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More or Less?? by Sherman Young

For many of us, one of the great opportunities of academic work is the ability to pursue an exciting research agenda, whilst sharing what we learn with our students. The challenging counterpoint to that opportunity is aligning and balancing our research with our teaching responsibilities.

As we pursue ambitious research goals, I know that colleagues can feel overwhelmed with their teaching workload and its associated administrative and compliance requirements. So a cornerstone of the learning and teaching framework must be to address those concerns, and ensure the sustainable delivery of our student learning outcomes and experiences.

My sense is that we can only do this by thinking holistically about our teaching and research, and taking a broader, student and learning-centric view of content, delivery and assessment. Our research can, and should, inspire our students – but it’s easy to forget that whilst many students may share our interest in the subject matter, it may not be their core pursuit. Our job is to inspire a passion for learning, as much as it is to build enthusiasm for our disciplines.

Is it possible for our students to learn more, whilst our staff works less in their teaching? I think so – but only if we focus on what students learn, rather than on what we teach. And we need an institution-wide framework to enable it.

So what about a principle that looks something like this:

More Learning, Less Teaching

* Our teaching will inspire a passion for learning;
* Our learning is student-focussed and informed by research;
* Our curriculum and delivery will make best use of our resources;
* Our staff will be recognised and rewarded for effective learning and teaching

Again, comments and feedback welcome.

Sherman will be presenting a Learning and Teaching Strategy Update on 22 September at Learning and Teaching Week #mqltweek: register here

7 thoughts on “More or Less?? by Sherman Young”

  1. I would hope an institution wide framework would allow for cross discipline opportunities for students to collaborate which is recognised? It might encourage enquiry and more learning less teaching… how would we be able to develop such infrastructure?

  2. Hi Ollie,
    I think the starting point is to provide better opportunities for us to understand ourselves as an institution. It’s sometimes tricky to think outside our disciplines, departments, faculties and offices and frankly, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to have those broader conversations. That’s where we can discover how we might work together.

    1. How do we understand ourselves as an institution though? What kind of initiatives could be put in place for us to reach that understanding both as a collective group of people and as individuals?

      I agree that we need to think outside of our disciplines, but how do we when we are so entrenched in of respective fields? Is it done digitally or physically, or both? Its a tough one.

  3. Friday night drinks? But seriously, there’s interdisciplinary projects like Big History, and cross Faculty degrees like Marketing and Media. And events like the L&T planning days and The Festival of Ideas are all things that need to become a regular part of the calendar. Maybe a weekly program of University research seminars in our common hour… Online, there’s a ton of potential (teche is a great start) but we probably need to experiment a bit more. And there’s this. πŸ™‚

    I’m sure others have some great ideas.

  4. I think that ‘teaching less’ is an appealing idea – but perhaps we need to think less about ‘teaching less’ and think instead about ‘administer less’? The burdens of administration around teaching are far more pressing than the teaching itself, in many ways. I’d also like to see administration of teaching to be more responsive to changing student demand and new research – at the moment, it takes more than a year to get a new course approved and ready to teach.

  5. Hi Michelle, you’re spot on. I use ‘Teaching’ to include the administrative part, but “More Learning Less Admin” doesn’t quite have the same ring πŸ™‚ Maybe just “Less is More” I’m open to suggestions. Responsiveness to research is important, but a couple of instinctive thoughts. (1) We need to understand how that new research might contribute to student learning. It has to be appropriate to what the student needs to learn in their program of study. And (2) I see no reason why we need new units to teach new research. We simply need to craft a unit and its learning outcomes to enable some flexibility in specific content.

    1. I agree with both Michelle and Sherman. I like to think of crafting a unit and its learning outcomes as a design strategy; designing a unit to include a variety of literacies demanded by the contemporary workforce, digital society and entrepreneurial practices. I believe designing digital, information and media literacies within a student enquiry based pedagogy would empower students to discover new research as they progress throughout their studies. This approach resonates with Rheingold’s article. I think these literacies would really help achieve the goal behind the ‘less is more’ idea.

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