What is the nature and purpose of learning?
This is the first and perhaps most essential question for educators. When we inquire as to the ‘nature of learning’ we look to ‘how’ and ‘why’ humans have developed such a powerful capacity to learn. Perhaps this highly developed ability to learn is what makes us stand apart from other species. Additional questions spin out from this inquiry: is there one form or many forms of learning? And, if there are many, what are the characteristics of each? The answers to these questions are important for educators everywhere and they lay the foundation for further investigation on what makes a good teacher.
What makes a good teacher?
Although teaching is an age-old profession, the question of what makes a good teacher continues to attract considerable debate and discussion. This theme invites participants to consider multiple, often competing, discourses on teaching and learning and to critically reflect on the essence of “good” teaching for every learner. What are the essential skills of teaching in the 21st century? Framed by plenary lectures, participants will engage in group discussions to critically question the role of teachers in a variety of learning and development contexts.
NCI Professional Development Workshop by Teresa Whitaker based on the newly launched A Handbook and Tool Kit for Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Independent Higher Education Institutions in Ireland
Today more than ever, students of all ages are attending college to achieve higher qualifications and fulfil their work and life goals. The independent higher education sector continues to change and evolve in response to these needs. Yet despite numerous innovations in policy, infrastructure and technology there is still one simple truth that underpins our education system; it is that the quality of learning depends essentially on the quality of teaching.
Teaching and learning is what we do, it is at the heart of the college experience and there is no substitute for a fully resourced, accomplished teacher to encourage, guide and assess student attainment. Teaching in higher education, whether full-time or part-time, can and should be a life-enhancing, enjoyable and rewarding occupation. As educational institutions strive to provide high quality programmes, they face the challenge of recruiting the brightest and the best teachers. Higher education teachers need to be experts in their chosen field but they also need to quickly acquire the specialist skills and knowledge required for effective teaching. This is especially the case for part-time teachers who bring valuable experience from wider contexts into college classrooms.
This is why A Handbook and Tool Kit for Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Independent Higher Education Institutions in Ireland is such a valuable resource. It serves as a companion for college teachers to accompany their professional development journey. It provides the most up-to-date understanding of age old insights. Underpinning the entire work is an appreciation of central role of scholarly reflection and portfolio development as a means of teacher professional enhancement.
Teresa Whitaker has put together a comprehensive collection of resources and tied these to tools and connections to open our thinking. Placed at the heart of this resource, is an exercise on the development of one’s own ‘Personal Philosophy of Teaching’. It is an engaging and challenging exercise that serves as a compass point for all of us. In the maelstrom of technical and managerial approaches to teaching and learning, it is all too easy to overlook important qualities such as wellbeing, care, equality and inclusion.
International Option: Questions on education in a ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’
(Includes field trip to Glendalough, County Wicklow)
Ireland was once known as the ‘Land of Saints and Scholars’. The reputation derives from pre-medieval times when Ireland’s literary and monastic tradition stood apart during centuries of turmoil in European following the demise the Roman Empire.
Borrowing from this phrase, we ask several questions to challenge our implicit assumptions as educators. In the ‘saintly’ tradition, education is suggestive of models of perfection and predefined knowledge to be ordered and acquired. On the other hand, the ‘scholar’ tradition may imply knowledge as enticing and elusive; that which must be pursued through questions and discourse. Where do we stand on these positions?
There are also enduring questions on the interplay between religion and education. The history of Irish education largely comprises the history of religious involvement in education and the ramifications are still experienced today.
America has had its own issues with religion and education. The Great School Debates of the 19th century, brought to the fore by Irish immigration, provide a lens on the development of secular, public schools in the United States.
Pillars of Lifelong Learning: Personal Leadership and Respect for Others
In a world where the agenda for adult education and lifelong learning is dominated by workforce requirements, skill based policies and government regulation it is important not to loose sight of the personal, pastoral and emancipatory aspects of adult learning.
In this workshop we investigate notions of personal leadership and respect for others as two (very much related) pillars of education. We ask about ‘values’ as learning outcomes as we strive to work with others in an inclusive and respectful manner.
Furthermore, we seek to extend the traditional boundaries of school and college learning to encompass learning throughout the lifespan. Learning is part of life itself, it is something that we continue to do as long as we live – so long as we have a future we will need to learn.
The Future of Learning
This symposium looks to the future of education. We have invited international speakers to agitate our thinking and deliberately challenge the prevailing paradigm. We will ask fundamental questions on the role and purpose of schools and colleges and suggest alternatives and future possibilities. Underpinning the argument may be an even more essential question on the purpose of education: is it to reproduce or to transform the societies in which we live?