George Roberts

This blog is largely about learning, knowledge and understanding: call it justice, identity and community; or equity, diversity and belonging. I think the epi-stem is the same.

I am adjusting to spending my pension, to being something other than my income generation activity. But the keyboard, the screen and the classroom defined much of me to myself for many years. From 1986 to 2020 I worked in education, learning, teaching and research and skills. Before that, from 1973-1987 (there was some overlap), I mostly earned money as a sous chef. I was a good journeyman kitchen worker and worked in some nice places in the US and UK. I was also a student and latterly an academic.

I always (well, since I was 16) wrote poetry. There is one here. Many were collected in When Life Looks Like Easy Street, Albion Beatnik, 2014 https://www.abpress.co.uk/books/when-life-

I am starting another collection here: Peaceful.

I worked at Oxford Brookes University from August 2000 until August 2020. A neat 20 years. I started in “Business Development” and subsequently became “Development Director for Off-Campus eLearning”. I didn’t, to be honest, “develop” much. I advised the Head of e-Learning and the Senior Management Team of the University on policy for off-campus e-learning and e-learning partnerships. I like to think I helped the University not to make big expensive mistakes.  I joined the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development OCSLD in June 2006 as a Senior Lecturer and Educational Development Consultant (e-Learning). I led the  Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education (PCTHE) and the MA Education (Higher Education) module “Philosophy and Policy of Higher Education”. And, I taught on many other educational development activities, workshops and consultancies. My doctorate (July 2011) at the University of Southampton investigated biographical narratives of adult users of a community IT centre on a large estate.

  • Roberts, George. 2011. ‘What Do You Do with Your Community IT Centre? Life Stories, Social Action and the Third Space: A Biographical Narrative Interpretive Study of Adult Users of a Community IT Centre.’ PhD Thesis, Southampton, UK: University of Southampton. http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/174235/.

With colleagues, I won funding for a number of large support and synthesis projects for the JISC and was funded by the Higher Education Academy to develop one of the first MOOCs to carry academic credit: First Steps into Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. I also study the pedagogical, social and technical dimensions of learning nationally and internationally. I am interested in the interactions between personal identity and the values and beliefs that are embedded in the outcomes and artefacts of learning. Previously, I taught on the Open University MA course, “Language and Literacy in a Changing World”. I was on the Executive Committee of the  Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and head of the organising committee of the ALT-C conference from 2005-2007.

I prefer to envisage the progression of learning not through a metaphor of upward linear or hierarchical ascension but rather as a journey through concentric layers towards the core or heart of communities of knowledge, inquiry or practice: think of tree rings or onions. I take a broad social perspective on learning (Goodman, Lillis et al. 2003). Learning occurs through purposeful activity (Leont’ev 1978 ) and reflection (Dewey 1933), and with the use of tools. My vision is informed by Wenger and Lave’s community of practice theory (Lave and Wenger 1991; Wenger 1998). Through purposeful engagement with communities of practice people progress from a state of peripheral participation on the margins of a community towards a state of mastery of the forms and norms of the community at its heart. Like Peer Gynt’s onion the journey is never complete; there are always more layers to be investigated. This journey is sometimes mirrored by progression in formal education from school to college to university, but as often as not is supported by episodes of informal and semi-formal learning which may or may not be accredited. This may take place in institutions of education, but perhaps more often occurs in the workplace, the home, the community centre and all the other places where people interact. In Educational Development I am seeking to model this journey through layers and to test the model in discrete parts.

For 10 years before joining Brookes I was an instructional designer and training consultant in the international energy industry.

Elsewhere I am on: