A Place for Space – Pedagogy as a Bridge between Declarations and Realization
The Bologna process demarcates the rationale of Higher Education through its vocabulary. Evolvement of thinking education as competence-driven has had a multifold impact during two decades (Drudy, Gunnerson & Gilpin 2008). Stating that language matters to education; discursive practices constitute what can be said, known and done (Biesta 2004), we wish to contribute to the critique offered against the marketisation of education. Tynjälä & al. (2011) argue how words like “competence” and “learning outcomes” support an instrumentality in educational practice. Our suggestion, for the purpose of reclaiming the value of pedagogy in education, explores new interpretations.
Our aim is to highlight an ongoing action research process. One concern is to unfold some of the hidden potential in the Bologna vocabulary when related to an articulated interpretation of a pedagogical policy. The other focal point is our ambition is to build up platforms for educative purposes where planners and teachers reflect upon the relation between rhetoric and action. The ability among staff to examine professional knowledge cannot be taken for granted but supported.
Higher professional Education bears a potential in a contribution to bridging the contradictions in vocabulary, is grounded in the mission it holds. Reconstructivism (Englund 1999) as an underpinning philosophy in the policy requires a continuous dialogue between students, teachers, users, stakeholders and researchers to create means for a double consciousness; the educational responsibility and the societal. Learning as inquiry emphasizes education as a vehicle for change.
This study belongs to a wider project concerning pedagogical development at Arcada. We are taking a holistic, integrative and reflexive approach to enhance critical thinking required for becoming professionals in a complex reality. If studies are to enlarge students´ scope of recognizing societal problems and negotiating on multiple perspectives and solutions; this kind of curriculum challenges academic staff to articulate a position. It is anchored; placed, in a theoretical framework as a part of action research. The pedagogy of place indicates that both material and situational dimensions, as well as an attuned relationship between educator and student, create the pedagogic event (Løvlie 2007). The platform needs to be nurtured by engagement, imagination and alignment (Wenger 1998); which means that space for participation is to be arranged and created. Our assumption is that entering a process of pedagogical reflection opens up the gap between declarations of visions and ambitions on one hand and the realization of studies on the other. Regarding situation a part of a contextual consciousness, especially valuable when it both shapes and is shaped by the action taking place, our theoretical argumentation includes a Vygotskian (1978) and a Deweyan (1938, 1999) approach. Dewey´s starting point, interaction, focuses on the pedagogical event as a unity; i.e. a situation. Vygotskij´s notion of the context as an arena for cultural development grounds the social nature of knowing and coming to know. The tension between knowing and knowledge is crucial to address when competence is elaborated.
This study is realized as a participatory action research project that involves the researchers as well as all the practitioners in the context. Our assumption is a commitment working for the best practice and for long-term consequences. The goal of action research is to improve practices. Reaching this goal action research also aims to change understanding of the practice and the conditions and settings for the practices as well as increasing control over processes of educational reform. Critical action research is emancipatory in means of finding new social structures to cope with social change. (Kemmis & McTaggert 2005, Wells 2001) By implementing a new pedagogical policy we support participation in discussions of critical thinking and reflection. Along the process we collect data in form of written documents, research dairies and recorded discussions from existing platforms for cooperation.
A self-reflective spiral is typical for action research. The spiral is composed by steps of planning, acting and observing, and reflecting in several cycles. It is a social action in collaborative terms that study, reframe and reconstruct social practice. (Carr and Kemmis, 1986) In our case we can recognize three cycles of negotiation concerning pedagogical understanding, platforms of collaboration and contextual consciousness.
The development of a pedagogic policy has resulted in an explicit concept for learning called “a place for space” affecting the everyday work and opening up for a more structured pedagogical dialogue among the academic staff. Our result depicts how the concept is realized in practice with focus on:
- how a deeper and more reflected understanding of the vocabulary of competencies and learning outcomes are viewed as obstacles and support for educational arrangements and design of learning
- how the pedagogical development is supported and carried out in various physical, social and virtual environments
- how creative problem solving is manifested in a dialogue between teachers
- how learning processes when seen as contextual are planned in collaboration between the university and the working life.
Outcomes in a long time perspective are reflected in a context of application and thereby
connected to societal needs for social innovations.
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