We hoped that this theme would inspire us to consider the ways that our work impacts change on a broader level through the relationships that we forge within our communities of teaching and learning. After critical reflection during the POD Network’s 40th anniversary where we looked inward about our own practices, we turned to look outward to consider the types of relationships that would help us to expand our impact and engage in Paolo Freire’s vision of dialogic leadership.
“…to fail to think with the people is a sure way to cease being revolutionary leaders.”
—Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Inspired by Freire’s charge, we invited educational developers to explore how to build deeper connections within our institutions and larger societies. How can these personal connections be seen as gateways to transforming our own professional practices and values, encouraging deep learning for our students and strengthening educational and organizational development missions on micro, meso, and macro-levels? Intentional focus on transformative relationships challenged us to take a direct look at the importance of person-to-person interactions. It called for a shift from focusing only on outcomes and results to emphasizing genuine connections and shared growth. It called us to go beyond the status quo and to dream of new opportunities to improve the quality of higher education—together. How do you and the people you work with relate to each other? How might learning be deepened by strengthening relationships?
We need to work together with our students, colleagues, partners, allies, mentors, and kindred spirits within and outside the institutions where we work in order to cultivate this type of community-engaged learning in the classroom and beyond. Through these relationships we can work towards fostering cultures of deep learning on a broader level. These collaborations may allow us to think beyond the status quo and challenge us to take action towards our shared vision of higher education.
In order to work more intentionally with our communities towards fostering cultures of deep learning, we offered up the following questions for consideration:
- What opportunities do we as educational developers have in engaging the beliefs of students, faculty, administrators and public policy makers about the values and benefits of deep learning?
- How can we support and encourage partnering with students in the enterprise of deep learning?
- What might students, faculty, administrators and public policy makers think about how closely our current practices do the work of deep learning?
Thinking about deep learning at a cultural level also helped us consider how we need bigger structures to support and enable those practices.
- In what ways is fostering deep learning rewarded in our institutions?
- How is deep learning captured in the way that our institutions and policy makers measure success and then supported in key decisions about funding, human resources, tools, and facilities?
- How might we mobilize the “O” in POD and engage with the organizational focus of our profession to think at a structural level?
- How can we ensure strong links between everyday practices in the classroom and the mission of the institution?
- How can we broker engagement between the grassroots communities and top level leadership to encourage transformation organically?
- How do we lay the groundwork for transforming paradigms, cultures, and structures?
- How can we keep relationships going strong even through the difficult moments of implementing change, such as a curriculum redesign?
Thinking about collaborations in academic contexts might led us to think about the way we structure the production of knowledge in our institutions.
- Are we siloed within our disciplinary and hierarchical roles?
- Do we have language and practices that could allow us to foster connections across these traditional boundaries?
- What of the boundaries between institutions of higher education, policy makers and the public in general?
- How might a culture of deep learning help us forge relationships that work on the tension that often exists at these boundaries? (What are the tensions that have traditionally kept us from engaging in transformative relationships across boundaries?)
- How can we engage with the various motivations that students and faculty bring to courses when creating learning experiences at different institutions?
Thinking about the potential for technology to enhance and provide new opportunities for learning might led us to consider the ways that we can utilize and develop tools to expand collaboration and access to education.
- How do we encourage faculty and graduate students to leverage technology to create spaces to learn and collaborate in ways that we haven’t learned before?
- How can educational developers collaborate with teachers and students to envision ways technology can be used to decrease learning barriers?
- How might educational developers participate in institutional decision making about how to employ technology to expand access to higher education?
- How might educational developers use technology to mediate encounters between students and communities in order to generate opportunities for understanding and mutually envisioned innovation?
Finally, thinking about the ways we express the value of deep learning opened up space to re-imagine traditional approaches to assessment of student learning, curricula, programs, and institutions as well as our own work as educational developers.
- How well do current approaches to assessment of student learning and curricular effectiveness capture deep learning?
- How can we imagine approaches to assessment that are sufficiently individualized to capture depth but sufficiently standardized to be manageable and sustainable?
- How might we work across the boundaries between institutions of higher education and communities, industries, and government to develop assessment methods that measure student learning by real world standards?
- How can we engage our communities in assessing the effectiveness of our educational development practices?
- If we define excellence in educational development practices in part by the extent to which we engage in collaborative engagement with our communities, how might that transform our approaches to educational development?
Just as the fabric of any culture is comprised of the connections between its threads, so too must a culture of deep learning bring all of these partners and their perspectives together in order to achieve a transformative impact.