of education stakeholders to make needed changes and to galvanise the world into action

Developing research over 12 years, the Asia Society is trying to answer what do teachers need to transform the classroom into something relevant today? How ready are nations for a globalised world? If the next generation are not ready for a globalised economy, it’s just not going to happen. Here’s a very short animation that explains it all in simple terms…

Here’s my summary of thoughts from the last 24 hours of discovery and reflection. During education and the curriculum design process, it is important to:

  • Think differently through repeated questioning, reframing, re-seeing through others eyes and minds
  • Ask, and collaborate with, others at all (stakeholder) levels…making me realise even more the importance of the peer-to-peer review process during this course
  • Try-fail-try again-fail and keep trying until something starts to make sense…the failure is as important as the success as part of any create process
  • Not rely on leadership, but to have a leader that enables you to facilitate and support your research and design process
  • Instigate creative communities, connections and collaborations
  • Change the will of stakeholders to make change happen
  • Make sure the student experience supports the learning journey
  • Common vision and goals achieved through interdependence and interconnection

Furthermore, keywords and phrases that resonated from these articles and presentations, some of which were mentioned in yesterday’s session when creating a philosophy for curriculum design, include:

  • Global citizenship/citizen
  • Road map for realisation
  • To equip and encourage
  • Unlocking (potential and opportunity)
  • Empowerment
  • Active and constructive agents of change
  • Ambition
  • Innovation, exploration and experimentation
  • Pilot…text…expand
  • Difference and resolution
  • Holistic and transformative

It feels ambitious to jump into the course from these local to global perspectives on education, and from such clear wants for global change in education systems, structures and learning journeys. For me, it is important to have this dream big attitude to make impactful and sustainable change happen, otherwise what are we doing it for? And when I say “it”…why are we changing educational systems and curricula? Why are we educators (and learners)? I’m asking WHY and won’t stop asking why. It was very much the adverb of yesterday’s presentations and discussions, and something that we constantly need to ask. Never stop questioning.

Going back to the individual (not group) philosophy (of curriculum) I created yesterday that I have realised is very wordic and badly phrased – “Curriculum is a dynamic, tailor-made, global adventure facilitated through international collaborative partnerships and practice-led learning, dedicated to cultural assimilation in arts education, towards independent thinking, confidence in the journey ahead and a conversation that keeps on unfolding.” – I feel that the 3,000 words written here have helped me to make more sense of what constitutes a philosophy and educational practice…and conversely, how my initial philosophy needs to be renegotiated and changed. I question whether it will constantly change(?).

Over 3,000 words in this post?! I think that’s enough reflection for one afternoon, although I’m not very good at stopping my trains of thought…constantly thinking. As I said, I looking for responses and contributions, so please get involved.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s