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  • Author(s): Dr Holly Smith
  • Title: Values in Higher Education
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: ukoer, ukpsf, cpd4he, values, higher education, professional ethics, teaching
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text, Audio
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, ODT, RTF, MP3
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 18th February 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA

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Values in Higher Education

Introduction

There has been something of a lack of attention paid to issues of educational values in HE. My starting point is that all HE teaching is deeply value-laden, and that considering the ethical implications of our everyday decisions, and developing the judgement to address the dilemmas that we face is central to academic practice in HE. This has two elements; firstly your articulation of your own personal values in relation to education and secondly your engagement with issues of inclusive practice as required by the UK Professional Standards Framework. 

The unit consists of an introduction, which describes the general approach to this topic, a series of learning activities, an annotated bibliography and short audio commentaries by the author.

Resource Content

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This resource is available for download in the following formats.

  • Unit Package - ZIP with audio  (36.7MB) - ZIP without audio (355KB)
  • Whole document - PDF (58KB) - ODT (38KB) - RTF (206KB)
  • Introduction - PDF (27KB) - ODT (30KB) - RTF (124KB)
  • Activities - PDF (40KB) - ODT (32KB) - RTF (155KB)
  • Annotated Bibliography - PDF (37KB) - ODT (33KB) - RTF (142KB)
  • Audio Commentaries Complete - MP3 (17.8MB)
  • Audio Commentaries: Approach - MP3 (4.7MB)
  • Audio Commentaries: Moral Of The Story - MP3 (2.0MB)
  • Audio Commentaries: What Are Your Values - MP3 (1.2MB)
  • Audio Commentaries: HEA Values - MP3 (3.8MB)
  • Audio Commentaries: Set Yourself An Essay - MP3 (1.4MB)
  • Audio Commentaries: Disagreeing With Your Students - MP3 (2.8MB)
  • Audio Commentaries: Dilemmas - MP3 (564KB)
  • Audio Commentaries: Bibliography - MP3 (1.4MB)

Licence

Creative Commons Licence
Values in Higher Education by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.


Details

  • Author(s): Dr Holly Smith
  • Title: Values in Higher Education
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: ukoer, ukpsf, cpd4he, values, higher education, professional ethics, teaching
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text, Audio
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, ODT, RTF, MP3
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 18th February 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA

Downloads

Introduction

There has been something of a lack of attention paid to issues of educational values in HE. My starting point is that all HE teaching is deeply value-laden, and that considering the ethical implications of our everyday decisions, and developing the judgement to address the dilemmas that we face is central to academic practice in HE. This has two elements; firstly your articulation of your own personal values in relation to education and secondly your engagement with issues of inclusive practice as required by the UK Professional Standards Framework.

I argue that an inclusive curriculum has three elements:

  • The syllabus
    The syllabus, in the choice of topics, resources, examples or case studies, requires you to make choices about what is valued and what is excluded, and questions of representation come to the fore.
  • The processes
    The processes, the methods and activities can either be disempowering and didactic, or to empowering participants by valuing the experience that they bring to the course and enabling them to share it with their peers. Thus methods of working, such as group work, project work, problem based learning, peer assessment, a negotiated curriculum and Rowland’s (2006) enquiry method facilitate this.
  • The participants
    The participants in any programme may be more or less representative of the population of the UK in terms of ethnicity, gender, ability, sexuality and age. So, questions of the representativeness of the cohort of students again come to the fore. However, university students in the UK today are drawn from an international constituency, which makes equality targets for representation from different communities based on UK census data of limited value.

Some argue that academic practice is not as value-laden as I see it. While mathematics might be a pure, abstract discipline, the teaching of mathematics (or any other discipline) is a human activity, and human relationships are full of emotion and human activity is full of moral dilemmas. I take the position that in education there are no problems to be solved, only dilemmas about which judgements must be made. These judgements are deeply moral and political and failure to acknowledge this is not ‘neutral’ but an unthinking acceptance of the status quo.

Take the example of a common dilemma: a classroom situation where a teacher with limited time must decide how best to support each student. The left has traditionally argued ‘to each according to their need’ and that a teacher should devote most time to supporting those who need it most. In contrast, the right has often argued for equality of distribution of resources, disregarding the inequality in existing resources and thus reinforcing it. A teacher’s judgement in such a dilemma must also be informed by their purpose. The behaviour of a teacher intending to get all students over a threshold of achievement would look very different from the behaviour of a teacher whose intention was to nurture the next Nobel Prize winner in their discipline. I would encourage you to think creatively about such dilemmas; in this example, peer-assisted learning or an investigation of what e-learning resources might be available could provide new ways to think about the dilemma. However, I do not wish to impose a ‘solution’, implying as it does a shared moral framework and political position which does not exist.

Thus in these activities, I ask you to reframe your teaching problems as dilemmas, and to articulate your own educational values in a rigorous way. I hope the activities will help you to think through the implications of your own values in terms of your current and potential practices as teachers and researchers, and to think through the implications of your practices for your values. Each of the activities can be completed alone, but most would be enhanced by a collective and collaborative discussion of the task. Colleagues can provide a fresh perspective, or a robust challenge, to our educational values. Engaging in a constructive dialogue with peers can help us clarify our own values.

Licence

Creative Commons Licence
Values in Higher Education by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.


Activities

1. Moral of the Story

This activity is based on the idea that ‘moral tales’ or folk stories are a way of teaching children values, about the right way to act, as the hero or heroine faces challenges and is rewarded for their virtue. I think you can draw lessons from all stories, including the stories we tell about our own lives and work. So, autobiography can be a fruitful source for thinking about values.

Think of a really awful time you experienced when trying to learn something in the past, when you found it really difficult to learn. Try writing this fragment of your autobiography down as a story, it could be very short.

Think about:

  • Why was it so bad?
  • What were the consequences for you?
  • Is there a moral to the story?

2. What are your values?

I argue that we all have our own educational values, but sometimes they are implicit or tacit. This activity is designed to help you articulate them. Rowland (2006) suggests a strategy to illuminate any value position is simply to ask someone why they do something, and keep on asking until no further response can be given. The end point of this exercise will, he suggests, illuminate a value position.

Rowland gives an example where he imagines questioning a chemist who teaches first years about electrons and the Periodic Table in order to understand why this information is given as a lecture rather than a handout or tutorial. Here Rowland provides two possible sets of answers to his questions.

Educational Values A

“I give it as a lecture because this is a set of ideas they have to get right; they have to get it right because it’s fundamental to inorganic chemistry; it’s fundamental because understanding the rest of the course depends upon it; they have to understand the course because otherwise they won’t pass the exam; they have to pass the exam because they need the qualification; they need the qualification because that’s why they came to university; because that is what university is for...”
p125 Rowland (2006)

Educational Values B

“I give it as a lecture because these ideas beautifully illustrate how chemists think; seeing me demonstrate how chemists think might inspire them to think that way; being inspired may motivate them to learn to think like chemists too; they need to think like chemists because they are to become participants in the discipline of chemistry; they need to participate in chemistry because they must participate in disciplinary knowledge; because that’s what universities are for...”
p125 Rowland (2006)

For any example of your academic practice try using Rowland’s ‘Why do you… Why do you… Why do you…’ questioning technique to see if you can articulate your own value position in writing. Do you get a different answer if you choose a different aspect of your academic practice as your starting point?

Rowland, S. (2006). The Enquiring University: Compliance and Contestation in HE. London: SRHE/OUP.

3. The Higher Education Academy values

The Higher Education Academy set out the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education in 2006. The PSF sets out areas of activity and core knowledge, but it also sets out professional values.
http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/resources/detail/publications/professional_standards_framework

  • Respect for individual learners
  • Commitment to incorporating the process and outcomes of relevant research, scholarship and/or professional practice
  • Commitment to development of learning communities
  • Commitment to encouraging participation in higher education, acknowledging diversity and promoting equality of opportunity
  • Commitment to continuing professional development and evaluation of practice

The aim of this activity is for you to develop a critique or deconstruction of the HEA values. These questions might help:

  • What assumptions are made in the HEA statements?
  • Who benefits from your acceptance of them?
  • Who might disagree with them?
  • Are there any contradictions between them?
  • What are the implications for academic practice?

Compare and contrast the HEA’s values with what you have written about your own educational values.

4. Set yourself an essay question

Try this exercise as a piece of ‘free writing’. Set yourself a short time, no more than 10 minutes, and start writing. The rules for ‘free writing’ are no interruptions, and no stopping, even if you think you are writing nonsense just keep going until your time is up!

Suggested Essay Questions

  • Is diversity in HE a good thing?
  • What ethical dilemmas have you faced as a teacher this year?
  • How diverse are your students at your own university, and what are the consequences of this?
  • How are your values demonstrated in your teaching practices?

Try making up your own essay question.

5. Reflection on disagreeing with your students (Holly Smith & Russell Hitchings)

This activity may be more relevant to you if you are from a social science discipline. Social scientists often teach seminars or small groups where students have to make statements, or develop positions, on contentious issues. This situation can be uncomfortable where you as a teacher want to encourage your students to think for themselves and express their own ideas, but you have spent years studying the area and strongly feel that you have come to the right position, morally, ethically and logically and you want to help students see the flaws in opposing positions.

Thinking about your own teaching, can you write about:

  • What is it like when you disagree politically with your students in small group teaching situations?
  • How do you practically handle these situations in terms of interpersonal dynamics?
  • To what extent do you feel it is important to be open about your own standpoint on particular issues in this context?
  • Do you feel that explicit discussion of your own political views ever prevents the student from developing an opposing position?

Hitchings (2011) wrote about his enquiry into these questions from his perspective as a geographer, but the insights of this paper are of interest to anyone who has faced the situation of disagreeing with their students.

6. Dilemmas

It can be very difficult to think about values in an abstract, generic way. I think real dilemmas are useful in helping you think about how you balance competing moral imperatives in practice.

Dilemma 1

A certain group of students are consistently late to your lectures. Their noisy arrival is disruptive, since you have to stop and wait for them to get settled. You also feel that you need to repeat things you have already done, which is boring for those who were there on time. How could you deal with this?

Dilemma 2

You identified a case of plagiarism from one of your students last year. It took a lot of your time to sort out, was stressful for both yourself and the student. You therefore want to make sure that no-one plagiarises this year. How could you go about it? 

Dilemma 3

You are concerned about the very low marks your third year Engineering students got in a mid-term assessment. They were supposed to cover all the pre-requisite material in the second year, but they don't know any of it! You look at the VLE for the second year course, and it does cover everything you think it should. You look at their results in the exam for the second year course, they were really good. But your students seem to have forgotten everything. What is going on?

Dilemma 4

At your first seminar you start by asking your students what they thought of the reading you asked them to do in the lecture last week. There is a painful silence. What could you do?

Dilemma 5

You are teaching on a multi-disciplinary course with students from the sciences, humanities and the social sciences. You find that some students are writing essays you think are terrible. You check up on the student records for a couple of the worst offenders, and find they are getting really good marks in their own disciplines. What is going on?

Dilemma 6

You are organising a Geology field trip, which is a compulsory part of the first year course. A mature student comes to you because she is worried that as a single parent she will not be able to attend. Her mother, who usually helps her out with childcare, is scheduled to have surgery that week. Your student feels that she can't be a "proper" Geologist without doing fieldwork. What could you do?

Dilemma 7

In your laboratory, you decide to replicate a recently published experiment in your research area with your project students. Your project students get very different results from those reported in the study. What could you say to your students?

All these dilemmas are drawn from real, and very common, experiences of academics in HE. Could you write your own dilemma about a situation you have found yourself in recently?

Licence

Creative Commons Licence
Values in Higher Education by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.


Annotated Bibliography

  • Bailey, D. (1999). Mainstreaming Equal Opportunities policies in the Open University: Questions of Discourse. Open Learning, 14(1), 9-16.

This straightforward article questions the often made assumption that Equal Opportunities are a good thing in themselves, and asks what good derives to HE from the effective practice of Equal Opportunities. Three models which answer this question are discussed: the liberal tradition of adult education, the business case, and the epistemologies of difference.

  • Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy and Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield.

Freire is perhaps the best known American intellectual who is concerned with pedagogy in the context of trying to create a more democratic society. This is his last book. For him, the relationships of teaching and learning in the classroom reflect, and aim to promote, diversity and democratic values in society. This raises questions of values, with a strong emphasis upon, and engagement with, attempting to change society. It addresses a range of issues important in everyday teaching situations, such as having respect for students, humility, tolerance and promoting curiosity. The book addresses educational institutions in general and but the ideas, are as relevant to universities as they are to schools.

  • Haggis, T. (2003). Constructing images of ourselves? A critical investigation into approaches to learning research in Higher Education. British Educational Research Journal, 29(1), 89-104.

A refreshing corrective to Marton & Saljo, Trigwell & Prosser and Biggs, this paper puts the 'approaches to learning' work (with particularly reference to deep/surface approaches) in the historical context of the recent development of Higher Education as a field of study. Haggis provides a detailed and compelling critique of the validity and evidence for the 'approaches to study' work and its relevance to a mass HE system. She highlights the monolithic and normalising tendencies of this approach, deconstructs the values implicit within it and argues for greater reflexivity. The author goes on to argue that an 'academic literacies' approach addresses many of the conceptual problems she identifies by taking the perspective of the learner and acknowledging the diversity of disciplinary contexts.

  • Harland, T. & Pickering, N. (2011). Values in Higher Education. London: Routledge.

The authors are academics in New Zealand who set out to examine how values are taught and learned in universities in the research that led to this book. They argue that values underpinning our personal theories of teaching, and that only by understanding values can we start to work out the purposes of a higher education. But this is not an abstract discussion; each chapter includes a compelling personal narrative from an academic which exemplifies the issues. The book also provides a note on their methodology of using personal narrative or storytelling to explore values, and show values in action.

  • Hitchings, R. (2011). Do You Ever Disagree With Your Students? Avoiding Personal Politics in Human Geography Teaching. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 35(1), 85-101.

The author undertook this enquiry because of his personal experience teaching controversial issues in human geography. The paper sets the context of recent debates in human geography about the responsibility of the discipline to take action consistent with the traditional academic study of serious global problems. Hitchings explores the dilemma of teachers who wish to encourage students to become politically engaged while maintaining teacher ‘neutrality’, and focuses on the practical management of these tensions in a variety of teaching contexts.

  • Macfarlane, B. (2004). Teaching With Integrity: The Ethics of Higher Education Practice. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

This engaging and inspiring book takes a most original approach. In the first part the author makes a cogent case for explicit discussion of the value laden nature of academic practice. He explores professional ethics and contrasts this with a Kantian or utilitarian approach. The second part of the book consists entirely of a series of very well written and carefully contextualised case studies, setting out typical dilemmas faced by academics in teaching, assessment, student evaluation and management. Possible responses to these dilemmas are discussed in depth and allow the reader to come to their own ethical decision in a more informed way.

  • Perry (1970). UoO, IAUL,Paper 4: Intellectual and Ethical Development in the College Years, 1-10.

The Institute for the Advancement of University Learning has produced a series of very useful introductory papers summarising important ideas in Higher Education. Here they examine William Perry's account of students’ ideas about the nature of knowledge and higher learning. Perry's work has been subject to criticism because of the narrow range of participants it considers; primarily, young, white, males from priviliged backgrounds. However, it is significant because it was a rare developmental study of changes in student understanding and you may find it resonates strongly with your experience of teaching in HE. www.learning.ox.ac.uk/.../lecturersteachingstaff/resources/resources/Perry_Intellectual_etc.pdf - 14k

  • Robeyns, I. (2005). Three models of education: rights, capabilities and human capital. Theory and Research in Education, 4(1), 69-84.

As the title suggests, this paper sets out three models of the good of education: a legislative human rights approach, Sen's Capabilities approach for the development of human potential, and the concept of human capital developed by Chicago school economists. Although written in relation to primary and secondary education the three models can also be applied to HE.

  • Rowland, S. (2000). The Enquiring University Teacher. Milton Keynes: Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.

This is an engaging account of an approach to professional development in which one’s own teaching is an exciting field of enquiry. It emphasises the intrinsic interest of learning about university teaching with colleagues who bring their insights from different subject backgrounds and thereby provide a richer understanding of teaching and learning processes. The book explores the nature of the university teacher’s enquiry: a form of professional learning which is both collaborative and personally reflective. It involves questioning personal and intellectual values and placing these at the centre of university teaching. The book includes such themes as the relationships between teaching and research and the influence of disciplinarity upon our thinking.

  • Rowland, S. (2006). The Enquiring University: Compliance and Contestation in HE. London: SRHE/OUP.

In his latest book Rowland considers the purpose of higher education, and the tension between serving society and to challenge the orthodoxies of the day. For Rowland our conception of the purpose of higher education is the core value for academics, informing every aspect of our practice, and he goes on to consider issues such as teaching for democracy, and the integration of teaching and research. The chapter in which he sets out the fault lines in academic life, is an insightful analysis of the challenges that widening participation, the introduction of student fees, globalisation, neoliberalism and managerialism have presented to the university in recent years. He contrasts fragmentation driven by such factors with integrity, in all senses of the word. Rowland’s analysis puts values; humanity, integrity, and responsibility where they belong, at the heart of this analysis.

  • Skelton, A. (2000). Camping it up to make them laugh? Gay men teaching in Higher Education Teaching in Higher Education, 5(2), 181-193.

Written from the personal experience of being a gay teacher, this paper examines how sexuality and teaching can relate. It explores whether a marginal identity can be an advantage in thinking about issues of of diversity, equal opportunities and educational values .

  • Walker, M. (2003) Framing social justice in education: what does the 'capabilities' approach offer? British Journal of Educational Studies, 51(2), 168-187.

This article explores the challenge of Widening Participation in higher education. Focusing upon policy which is targeted at enabling more young women and men from working-class groups to access higher education it discusses the value of Sen’s capabilities approach as a pedagogic conceptual tool.

Licence

Creative Commons Licence
Values in Higher Education by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.


Details

  • Author(s): Dr Holly Smith
  • Title: Values in Higher Education
  • Subject: HE - Education
  • Keywords: ukoer, ukpsf, cpd4he, values, higher education, professional ethics, teaching
  • Language(s): English
  • Material type(s): Text, Audio
  • File format(s): ZIP, HTML, PDF, ODT, RTF, MP3
  • File size: Various
  • Publish Date: 18th February 2011
  • Licence: CC-BY-NC-SA

Downloads

Licence

Creative Commons Licence
Values in Higher Education by Dr Holly Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at www.ucl.ac.uk.

Contact us: cpd4he@ucl.ac.uk

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