Bristol Conversations in Education - Freedom to learn at university
Professor Bruce Macfarlane
Room 4.10, School of Education, 35 Berkeley Square, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1JA
This event is part of the School of Education's 'Bristol Conversations in Education' seminar series.
Speaker: Professor Bruce Macfarlane
The student engagement movement has become a worldwide phenomenon and national student engagement surveys are now well-established internationally. Curriculum initiatives closely associated with student engagement policies include compulsory attendance requirements, class contribution grading, group and team working assignments and reflective exercises often linked to professional and experiential learning. These types of initiatives grade students for their ‘time and effort’ and commitment to active and participatory approaches to learning. They are justified by reference to both active learning as a new pedagogic orthodoxy along with the improvement of retention rates and achievement levels. However, these policies have led to practices that constrain the extent to which higher education students are free to make choices about what to learn, when to learn and how to learn. Forms of student performativity – bodily, participative and emotional – have been created that demand academic non-achievements to be acted out in a public space. A higher education is, almost by definition, intended to be about adults engaging in a voluntary activity but the performative turn in the nature of student learning is undermining student rights as learners - to non-indoctrination, reticence, choosing how to learn, and being trusted as an adult - and perverting the Rogerian meaning of ‘student-centred’. This presentation will be based on arguments presented in a recent book entitled Freedom to Learn (Routledge, 2017).