Calibrating? Connecting? Consistently? (1)

On one level. that is what we do. All the time. We are planners, time and distance travellers. How much? Will it get us there? Every time? That is what we mean. But where is the “there” to which we want to get? And for whom do we want to get there? And who we?

Is there an effective broad, multi-adjectival, liberal, reflective, egalitarian, communal, woke, inclusive educational development tradition tracing ancestry to Dewey and Vygotsky with classical, marxist, cartesian, utilitarian, liberation and rational wellsprings, too?

Surely it is simpler than that.

Doesn’t the first rule apply?

And, why the admonitory tone?

There is a big “but” here.

I want to avoid the unexamined totalising/totalitarian “we” meaning “I” and yet also to claim some public – even (civic?) – space, if only for a moment. Participating in re-claimed space – not colonising it – is one way of paying a debt to we t’ing and our world.

I am returning to a question that I broached in my doctorate: there are the excluded and there are those who exclude (Roberts 2011: 27). And, as I suggested, the personal is still political (ibid.). That is how – at my university, anyway – the professoriate and SMT are chocks with the distaff half. But, there persists a challenge for people of colour. Or so it appears to me.

This is the beginning of an enquiry. I have been chewing on it since before Christmas.  I am using Scheffler’s (1965) three-part epistemology: knowing, doing and being, to explore an academic development framework that persisted for about 20 years (Oxford Brookes ~1993 – ~2012).  The “framework” aimed to be collectively owned, valued and experienced, part of the good staff experience, essential to education, underpinning academic quality and offered some (but by no means all) measures we needed to attend to, particularly those concerned with life after university: employability or leading a “life of consequence”.

Scheffler referred to the Rational, the Empirical and the Pragmatic as ways of being consistent (reasonable) in the: weight (calibre) of attention and presence (altogether: reliability) that we bring to our activity in relationships or connections. Academic development was grounded in these critical-theoretical principles.

We might know we were succeeding by our objectives, which were (once, anyway) to:

  • Expand networks of connections;
  • Span boundaries of ideas and things;
  • Establish foundations of local education quality;
  • Identify behaviours contributing to that quality;
  • Give presence, attention and work effectively in and across our fields;
  • Develop and refine measures we want and need (and have).
    [paraphrased items from Vice Chancellor’s longer list presented to the Dec 2017 SMT conference]

And, here is the big “but”. If I/we know, and have for years been promoting transformative learning (Mezirow 1997) based on dialogic and similar principles (e.g. Freire 1974, Chickering and Gamson 1987; Activity Theory, Communities of Practice, etc.), why do I still find learners, institutions and the curriculum in such tension, in an environment of ambiguity, anxiety, power and ideology (Morrison 2014; Roberts 2015)?

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