The Teaching Excellence Alliance: Navigating the unknown: exploring new models of higher education and pedagogy for future-facing skills development and sustainable graduate success
In their seminal text Future Shock (1970), futurologists Alvin and Heidi Toffler describe a future state in which the perception of individuals and entire societies is of “too much change in too short a period of time”. This, like many of their predictions, proved unerringly accurate with graduates worldwide facing an increasingly fast-paced, fluid, highly competitive, demanding, global workplace. The fiscal, political, social, technological, cultural and environmental forces have resulted in an environment of constant change creating challenges for graduates entering the world of work.
To survive and prosper in this future state graduates must be infinitely more adaptable and capable than ever before: Higher education is challenged to meet this expectation. Universities must be globally connected, locally active and regionally effective. The traditional role of the university, producing knowledge through research and developing knowledge through teaching is no longer sufficient in and of itself. The nature of these activities must not only result in impact on student outcomes and in research publications, but also contribute to social good, economic generation, to the regional community and to the efforts of our global community. Universities have become key institutions in addressing the big issues that face our planet . At the heart of this contribution lies innovation and idea creation. Developing the people, capabilities and environments which can, in themselves, successfully foster and sustainably develop impactful knowledge and people is a necessary focus for higher education.
The challenge landscape for UK higher education includes external demands and drivers focused on:
● The UK productivity challenge ;
● the development of digital technologies, industry 4.0 and the onset of automation;
● the need to respond to Governmental agendas and strategies including; the UK skills agenda, the Industrial Strategy, the social mobility agenda;
● the need to explicitly and more effectively demonstrate its value to wider society (the Civic University).
To meet these challenges there is a growing recognition that graduates need enterprising / entrepreneurial / intra-preneurial capabilities and mind-set if they are to be effective within a constantly evolving context that recognises rapid change as normal. As Toffler predicted the way to enable students to respond to this context and navigate the unavoidable future shocks is by enabling students to ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’. (ibid.)
With the converging change agendas above and the increasing societal and industrial impacts of transformative technologies in mind, it is essential for higher education to recognise that deep disciplinary knowledge is no longer key to sustained and sustainable graduate success, and that knowledge no longer equates to power. In place of an industrial landscape, which previously sought highly skilled disciplines organised around traditional subjects, a new understanding of what might constitute technical and professional is emerging. This future-focused thinking positions interdisciplinarity alongside productive relationships, and personal resilience and adaptability, as the key personal capitals on which the sustainable successes of the future will be built.
In order to develop these personal capabilities-as-capital, and position themselves for sustained long-term success, students must therefore engage in (higher) education in a different manner. Students should move beyond a transactionalism associated with the notion of being a ‘consumer’ of education-as-product (knowledge acquisition) and move towards the idea of being a ‘co-producer’ of their education. This experiential ideation of a future self is achieved through a co-created experience (focused development of self as a 21st Century citizen, carrying the key capabilities-as-capital of; productive relationships, interdisciplinarity and resilient problem-solving adaptability).
Given this, higher education must look beyond the habitual idea of the traditional degree programmes and associated modes and models of learning, to new means of facilitating the development of these personal capabilities in the graduate as a global citizen. Teaching in higher education is still predominantly discipline-centric, determining the internal organisation of institutions and the design and delivery of the curriculum. This is largely predicated on the premise that dissemination and acquisition of disciplinary knowledge is the end goal for the tutor and student, rather than simply being the lens through which flexible, agile and adaptable capabilities-as-capital are gained. However, with the wider landscape above in mind, many universities are starting to highlight and consider a more competency and capability-centric learning journey, which embeds transferable capabilities and interdisciplinary thinking that will enable graduates to thrive in portfolio careers within a fluid, volatile and connected environment.
There needs to be a significant shift in emphasis in our higher education practice: moving from disciplinary knowledge silos and traditional andragogies of knowledge acquisition to outward-facing, demand-led, problem-based models of cross-institutional collaborative teaching and learning. These effectively position the development of a matrix of personal capabilities-as-capital as core curriculum and need to be developed to foster the 21st Century graduate.
Mindful of sustained and sustainable graduate success in a future world of work significantly disrupted by the rapid and accelerating ubiquity of technologies, the TEA programme engages universities across our higher education sector. It urges us to examine emergent and emerging models and modes of teaching practice and andragogy that focus on the development of key personal capabilities-as-capital for the 21st Century: conscious curiosity, design-led compassion and empathy; and personal resilience and persistence.
The TEA seeks, through webinars, networks, collaborative CPD, Accelerator Projects and Special Interest groups,
1. problematize this changing landscape and generate debate and discussion across universities, industry, commerce, business and government about the nature of a future facing technical and professional graduate for whom change is a constant;
2. capture and highlight existing andragogies, practices and impacts through case studies and exemplars from across the higher education sector, positioning these as a baseline for future innovation;
3. put forward a new, emergent understanding of technical and professional education and the models and modes of teaching practice and andragogy that develop personal capabilities-as-capital and support students to navigate the unknown.
Dr. Sam Grogan – firstname.lastname@example.org PVC Student Experience, University of Salford
Dr. Graham Holden – email@example.com Director of Learning and Teaching, Sheffield Hallam University
Toffler A. & Toffler H. (1970) Future Shock Pub. Penguin Random House NY