Monday, August 23, 2010

Generic or discipline-specific?

Young, P (2010) Generic or discipline-specific? An exploration of the significance of discipline-specific issues in researching and developing teaching and learning in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 47 (1) pp. 115-124

This was a paper that said one thing and did another in many respects. The over-riding message is that generic pedagogies are utilised across disciplines but they be addressed in discipline contextualised ways. It outlined the differences in teaching disciplines but demonstrated the similar skills required in learning them.

A sad fact was that teaching is so unrecognised as a significant skill in academia, and that actually engaging a community of scholars requires researching within their discipline to be respected by them because a) it's research and b) it's about them.

And I guess that is the same as the disconnect (and fusion) between/of perception and reality. Perception is reality; it is a self-fulfilling prophesy and creates itself in it's own image. So no wonder academia can be accused of living in ivory towers, it can be self-serving. I think most non-academics see Universities as places of learning, of scholarship, of providing the professional workforce of tomorrow. But within Universities it seems that it is primarily about research and expanding knowledge. Although they may be two sides of the same coin they are facing away from each other.

But I digress. If I take the reading on threshold concepts and add it to the generic skills of scholarship (the development of higher cognitive skills, transferable skills such as problem-solving; researching; analysis of data; presentation of information in written form; oral presentation; working with others; action planning and time management) means transferring the responsibility of learning to the student. They are like vampires, they need to be invited over the threshold and greedily suck the guts out of a subject before their ideas become immortalised. It's not about the teacher, its about the students being instrumental in their attitude to learning.

So content needs to be contested to be absorbed even in the Pure/Hard disciplines, and although this is true across all disciplines it will only be adopted if a discipline-based approach to educational research and development is pursued, because (Healy and Jenkins, 2003 cited by Young)
  1. The primary allegiance of academic staff to a discipline as a basis for professional identity
  2. The distinctive forms of teaching found in some disciplines
  3. The particular conceptions of knowledge found in disciplines which need to be understood for curriculum development
  4. The culture and concerns of particular disciplines
  5. The importance of research in the discipline for academics
So its about contextualising the generic issues.

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