HEA—A Monster Conference

and I cannot apply because Education within the HEA is under Social Sciences and not Humanities. But this post is not about wallowing in self-pity about having to miss a most interesting sounding conference, but about the unusual perspectives the conference theme offers lecturers in HEI.

this image is a Doodle of a wolf head
Not quite the monster—or wolf in sheep’s clothing?

I pinched the conference introduction so you know what I am talking about:

Monsters dwell in the hinterlands of the known world, symbolic expressions of cultural unease. As inhabitants of an imagined realm adjunct to the everyday, monsters offer powerful tropes and tools for learning and teaching in the arts and humanities.

Our 3rd annual conference invites you to explore the everyday business of learning and teaching through metaphor and narrative, and so transfigure the ‘taken-for-grantedness’ of academic practice into fantastic tales of the unexpected.

This conference asks how monsters can unnerve and innervate those working in arts and humanities higher education today. We consider how monstrous pedagogies can disrupt the realities and habits of higher education in the arts and humanities, and articulate different ways of being for learners and teachers in the disciplines.

So if I could apply for the conference I would chose:

Shapeshifters and were creatures

The beauty of the arts and humanities often lies in ambiguity. Arts and humanities disciplines do not insist that things be simply one thing or another but enable them to be multivalent and multiplicitous. This strand celebrates complexity in arts and humanities teaching, and considers how we foster creative thinking in our students and graduates. Contributors to this strand might also consider how academic disciplines and their pedagogies shape-shift, morphing into new configurations and practices.

It all began with turning into PhDzilla during my PhD studies. The changes initially were subtle, unbeknownst to me until one day, I completed transmorphication fully and wholly. How did the idea of PhDzilla impact on my pedagogy? I began wondering how transferring creativity, the idea of added-on realities could be translated into experiences for my students. After all in early childhood education it is common to use ‘as if’ activities to enable children to learn via proxies and foster their creativity. Now I was wondering why should it not work with adult learners? This presentation explores the results from an ethnographic-action research project, in which I used creative writing, proxies and ‘as if’ activities as well as learning with objects (which is usually a strategy used in museums’ pedagogy) to work with undergraduate and postgraduate students in the school of health and life sciences in GCU.

The uncanny

The transformative power of the arts comes from an ability to reveal the unfamiliarity at the heart of the familiar, and the familiar at the heart of the unfamiliar. The uncanny makes strange the known world, and is a disturbing, destabilising, disquieting, disorienting force. It blurs boundaries and evokes liminal spaces. This strand invites contributions which consider uncanny pedagogies capable of disrupting certainties, and which shake habits, beliefs and assumptions about learning and teaching.

When the Golem arrived they expected we would open their heads, replacing the piece of instructional paper with one anew. They expect a piece of paper that promises functionality throughout the next four years, even beyond. I am task to retrieve the old instructions and make sense of the new. Every beginning academic year, I wonder if I can fulfil this task, take out the paper, and make the Golem change. My biggest challenge is to enable the Golem to live without instruction.

Such ambition necessitates for me to become uncanny. I am the practicing the craft of creative pedagogy. When working my magic, I disrupt habits, shake up believes and assumptions, and send them on the quest for ‘why’? and ‘so what?’. In this presentation I will take you with me on a broomstick ride; discussing results from an ethnographic action research about student perception of creative pedagogy. When I question my students realities and believes, I have to question my own, their reactions are challenging what I believe about myself, I in turn will make them see strange lands, realms of critical acclaim they’ve never ventured to before. And if my magic was strong enough the Golem may not need their paper.

The other themes offered on the conference website are equally challenging and interesting. Simply reading them entices the story-teller within, coaxes the narratives to emerge and reconsider my pedagogy and its implications.

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