Monday, November 18, 2013

Flexible learning: six new ideas

A recent HEA (Higher Education Academy) report highlighted in this Guardian article elaborates six new ideas for flexible learning, arguing that "flexibility should be seen as a skill in its own right, rather than a method of teaching"  The six areas are:

  • Learner empowerment – actively involving students in learning development and processes of co-creation
  • Future-facing education – enabling people to think critically, creatively and flexibly to generate alternative visions of the future
  • Decolonising education – extending intercultural understanding and experiences of students so they can be sensitive to global ways of working
  • Transformative capabilities – seeing capabilities not just as abilities but being able adapt a skill to be used in both familiar and unfamiliar circumstances
  • Crossing boundaries – to support interdisciplinary, interprofessional and cross-sectoral learning
  • Social learning – developing cultures and environments for learning that harness the emancipatory power of spaces and interactions outside the formal curriculum, particularly through the use of new technologies and co-curricular activities. 
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is held up as an exemplar.  I would claim that our STiP (Systems Thinking in Practice) Postgraduate programme, like ESD, offers many, perhaps all, of these flexibilties. We would certainly like to further strengthen moves in this direction in time.  See for example the following chapter which relates to one of the core offerings in the programme:

Blackmore, C.P. & Ison, R.L. (2012) Designing and developing learning systems for managing systemic change in a climate change world. In Wals, A. & Corcoran P.B. eds. Learning for sustainability in times of accelerating change. pp. 347-364.  Wageningen Academic Publishers, Education and Sustainable Development Series, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Based on our OU experience with Systems education I would suggest that the researchers have missed one key 'flexibility' that of epistemological flexibility - the ability to appreciate one's epistemological commitments and traverse  multiple epistemologies. This is a flexibility that the STiP programme sets out to address.

My thanks to Chris Blackmore for alerting me to this report.

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