I’ve been at De Montfort University since 2002 leading on our agenda for education and technology or e-learning or technology-enhanced learning or enhancing learning through technology. In that time I’ve also been pursuing pedagogic research through: first, a raft of national/international projects; second, through publications; and third, as a National Teaching Fellow. This has drawn me increasingly into supporting pedagogic research and innovation across the University, through project work, mentoring, supporting DMU Teacher Fellow and National Teaching Fellow applications, setting up the DMU Academic Commons, and so on.
In late 2014 I set up a Centre for Pedagogic Research (following very useful conversations with Debbie Cotton at Plymouth), but within a year the General Election made it plain that the Government’s direction of travel was to re-focus higher education policy through a new Green and then White Paper, and both new policy and primary legislation. As a result we had to take a position on how to respond to both the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and any forthcoming REF. This catalysed conversations about building institutional capacity and capability related to pedagogic innovation, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and research in our Education Division, in order to create a structured environment for engaging with TEF and REF (Education Studies) at DMU.
The result of these conversations is the creation of a new Institute for Education Futures at DMU, of which I am Co-Director with Dr Sarah Younie. This is an end to my leadership of our education and technology agenda, and a new start in the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, although the IEF will have a cross-institutional role working with staff (and students). I have appended our working Vision and Objectives below. However, it is important to note four things in relation to the IEF at this point.
NOTE 1: The IEF’s work has a clear connection to DMU’s Strategic Framework, which is working towards a corporate step-change in pedagogic practice, innovation and scholarship, including the following.
- An explicit commitment to teaching quality, in all its forms.
- The creation of a stimulating teaching and learning environment re-framed through pedagogic innovation.
- The sustainability of a pedagogic culture rooted in student achievement.
The IEF will generate additional benefits for DMU, in terms of other Framework priorities: a scholarly culture that delivers research with impact; the social and economic development of Leicester (linked to #DMULocal) through research linked to social justice; and diverse international agendas (linked to #DMUGlobal).
NOTE 2: I have already signalled that I would like to see the IEF build capacity for pedagogic innovation democratically and co-operatively (taking on-board some of the co-operative leadership principles outlined in my work with Joss Winn and others), so that we can respond to and attempt to influence strategic priorities. Therefore, the work will be predicated upon:
- an (infra)structure that enables the sharing of academic practice, skills and knowledge by all staff (academic and professional services) and students;
- co-operative internal and external funding bids rooted in the TEF criteria of teaching quality, learning environment and student outcomes, alongside the REF focus on impact and environment;
- the facilitation of grassroots, concrete, thematic networks of educational and pedagogic practice, inside and outside the University; and
- a mentoring and peer review strategy for outputs and impact.
Sharing, co-operative, grassroots and peer-enabled. Other values and approaches are available.
NOTE 3: I have been an outspoken critic of the Government’s HE proposals for some time. I have blogged extensively about performance management, the TEF, the Green Paper and the White Paper on this blog and through peer review. I have also refused to apply for any post related to the implementation of the TEF. I remain in support of the Second Convention for HE’s aims, and I continue to work with those engaged with co-operative education. However, I work inside a University that is being recalibrated through policy and legislation as a competing business. Thus, my intention through the IEF is to continue to critique our current dystopic HE system, and work for a re-imagining of what HE might be, whilst accepting the concrete reality of my everyday existence inside the University, alongside the limitations that league tables, TEF/REF, and so on, place on my academic labour and my agency. That said, I will continue to work co-operatively for alternative possibilities in my everyday work, and this means working prefiguratively inside the University (in terms of deliberation, values, governing principles and so on). It is crucial that we are able to demonstrate what else might be possible. The maxim here is Render unto Caesar… (cheers Klaus).
NOTE 4: I hope that the IEF will emerge as a self-critical scholarly community, with a level of internal, co-operative self-governance that enables people to find their voice. The focus on Futures in the Institute title is important, and it suggests possible utopias, such as those hinted at by the University of Utopia. Our work may sit against the nostalgic futures craved by Astrov in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (thanks @nosnilwar), but it is more likely to be a re-focusing of potential energy on re-imagining that which continues to be defined for us as a productive educational life, so that we can describe an alternative, social commonwealth.
The Institute for Education Futures (IEF) will place De Montfort University at the heart of a global pedagogic and educational network engaged in the dynamic interrelationships between educational processes and societies. The IEF will be a bridge between education sectors and types of provider. It will catalyse policy-into-practice, so DMU can address crucial questions about educational futures and become world-leading in this field.
The objectives of the IEF are as follows.
- To act as a bridge between REF and TEF activities.
- To act as a bridge between different sectors of formal and informal educational practice.
- To build a REF202X Education Studies submission.
- To establish a distinctive scholarship culture, in order to inform DMU’s engagement with the TEF, and the delivery of the University Learning Teaching and Assessment Strategy, including support for individual pedagogic projects.
- To widen and deepen DMU’s educational and pedagogic research culture, including support for early-career researchers and for career-progression, and through publication and public dissemination
- To create one unified research unit, combining and amplifying research in the Learning Futures Institute, the Centre for Pedagogic Research, and the Education Research Group.
The view from my new office is quite nice, if you ignore the car park (unless you like car parks).