You’re unaware of getting politicised at first.
It takes a key to unlock the door and this is what higher education does. Helps you see the world a different way – at least, I believe it should.
I’m an educator who’s worked in HE for 18 years as adviser, academic and researcher – so I would think that wouldn’t I?!
As women we’re bought up to be quiet and compliant, regardless of what’s going on around us. I’m thinking #Femedtech and how Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell’s presentation at the #ALT18 conference fired up my resistance to the invisibility of motherhood in the workplace. This is turn led to a couple of ‘coming-out’ posts with regard to feminism e.g. political and critical, a personal reflection
This week I’m left wondering if our complicit silence is part of the problem?
Should I make more noise?
Maybe I’m not political enough.
Maybe I should shout more from the rooftops – look at me – how I got here – what I offer…
So here it is…
Silent no more!
I was politicised without knowing it. Even working with users of assistive technologies, I made opportunities for digital development without questioning why they were necessary in the first place.
Working for a national Epilepsy charity, I was fascinated by the negative cultural constructions around epilepsy but didn’t question their dissemination.
A decade earlier, my first degree had expanded my knowledge but not my critique, while my first Masters in Gender Studies introduced poststructuralism and postmodernism, but – I later realised – I was grasping them as theoretical concepts without application to real world situations.
It was 2000. A fin de siècle in digital terms but even the significance of that passed me by.
In 2007, the Centre for Educational Research and Development at the University of Lincoln was created from a merger between teaching and learning development with international education leadership. We kicked off with the Learning Landscapes project followed by Student as Producer while co writing two books The Future of Higher Education Policy, Pedagogy and the Student Experience and Towards Teaching in Public Reshaping the Modern University. During this time, I co-wrote Social Work in a Digital Society, successfully applied for external funding, took the lead in a HEA Change Academy programme, led a whole institution approach to embedding open education and supporting the experience of international students. I developed the Getting Started project from a single school to a whole institution approach to transition, completed a second Masters in Open and Distance Education and started a PhD. I was also researching, publishing and travelling the world presenting and disseminating my practice in inclusive education and supporting the student experience in virtual environments.
This is where I come from.
My politics were informed through the critical pedagogy of Friere, Giroux and hooks. Surrounded by a cohort of revolutionary Marxists, my previous experiences began to make sense. I saw the structures of discrimination but learned to resist understanding class as the ultimate determinant of inequality. Gender, disability, age, ethnicity etc all play their part.
Inequalities still matter to me, as does widening opportunities for accessing higher education, which surely remains a root of social citizenship in the future.
‘…courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.’ (Robbins, 1963:8)
‘…increasing participation in higher education is a necessary and desirable objective of national policy over the next 20 years. This must be accompanied by the objective of reducing the disparities in participation in higher education between groups and ensuring that higher education is responsive to the aspirations and distinctive abilities of individuals.’ (Dearing, 1997: 101)
‘…the extent to which institutional concerns over status are mutually exclusive with the aims of widening participation is unclear…’ (Evans et. al. (2007:13)
‘Universities have made considerable progress in this area in recent years, but there is more work to be done…more effective evaluation of policies and interventions is needed. We need to improve the use of data in driving future developments and a focus on ‘what works’ underpinned by a robust and systematic use of the evidence.’ (Universities UK, 2018)
Widening participation can only be as successful as the extent to which support for learning and teaching addresses the increasing diversity of student cohorts. The answers lie in enhancing the quality of teaching with the appropriate design of opportunities for active student learning, through a data informed approach to programmes as well as modules.
Once an educator always an educator.
Once the politics are out of the box there’s no squeezing them back in.
For a decade I worked in community development, My time in higher education has been about transferring what I learned about social and digital exclusion to staff and students, in particular in health care and practice placement. On Monday I facilitated a workshop on the use of social media for students going into professional practice placement. An hour later I learned my role was excluded from the new Directorate structure.
Maybe it’s time to leave the ivory towers and return to the community, taking back some of the lessons from campus, politics and all, going back to my roots.
Hey ho, ho, ho – it will soon be Christmas. The new year might be starting in a different place to what I expected but I’m a great believer in new doors opening when existing ones close. One thing is for sure, if the PhD gets finished sooner rather than later, that can only be a good thing- can’t it?