This morning, I attended (and briefly presented at) the start of the Australian National University’s ‘Festival of Teaching.’ The focus of the two-day gathering is explained in the program’s descriptive title: “Linking research and teaching to benefit student learning.”
OK, so the language is typical of inelegant edubabble everywhere, but, that aside, I want to take issue with how the trendy focus on ‘research-led teaching’ and ‘research-based learning’ (the latter of which includes the equally graceless terms ‘inquiry-based learning,’ ‘case-based learning,’ and ‘problem-based learning’) shifts our attention away from the merit of study. Plain, old-fashioned, sit-on-your-backside-and-attend-to-a-topic … study.
Of course, I understand why there’s all this hoo-ha about ‘research-led teaching’ — it’s no doubt a reaction to so-called ‘transmission teaching’ or the ‘banking concept’ of teaching, as Freire would have it. And I certainly understand and commend the pedagogical worth of using research (on this meaning, the collection, collation, interpretation and presentation of data) as a basis for teaching in the university setting. But I fear that, just as in the past we surely over-valued the ‘sit-down, shut up, and learn’ philosophy of education, we may now begin to over-value the role of student ‘research’ in university learning at the undergraduate level.*
For there is a lot to be said for apprehending study on its own terms and not just as a part of a broader research process. I know that, for myself, I cherish the few moments I get in my week to sit down and apply my mind to the close examination of a subject. Quiet study — study for its own sake, meaning for the sake of intellectual cultivation and enrichment — allows room for contemplation and consideration, reflection and reverie. In other words, study is more than an ancilliary of research. We need to slow down the train hurtling down the research-teaching and -learning track and gain a correct balance in our intelligent endeavours.
In my previous post, I called for a properly holistic appreciation of knowing. Here, I would like to suggest that we embrace a similarly holistic approach to the educational enterprise as it is undertaken within the Academy.
*Notice my deft qualification there?