Building a higher education with purpose and nearness

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    What many students in the era of the climate crisis ask for and need, is education with a purpose and education that makes a difference. Students and teachers alike call for a higher education that allows for questions they find most relevant and work together around – a higher education of, from, and for life (Barnett & Bengtsen, 2020). What students increasingly encounter, however, is a higher education based on receiving information and learning a curriculum targeted at exams, where the grades count more than the actual learning. Such an instrumental approach to learning is related to performance goals - where social and emotional engagement and motivation are typically secondary and subordinate. The objective is to obtain knowledge, skills and competences for specific purposes at the job market, more specifically in the private sector (Andersen & Jacobsen 2012). An approach related to performance goals can be alienating for students. When they are evaluated on what they perceive as performance goals, they tend to focus negatively on their own ability (Ames & Archer 1988), and this is often seen as one of the reasons for many students’ reactions of stress, ill-being and loneliness.

    Allowing for creativity and personal engagement in the learning journey strengthens students’ belief in their own ability, gives them a more positive attitude towards their potential, and encourages them to take on more challenging tasks (Ames & Archer 1988). It is our hypothesis that intrinsic motivation linked to a relevant purpose in education and learning is crucial for students’ wellbeing and learning trajectories. Research supports the fact that variation and diversity in learning goals, coupled with student autonomy, have a clear effect on students’ engagement, well-being and performance (Deci & Ryan 2012).

    In relation to UNESCO’s goals for sustainable development, Stefania Giannini underlines the current need “to educate and create change-makers who can meet the global challenges”. This is not possible without educating for critical thinking, creative engagement and collaborative competences, which at the same time is directly linked to the development of a learning environment where personal and social engagement is valued, and where the landmark is an understanding of shared problems.

    According to Noordegraaf-Eelens et al. (2019) we need to emphasize the responsibility for the shared world in a new understanding of problem-oriented learning and a sustainable, engaged and participatory higher education. We find that purpose-driven education needs to be about real-life challenges and problem solving, not just adaptation to the current needs of the private sector or to a curriculum with exam forms designed for performance and ranking of students. The measurement culture prevents students from collaborating on defining and working on real-world challenges. Students need to engage in bigger goals than stressful competition and CV building. They need purposeful participation in the problem-oriented activities for a common goal.

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    mellem forskningsbaseret faglighed og relevans for arbejdsmarkedet, Frydenlund.
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    Noordegraaf-Eelens, Liesbeth, Julien Kloeg & Gera Noordzij 2019. „PBL and sustainable
    education: addressing the problem of isolation”, Advances in Health Sciences Education, vol. 24, 971–979.
    Publikationsdatomaj 2022
    Antal sider2
    StatusUdgivet - maj 2022
    BegivenhedICED 2022 - International Consortium for Educational Development - Aarhus, Danmark
    Varighed: 31 maj 20223 jun. 2022


    KonferenceICED 2022 - International Consortium for Educational Development


    • Wellbeing
    • Higher Education
    • Nearness
    • Purpose
    • Formation
    • Community