Of Wormholes and SoTLwalks

Hello lovely bloggers and readers, I have no idea what happened to November! So my theory is that on my last SoTLwalk I fell into a wormhole and came out in December back in my office instead of the path I was walking. I am sticking with that explanation. It’s 2020 and this makes as much sense as anything else. Meanwhile though some amazing images emerged.


“So, your challenge as you walk this week is to think about how you engage with pedagogy in your work. How does it inform your own practice and how do you share it with others? Could or should you approach it differently?” Dr Natasha Taylor

I have to admit I did not read the article this task is based on, because it is behind a paywall and while I think we might have a subscription I am not sure I want to engage in something that clearly is going to be a defensive rant. Here is the beginning of it:

Pedagogy has nothing to teach us

Most lecturers dread educationalists’ holier-than-thou, discipline-blind invocations of the latest teaching fads, says an anonymous academic


I mean even these first couple of lines tell me more about the author than they probably care to admit. Anyhow, raising my hand here. That be me you are talking about. Erziehungswissenschaftlerin. Or educationalist. At the moment senior academic and digital developer. Being in education for longer than I care to admit. Opinionated: heck yes! Forcing anyone to do anything that is but authentic to them and their practice. Heck no! Understanding that any engagement with a non-cognate discipline can cause cognitive dissonance. Betcha! But let’s try to disentangle the mess…

So firstly, before I can answer how pedagogy influences my daily practice we need to define what we mean by this. By the by definitely not teaching fads, she says wiggling her eyebrows. I have in other posts tried to translate the German word Bildung, which I always find is more appropriate and holistic than using pedagogy particularly when we are acting within the higher education context. Over the last months I have been working on some translation and summarizing of more German texts to share and promise this is going to happen here on this blog, once I shake off the last of the space-dust from the wormhole.

Anyway, for the purpose of this SoTLwalk: when I use the English word ‘pedagogy’ I mean a cluster of knowledge accumulated over the last 25+ years through working, studying, and researching anything education. It refers to knowledge from social and developmental psychology, Didaktik, educational theories, learning and teaching strategies just to name some of the fields, and areas of study you inevitably have to engage with when trying to understand that one thing, that big question:

How do we make sense of this world and its phenomena? How do we learn? 

The way I approach pedagogy for myself is very different to what I would suggest to colleagues. The closest colleagues come to exploring my way to approaching pedagogy is taking the PG level course: Creative Pedagogies for Active Learning. Here the educators who (bravely and curiously) join in are not taught models. This is not about PBL, TBL or any other model which may or may not over time have been used by various people as being the one model that works. Because no one-model works. That’s the problem. So the way I approach my pedagogy is by noting down what it is I want to achieve with a teaching situation (a seminar, a whole course, a SoTL training session). Then I think about my learners, I really like what museums are doing they create imaginary visitors and try to see their exhibitions through the eyes of the visitors. I try to see the teaching through the eyes of the various learners and try to identify how far I can push comfort zones. How much I can try to initiate a transformative learning experience. Yay for a whole course. Nay for a 2 hour lunchtime session. Transformative learning can be painful for both the learner and the educator. We are in this together–always. But this is for my own practice.

As academic developers we have this strange meta-level. On one side we are lecturers, academics with our own students to teach, and courses to lead. On the other side we are also supporting colleagues in their pedagogy. So when I am in my academic development role, and I am supporting curriculum development, transitions to online learning, or other educational challenges this is a horse of a different colour. I might suggest a model to you (again not a fad treating you to ‘THE LOOK’ dear upset author), if I think that this would be something you can easily adopt and might be useful for both you and your learners. I might translate and adapt a resource that can give you a simple step by step reflection to use in your pedagogical challenge. I might actually just have a chat with you and listen, and all I suggest might be a teeny tiny tweak. Such as copy and pasting overly crowded PowerPoint slide text into a session (course) handbook, and focus on visuals and stories during the lecture, or if you hold long online lectures but your slides are nothing but text, ask you to offer your learners the audio track as an additional file they can download and simply listen to. But all of these usually come from you–not from my holier than thouness. They come from watching and listening and trying to judge what you feel comfortable with. Trying to understand who you are as educator and helping you to improve your own practice not to enact someone else’s practice.

Because being authentic as an educator is crucial. We cannot be confident with something we do not buy into. If we push boundaries with our practice we need to believe in what we are doing.

Could or should I approach it differently? I don’t know, as I do not have one way to approach this to begin with. For sure sometimes! We all have good days and bad days. I am not always as sensitive as I like to be. Sometimes the ADHD brain blurts out before the rules of engagement my mum desperately tried to socialise me into kick in. Sometimes I am at the limit of my ability to socialise and watch over every word I say. Sometimes my own cognitive load is stretched beyond it’s capability. So I can always do things better. But in principle, I do the best I can based on what I know at the moment. When I know better, I do better. Otherwise there are occasional potholes to navigate and fix. But luckily, more often than not, there are nice stretches of road.

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