As I mentioned in an update quite a while back, I’ve been working on an article entitled ‘Teaching, In Spite of Teaching Excellence’ that was for a planned special issue of Studies in Philosophy and Education on the theme of ‘Education, in Spite of it All’. Most of the articles that were written for the special issue are now available online:
My own contribution is now available (open access) here:
In line with the theme of the special issue, it is an attempt to move beyond the critique of higher educational reform and consider, in the light of what Emile Bojesen calls a ‘new version of optimism,’ some of the tactical opportunities such reforms may present. As I hope the article makes clear – I say this because one of the peer reviewers criticized the article for seeming to endorse the idea of teaching excellence itself – the intention was to criticize the TEF as well as the predominant critical response to the TEF, which tended to fixate on the idea of the ‘student as consumer’ and so promote various pedagogical strategies for activating or engaging the student as co-producers or co-creators of their learning. I’ve been interested for a while in how, at a very general level, the critical discussion of students as mere consumers not only risks producing the very passiveness and alienation it objects to but, more specifically, tends to oversimply a more complicated picture of the transformation of English HE, in which the basic model of ‘commodification’ doesn’t fully capture issues related to the price of a degree (because of the capping of fees and because of loan repayments), let alone the value (because of the labour of both waged staff and unwaged learners), and so complicates the mode of consumption inferred from that basic model (if it was ever really valid in the way it has been used to caricature the supposedly passive consumption of commodities). As always, the critical work of Andrew McGettigan is inspirational here (see, most recently, his discussion of the price of undergraduate degrees).
Having sought to unpick the idea of ‘student as consumer’ by suggesting the ways in which theories of human capital are much more concerned with increasing the productivity of investments of time and money (using the work of Bill Readings as a focus in order to concentrate on the discourse of excellence but also to widen the discussion out in relation to teaching and research), the article then proposes an alternative response to what it argues is the rhetorical dominance of ‘research-led teaching’ that follows from this within higher education. Trying to remain perversely optimistic, it puts forward the principle of ‘teaching-led research’ as a tactic for engaging with institutional responses to the TEF.