Week 22: 11th – 17th February
I often enjoy looking at the bigger picture and the different factors that connect things, so it was with this in mind that I set about contemplating this week’s blog post: the structures of education and academic culture and my position within it.
Universities are made up of so many different faculties, schools and centres that it’s quite difficult to get your head round even when you’re in the middle of it. So how do we discover and encourage ways of engagement with existing and potential students?
One such development I’ve noticed is an increase in widening participation activities from colleges and universities. What this means, broadly speaking, is the delivery of activities which aim to promote further study to primary and secondary schools, especially in areas where there is a perceived lack of engagement in education.
I find this interesting as a strategy as it’s useful to put earlier learning into a wider context, and also relates to the focus on research-led teaching in universities, basically linking up the different levels of the academy to develop awareness of possible career progressions.
These kind of activities (I hope) also aim to encourage an increased interest in learning for its own sake, to develop autonomous learners. This is something that is not just of use to a career in research, but in any entrepreneurial pursuit.
The shift towards connecting undergraduate and postgraduate courses is also beneficial, and was something that I had little knowledge or awareness of when I was at undergraduate level. Thankfully a degree in art practice is very research focused and naturally autonomous anyway, so the step up towards researching wasn’t insurmountable.
It wasn’t until embarking on the PhD that I discovered the existence of research networks and centres, which generally are made up of researchers from different faculties, but who have a common interest.
For instance, one of my supervisors has recently been involved with setting up The Centre for Comparative Histories of Print or Centre CHoP for short. The centre is made up of researchers across the university and aims to bring together research expertise in history, literature, languages and cultures, visual arts, communication studies, computing, law, social sciences, and library studies.
The most obvious outcomes for this kind of centre and research fit within an academic context. However, research groups can also facilitate impact studies and policy development outside of the academy and there are specific schemes in place to connect researchers and stakeholders from other fields, such as the AHRC Research Networking Fund.
This links back to the idea of impact and what the benefit of the research is to the wider body of knowledge. Thankfully, this isn’t something I have to worry about as yet, but it’s definitely something I’ll be discussing later.
So thinking back to my original question of engaging learners of all levels in the process of learning for it’s own sake, makes me wonder about the possibilities of a research group culture at all levels of education. Could this be used to encourage learners to resolve particular questions autonomously, and could it also lead to benefits in the field of audience interpretation in galleries?