Student-centred learning puts education at risk. This was the provocative claim made by Gert Biesta in his keynote address entitled “Does society get the university it deserves?” at the 5th International Academic Identities conference at the University of Sydney last fortnight.
Biesta argued that the shift from teaching to learning – putting students in the centre – is a mistake. He cited Roberts’ “The Impulse Society” to ask: “What’s wrong with giving students what they want? ”
Plenty, according to Biesta.
University education should not be measured in terms of satisfaction. It is not the individual pursuit of quick, self-serving reward. It is not about giving students what they want. Like the impulse society, Biesta suggested, such a model of education promotes infantile ways of being in the world. Instead, Biesta believes in focussing on teaching and being taught. Being taught, he said, is an encounter with something outside the self. Ideally, teaching questions desires, interrupts identities and transcends individual sense-making.
He ended by asking: can university be a place where we learn to live as grown-ups in a world that wants to keep us young?
Written by Dr Agnes Bosanquet, FOHS Senior Teaching Fellow