Saturday, January 30, 2016

New kid in class: Qualitative research into flipped learning in a higher education context

This is the abstract I have just submitted for BERA (British Educational Research Association) annual conference. What I like most is the missiology that is implicit in this abstract. Are you willing to learn from the new kid?

New kid in class: Qualitative research into flipped learning in a higher education context

Flipped learning, like any new kid in town, finds itself undergoing careful scrutiny. A Review of Flipped Learning (2013) identified the need for further qualitative research, including its potential to engage diverse learners across cultures and subgroups. This paper investigates the impact on learners when flipped learning is introduced into a higher education undergraduate theology topic. Traditionally, theology has privileged Western discourse. Can flipped learning be a useful ally in encouraging globalisation and personalisation?

A 2014 Flinders University Community of Practice research project implemented three pedagogical strategies. These included the introduction of indigenous voices to encourage personalised learning, the use of Blooms Taxonomy to scaffold activities in-class time and digital participation to cultivate the learning culture. These addressed all four pillars (Flexible Environment, Learning Culture, Intentional content, Professional educator) of flipped learning (The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™, (2014)).

Students completed a four question written survey at the start, middle and end of the topic. The results indicated a significant shift. Students had moved from an initial appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students perceived that the changes had enhanced their ability to communicate effectively and expressed a preference for choice, collaboration and diversity. However, feedback from Student Evaluation of Teaching responses, assignments and interaction with students was mixed. While overall people affirmed flipped learning, some expressed a desire to return to traditional lecture modes.

This data can be theorised using the notion of learning as a social act, shaped by learner agency. Preston (“Braided Learning,” 2008) observed that students fill different roles in an on-line learning community. Some act as e-facilitators, others as braiders or accomplished fellows. Each of these roles depend on agency being given to, and received by, fellow learners. Student assignments demonstrated that these roles were present during in class-time and further, that the pedagogical strategies implemented were essential in inviting students into these roles. In contrast, students who expressed concern about flipped learning indicated either a desire to preserve the percieved purity of an objective academic experience or a reluctance to trust student agency.

This suggests that the success of flipped learning depends not on the technological ability to produce videos. Rather it depends on pedagagical strategies, including those that help learners appreciate agency in their peers. In sum, the desire to learn from any new kid in the class remains at the core of the educative experience.

- Dr Steve Taylor, Vice Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching, Flinders University, South Australia

Flipped Learning Network (2014). The Four Pillars of F-L-I-P™.

Hamdan, Noora, McKnight, Patrick, McKnight, Katherine and Kari M. Arfstrom (2013). A Review of Flipped Learning: A White Paper Based on the Literature Review.”

Preston, C. J. (2008). “Braided Learning: An emerging process observed in e-communities of practice.” International Journal of Web Based Communities 4 (2): 220-43).

Keywords: flipped learning, diversity, higher education

It is a development of work I presented in 2015 at ANZATS and HERGA, but this time with clear focus on flipped learning. I will hear by 11 March if the proposal is accepted. The BERA conference is September 13-15 in Leeds, so might well fit beautifully with the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference, 6-8 September in Durham and Lines in Sand, 18th Biennial Conference of the International Society for Religion, Literature and Culture, 9-11 September in Glasgow. Or it might be a stretch too far. We will see. Good to have an abstract entered and grateful for the time and encouragement of Dr Katy Vigurs in looking over a draft of my abstract.

Posted by steve at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

Monday, December 14, 2015

spaces innovate


Thursday and Friday the KCML core team gathered. We wanted some time to dream, think and plan. The first day involved some strategic planning. What is our charism? What values will nurture our charism? What strategic signposts will point us toward God’s future among us? We worked hard and were surprised, pleased and delighted with an initial draft, which now awaits interaction from our key stakeholders.

The second day was curriculum. What do we want our graduates to know, do, be and relate? How might we be able to assess these outcomes? What are the immediate steps we can take? By morning tea, we were tired. We’d worked hard the day before and we needed coffee. A walk was suggested. We left the beautiful room we were gathered in and walked to a local cafe. Around large tables, the conversation returned to the question that had seemed to exhaust us a few minutes earlier. Suddenly, in this space, there was fresh energy. An unexpected question generated intense discussion and a whole new possibility.

We walked back, excited, nervous, and a bit shocked.

Spaces innovate. Different spaces invite different ways of thinking and being. An important lesson for a group of educators to have experienced, in their own bodies and being.

Which, later that day, would set in train another set of unexpected questions, intense discussion and a whole new set of possibilities. If spaces changed us, what might that say about the type of teaching spaces we want to inhabit.

Posted by steve at 07:31 PM

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Where do we get enough bread? Graduation sermon 2015

graduation2015 It was the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership 2015 Graduation Service last night. I was asked as the new Principal to preach. The lectionary text for the day was Matthew 15:29-39; the feeding of the 4,000. In the sermon I unpacked what the text might mean for being church and for ministry. I was able to weave in some creativity, including an art work by Faith Ringgold and setting up on stage a picnic, with different cultural groups bringing their mat and food, in order to explore the diversity of the Presbyterian Church in Aoteroa New Zealand. It gained positive feedback, so for those interested the sermon in full is as follows (more…)

Posted by steve at 03:39 PM

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching

The news was made public today that I’ve gained a Flinders University 2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. With over 1100 lecturers at Flinders University and only 5 Awards made each year, it is a very significant achievement. The Award was made in recognition of:

leading sustained innovation in theological pedagogy over six years, implementing quality improvements that ensure the embedded diversity of the student body is a resource in contextualising, personalising and deepening the overall teaching and learning experience.

Application is based on submitting a 10,000 word application that addresses 4 criteria:

  • Approaches to teaching and the support of learning that influence, motivate and inspire students to learn.
  • Development of curricula, resources or services that reflect a command of the field.
  • Evaluation practices that bring about improvements in teaching and learning.
  • Innovation, leadership or scholarship that has influenced and enhanced learning and teaching and/or the student experience.

In making my application, I focused on my teaching and academic leadership over the last 5 years. I wanted to think through what it means to teach in the particular context of the challenges and opportunities of teaching theology in a modern, pluralist, University context.

Teaching theology in a University setting provides a critical, academic and pluralist context. The environment is one in which those with faith and no-faith mingle. As a consequence, teaching theology involves the teacher creating a space in which students participate in ways that are neither pietistic nor dogmatic. This context has been impacted by the rise in recent years of religious intolerance. As a result, the University, in providing spaces in which critical conversations can occur, provides an important societal good. As a teacher, I see my role as cultivating, nurturing and protecting these spaces, growing in students the capacity to work confidently in diverse environments, able to deal with subject matter that they, their peers and diverse communities, remain potentially highly invested in.

It is a great thrill to have the theological context named and recognised by the University. I think I’m the first Award winner from the Department of Theology at Flinders University in 36 years, since it was set up in 1979. Recipients are recognised by the University to be leaders in their field and gain $5000 to spend on things teaching related. So that’s quite encouraging. My hope is to use the financial resources to continue to develop indigenous theological curricula – specifically to expand on the indigenous women’s Christology project.

Posted by steve at 02:39 PM

Sunday, November 22, 2015

the First Real day at work: Auckland blockcourse

Tomorrow is the First Real Day at work. Tomorrow the Summer KCML block course starts. which means I get to meet students. It’s very exciting, after six weeks of connecting with staff and with the church, to actually connect with students.

KCML operates on an internship module. Students speak 60% of their time in placement. The other 40% is a mix of mentoring, tutorial group work, plus three block courses spread over the year. The block courses last for 10 days. The Summer block course is in Auckland, to ensure interns are situated in a multi-cultural context. Which means that I’ve got quite a bit of gear to pack.


I am involved in 5 lectures, plus preaching at the Graduation sermon. I’m very much looking forward to the First Real day at work. But not to the 5 am start, to fly to Auckland.

Posted by steve at 07:42 PM

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Place-based theology (updated) with the children of Parihaka

This is a helpful introduction to place-based theology by Richard Twiss.

In five minutes he provides a number of explicit theological resources that might encourage a place-based theology. He draws on culture, that of the Navaho people, to suggest the importance of a relationship with earth as part of identity and belonging. He then turns to Scripture. First, 2 Chronicles 7:14, and the phrase “heal their land.” Which, he notes, means land can be broken. Second, he references 2 Samuel 21:1-14,

While both are Old Testament Scriptures, they do offer an understanding of connection between place and identity. Next, Twiss turns to place-based education, which immerses students in local heritage, cultures, landscapes, opportunities and experiences, using these as a foundation for the study. Drawing these threads together, Twiss encourages place-based theology.

Twiss is not alone. In Australia, indigenous woman, Denise Champion has written Yarta Wandatha,
(see my review here). The title is Adnyamathanha for “land is speaking, people are speaking.” It offers an wonderful example of place-based theology, telling stories of land, in order that “ngakarra nguniangkulu,” God is revealing so that we can see (Yarta Wandatha, 28). I also see links with Celtic theology, for example in the understanding of thin places, a Celtic understanding of physical locations in which God is especially present. It has academic rigour, for example in Philip Sheldrake, Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory, and Identity and Living Between Worlds: Place and Journey in Celtic Spirituality.

I have experimented with place-based theology by taking students to places. I have reflected on the potential in walking the art, which then became a floor talk at the launch of an art festival. I have wondered about teaching New Zealand mission by going to places – to Bay of Islands, Waitangi, Rotorua, Parihaka, Anzac day memorials. Now I’m wondering what an assignment might look like, in which students not only engage with place, but seek to construct their own place-based theology.

Updated: This is another example of place-based education, and thus potentially place-based theology (a review here).

It is about place; places from history in which people lived. The places remain today and can be visited, as part of remembering. In remembering (an act at the heart of identity formation for the people of Israel) respect is paid, identity is formed and connections are made.

This has links with one of the rich insights from Yarta Wandatha, in which Aunty Denise uses story, of her father, to introduce Anhangha idla ngukanandhakai (28) – “living in the memories.” This becomes a way to understand tradition, and to connect that to place. Is this what is happening in Tatarakihi – The Children of Parihaka and in place-based theology?

Posted by steve at 03:07 PM

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My HERGA 2015 (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide) paper

herga I spoke at HERGA 2015 (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide) today. It was a well run, high quality event, from the free coffee cup and conference bag, to the excellent catering, to the range of intensity and passion brought to bear on education in higher education.

The room was packed for my presentation, although I think it was for the presentation after mine. Here is my spoken paper, titled – A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

Keywords: flipped learning, e-learning, higher education

The Brave New World of higher education faces an inherent conflict. Standardised frameworks encourage one-size fits all. At the same time, the student body is increasingly diversity.

In 2014, I participated in a Flinders University Community of Practice. The focus was on learning that is connective, mobile and personalised. I made changes to what was a core Bachelor of Theology topic. It had historically been taught in traditional ways that focused on the technical language of systematic approaches to the theology. I made 5 changes
• Changed assessment to expect student to student interaction outside the gathered lecture (connective)
• Placed all lecture content online (mobile)
• Introduced students to Blooms taxonomy as a theoretical frame to negotiate the change with students
• Shifted the contact time from lecturer-driven to student-choice of small group activities linked to Blooms taxonomy (personalised)
• Introduced indigenous voices to enhance diversity (illustrations on personalised)

This can be theorised using Garrison’s community of inquiry model, which argues that communities of inquiry are built using social, cognitive and teaching presence. Social presence requires me to cultivate within myself and the class effective communication and group cohesion (in this case via the change to the assessment). Cognitive presence involves, through exploration, assignment and evaluation, integration and confirmation of understanding (in this case through student choice group work and through indigenous voices). Teaching presence includes course design, facilitation and direction (in this case through the use both theoretically and pedagogically of Blooms taxonomy)

The Community of Practice sought learner feedback by asking the same four questions start, middle and end of our diverse topics. What are you most interested in learning? What resources will best support your learning? How valuable is it to have choice? What aspects of the topic are you concerned about (if at all)?

At the start, students identified that they were most interested in the content of the subject – the theology of Jesus. They were excited about choice. Some had concerns, not in relation to “flipped learning” but with their ability to master the online technologies.

At the mid-point, three significant shifts had occurred in the class. First, students had moved from a 100% anticipation of content, to a 50% content and 50% consideration of how they were learning. This was evident in comments focused on the learning dynamic of the class and the diversity of their peers. Second, students felt supported in their learning by the resources and through the lecturer engagement (teaching presence). Third, choice continued to be seen as positive, in extending learning and enhancing motivation.

By the end of the course, the mid-point patterns remained. Student responses continued to indicated not only appreciation of content but also included reflection on how they were learning. The role of fellow students remained significant with the diversity of the class named as a significant factor in learning. (“It has helped me be able to see different points of view and helped me to realise that we all are able to “do” Christology from our own background.”) Choice continued to be seen as a positive. It was perceived to increased engagement and have a positive impact on learning. In analysing the responses linguistically, theology was not only being used as a word linked to content. It was also being used as a verb, a “doing,” an active, engaged process in which students participate, in contrast to what is contained in set texts. Students made links between personalisation, diversity and this “doing” of theology. (“Yes it has helped me to understand Jesus in a more relevant way for a 21st century setting.)

Haythornthwaite and Andrews, E-learning Theory and Practice argue that students fill three roles in an on-line community.
• E-facilitators provide interim summaries and influence the trajectory of the discussion.
• Braiders reinterpret the online debate in different styles.
• Accomplished fellows take initiatives that invite participants to explore a subject in more depth.

This provides a way to theorise my data. Take this introduction to a final assignment by one student. “I … was inspired by the presentations of [two indigenous church ministers] …. This stemmed from the group activity, where … I was asked by one of my classmates to connect liberation theology to my culture.” Using Haythornthwaite and Andrews’s theoretical categories, the learning begins because of two accomplished fellows (two indigenous church ministers). Challenge came from the group activity, in which a classmate (not the lecturer) acts as both a facilitator, influencing the discussion and a braider, re-interpreting lecture material during a group discussion and inviting a different style, in this case of application.

Haythornthwaite and Andrews also argue that e-learning is “an inextricably social act.” It increases connection with the local, as “learning gets re-embedded.” It expects a greater focus on “learner agency.”

“In conventional learning and scholarship, there is an authoritative, hierarchical power system at work. The teacher acts as mediator for the student between the body of knowledge … In e-learning the canonical texts are themselves committed to digital format and thus become at once more malleable, more open to critique … The ‘voice(s)’ of the original author can be placed alongside the student voice or voices. The learning process becomes … more democratic .. less hieararchical.” (E-learning Theory and Practice, 57-8)

This is certainly consistent with my data. Teaching theology involves engagement with significant texts – including the Gospels, to the Christological debates of the Early Church, the challenges of modernity and post-colonial critiques. For an individual student to engage a lecturer in a traditional lecture setting requires speaking in front of their peers, with the expectation of being knowledge in front of a more experienced academic. However, if engagement with lecture material and readings is shifted to group activities, students have space to process among peers.

This makes sense of the student assignment. It is one thing for a lecturer to ask a student to apply what this means. There is a different weight altogether when a student asks their peer to “connect [their] own culture and Christ.” In this moment, another student has become the “learner agency” that invites a “re-embedding in new local environments.”

My research is a limited sample – of one class in one semester. But it provides evidence that the use of teaching that is mobile, accessible and connective reshapes the student learning experience. Flipped learning enhances student agency and increases appreciation for diversity among the student cohort. It can turn the entire student cohort into teachers, inhabiting different roles in the “conditions” of learning. In other words, students as well as teachers are essential to the learning processes.

Garrison, D. R. (2007). Online community of inquiry review: Social, cognitive, and teaching presence issues. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 11(1), 61-72

Haythornthwaite, C. & Andrews, R. (2011). E-learning Theory and Practice. Sage: London.

McInnis, C. (2005). “The Governance and Management of Student Learning in Universities.” In Governing Knowledge. A Study of Continuity and Change in Higher Education. Edited by Ivar Bleiklie and Mary Henkel. The Netherlands: Springer. file:///C:/Users/jong0009/AppData/Local/Downloads/0deec520376135d76b000000.pdf.

Preston, C. J. (2008). Braided Learning: An emerging process observed in e-communities of practice. International Journal of Web Based Communities, 4 (2): 220-43).

Posted by steve at 11:04 PM

Thursday, August 20, 2015

how to read: 4 tools that will enhance the study skill of reading

reading tools from steve taylor on Vimeo.

How to read? Four essential tools – pen, highlighter, texting, telling – are introduced and explained. But first, a 10 question quiz on Time Magazine’s 1962 Cover Story, Religion: Witness to an Ancient Truth, on Karl Barth.

A follow up to the theology tools video.

Posted by steve at 04:35 PM

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

innovation in education paper accepted

herga My paper proposal, seeking to present at HERGA (Higher Education Research Group Adelaide), September 21-22, has been accepted. HERGA aims to bring together colleagues from the higher education sector to discuss best practice and new approaches to teaching in the tertiary environment. So it’s a great opportunity to present some of my action-research to a more general, non-theological audience. (When people ask me what I’ve gained from the move to Australia, things like this are part of the answer. The chance to be connected to a major University, Flinders, which enabled me to participate in the 2014 Community of Practice and now conference presentation opportunities like this that help me take steps outside the “theological” bubble.)

The conference paper proposal I put up was a followup to what I presented at ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools). An unexpected bonus was that in accepting, HERGA also provided me with the peer review feedback. So I have critical comment from two independent readers. I’ve had that consistently for journal articles submissions but never on a conference paper abstract. So that’s gold in terms of catching a glimpse of how my proposal abstracts are read.

Here’s the abstract I presented.

A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

The Brave New World of higher education faces a number of inherent conflicts. Standardised frameworks encourage a one-size fits all approach to teaching and learning, while the makeup of the student body shows an increased diversity. This has implications for teaching and learning in higher education contexts.

This paper will explore a pedagogical innovation in teaching that was undertaken as part of a 2014 Flinders University Faculty of Education, Humanities and Law Community of Practice. This Community of Practice involved research into student experience in response to the implementation of teaching methods that sought to be mobile, accessible and connective.

E-learning technologies, including video conferencing and Moodle, were introduced. A shift in the use of contact time, from lecturer-driven content to student-centred small group activities, was made. Changes were made to assessment, shifting participation from face to face to digital in order to enable connectivity. Indigenous voices were introduced into the curriculum to enhance access. Bloom’s taxonomy was deployed as a theoretical frame to negotiate the change with students.

McInnis (2005) argued that education can be analysed using a three-fold framework that includes curriculum, learning community and organizational infrastructure. This research project engaged all three, with an infrastructure innovation making possible the curriculum change, and the results tested by researching the experience of the learning community.

Students completed a written survey at three points during the course. The results indicated that a significant shift had occurred in the class. Students had moved from an initial appreciation of content, to a consideration of how they learn from the diversity inherent among their peers. Students perceived that the changes had enhanced their ability to communicate effectively. They expressed a preference for choice, collaboration and diversity.

The research data can be helpfully theorised in conversation with Haythornthwaite and Andrews (2011) who have argued that e-learning is a social act that enhances learner agency. They draw on Preston (2008) who observed that students fill different roles in an on-line learning community. Some act as e-facilitators, others as braiders, others as accomplished fellows. These categories are evident in the research data generated by the Community of Practice.

It can thus be argued that the use of teaching that is mobile, accessible and connective reshapes the student learning experience. Flipped learning enhances student agency and increases appreciation for diversity among the student cohort. Such pedagogical innovations turn the student cohort into a class above, in which students find themselves inhabiting teaching roles among their peers.

A mechanism for this process, drawing on Haythornthwaite and Andrews, is proposed. This involves understanding how digital texts change notions of authorship and thus contribute to learning process that are more democratic and less hierarchical. The argument is that technologies, when underpinned by explicit pedagogical care, are essential elements in “re-humanising” the brave new world of higher education.

Haythornthwaite and Andrews, 2011. E-learning Theory and Practice. Sage. London.

McInnis, Craig, 2005. “The Governance and Management of Student Learning in Universities.” In Governing Knowledge. A Study of Continuity and Change in Higher Education, edited by Ivar Bleiklie and Mary Henkel. The Netherlands: Springer. file:///C:/Users/jong0009/AppData/Local/Downloads/0deec520376135d76b000000.pdf.

Preston, C .J. (2008). “Braided Learning: An emerging process observed in e-communities of practice.” International Journal of Web Based Communities, 4 (2): 220-43.

Posted by steve at 09:50 AM

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Creative renewal through action

I’m speaking this Friday, 6 pm, 31 July, Burnside Uniting Church. Here’s the blurb

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is a world leader in missional thinking and sadly is leaving Australia to return to New Zealand in August (September actually) this year. We are indeed very fortunate Steve has agreed to lead our next metro Gathering teaching sessions.

Creative renewal is only possible through action. What actions lead to renewal?

I will be reflecting on leadership lessons from my years as Principal at Uniting College and offering some reflection on the Uniting church into the future. (If I can find the words. I’m still quite unclear on how I want to say what I want to say.)

Posted by steve at 10:14 PM

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

innovation in teaching ANZATS paper

I presented my paper on innovation in teaching today at ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools). Over the last 4 weeks I have written about 7,000 words of what is now a complete first draft of a journal article. So the task for today was to try and communicate the argument and main structure in the 25 minute time limit – of around 2,500 words.

I began by rifting of a prayer offered as the conference began:

Let us pray that students in theological education may be equipped for ministry and for life. We pray to the Lord: Lord have mercy
Let us pray that all teachers may be creative in facilitating student learning. We pray to the Lord: Lord have mercy

My research engages with these prayers. How do students perceive our “theological education”? What is the impact on students of our “creative facilitating student learning”?

There were a good number present and the questions were helpful.

  • What incentives did I build in to ensure students undertook pre-reading?
  • What were the workload implications, not just this year but in years to come?
  • Tell us about the class size and age profile? Does a larger class change the possibilities?
  • Was anything lost as a result of the processes?

These were expected questions. They focus more on the how. How do you teach in the flipped classroom? My paper focused mainly on the why and what? Why would you and what are the results? But the how questions are important, pertinent and natural for the audience – educators. The task now is to take the complete draft and seek a journal article. My sense is that the argument is sound, but that I need a bit more depth around the referencing and some sentence smashing – working paragraphs and words to ensure clarity.

But first, I need to complete a complete 6,000 word draft by 1 September for the Ecclesiology and ethnography conference, on activist research.

Posted by steve at 06:06 PM

Friday, June 26, 2015

Open days: recruitment or community building?

Adult learners face a number of barriers. A set of inner voice are shouting “It will be like school. The lecturers are scarey. You might look stupid. You’re been out of education too long.” It takes courage to enrol as an adult to learn.

Admiring rare books in library

On Tuesday, we offered an Open Day at Uniting College and on a cold, wet night, about 35 folk gathered to learn more about the College. There were short introductions by key people leading Uniting College, Adelaide College of Divinity, Flinders University and the Big Year Out. Pizza arrived. Short tours were offered – of the library, student common room, of a classroom in action including our online platform.


As I looked around, I was struck by the range of animated conversations as prospective students talked to lecturers. It occurred to me that as a result of Open Day, when these students arrive for the first day of lectures, they will know some people to whom they can stop and have a chat. They will know where the classroom is and where to get a coffee.

open day 2

They are already surrounded by a set of relationships. Thus the task of building a learning community does not start with the first lecture of the first class. It starts from before the first enquiry, and as the student steps through application.

What we were doing at Open day was not recruiting. It was community building, increasing the capacity of adult learners to participate in their own formation.

Posted by steve at 07:11 PM

Saturday, June 13, 2015

We’re all men: gender in teaching mission

Monday I begin a four day intensive, teaching on Mission and the church. Much of this week has been spent building the online site – loading up readings, video clips, extra resources, web links – that will enhance the educational experience.

introduction to Mission and the Church from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Glancing at the class list yesterday, I shook my head in disbelief. The entire cohort, all 9 of the enrolled students, are male. And, if the surnames are in any way reliable, all white fella.

I can’t recall teaching an all male, white fella class. Ever. Certainly not in my experience in the Uniting Church, where one of the things I have most appreciated is the greater gender mix that is present, compared to my experience in Baptist Churches in New Zealand.

I am puzzled and disturbed. What to do?

I do have diversity built in through the readings, which include voices, male and female, and from Asia, Africa, Europe, United States, Australia and New Zealand. I do have guest presenters both male and female. I do have short spoken mission biographies to splice in at various points, of woman and indigenous. The stories of fresh expressions video clips are of women pioneers.

But that does not address the mono-cultural discussion that will inevitably result.

Cancelling the class does not seem fair on each individual who has enrolled. I suspect it is also not permissible in a higher education environment.

I don’t think I can suddenly find someone willing to give four days to participate in an intensive at such short notice. And it runs the risk of tokenism, asking one voice to speak for an entire culture or gender.

I wonder if I should, on the first morning, note the reality of our room. And then place three chairs at three points around the class. And suggest that every now and again, we pause and ask each other:

Now if a woman, or a first-nations person, or a migrant with English as a second language were present in our discussion, what might they be adding to our discussion? What might they be critiquing?

This runs the risk of transference. But at the heart of mission is a commitment to engage with the other. So three empty chairs might in fact provide an object lesson in lack.

Posted by steve at 11:57 AM

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

I’ve spent much of the week, between various work meetings, working on a conference paper on innovation in teaching for the ANZATS (Australia New Zealand Association of Theological Schools) in Sydney. The original abstract proposal, which was accepted back in March, is here. I’ve re-worked the title from:

Revaluing the lives we teach: the pedagogies we employ and the Gospel truths they deploy


A class above: Evidence based action research into teaching that is connected, mobile and accessible in a higher education context

The first title fitted the conference theme, but only worked “in-conference.” So the second title was written with an eye to finding a receptive journal down the track. It was composed as part of an exercise during a Flinders University professional development workshop Publish and flourish on Tuesday.

Tuesday and Wednesday mornings I drafted the methodology section, pulled from notes generated during early morning coffee meetings with my Community of Practice cohort last year.

Today I edited in some of the results. These were originally written at the Tel Aviv airport in September last year, stuck in baggage claim, waiting for a baggage collectors strike to end!

Then, in emailing a colleague asking if they could provide a critical read of a complete first draft, I found myself having a first attempt at the conclusion.

My main argument is that the learning shifts implemented in the Theology of Jesus class resulted in a significant shift in student experience, from an anticipation of content, to considered reflection on the process of how learning happens. In that shift, the class dynamic and the diversity among the student cohort became much more appreciated by the student cohort as factors in their learning. In other words, students became essential to the learning processes. If the call of Jesus to “come follow” is a call to transformation that is set in the context of relationships of learning, then the use of technologies, when underpinned by explicit pedagogical care, are essential elements in “re-humanising” learning. They can turn the entire student cohort into teachers, inhabiting different roles in the “conditions” of learning.

It is amazing where one finds oneself writing – desks at home, cafe tables, University lecture rooms, work desks once the corridor goes quiet, polished floors in the no-mans land that is baggage claim. (And no doubt the hotel accomodation in Sydney the night prior to paper delivery on 1 July).

Posted by steve at 06:51 PM