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Active citizenship and agency: creating experimenting communities for the future university

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Active citizenship and Agency; Creating experimenting communities for the future university Sarah Robinson Wesley Shumar Klaus Thestrup Drexel University Aarhus University Philadelphia, PA Aarhus, DK The connected global world brings groups of people together, who are otherwise separated by geographical distances, time and economic constraints to play, learn, experiment and work together. Given the connectedness of everything around us and the potential for a global learning environment where anything is possible - how can universities fulfill the needs of the students of the future? Indeed some universities are already promoting notions of a connected curriculum that will allow students to combine active enquiry with current research engagement to push the boundaries of disciplines and reach across different fields (Fung, 2018). If Higher Education is about providing a learning environment that supports ‘becoming’ ethical, critically reflective, and productive humans able to develop relations with others, with a goal of nurturing a global society for the well-being of all we ask three central questions. How can we i) begin to talk about what this means for students, ii) develop what is required to support learning and iii) provide support for the academics who populate these institutions? In this paper, we imagine what it could mean to be a student in the future university by focusing on the design of curricula and programs that take into account a connected global society. It is possible to predict potential future learning environments and curricula that support and nurture learning to some extent, but without a robust debate about the shape of future pedagogies, we will just be muddling along and hoping for the best. This paper seeks to stimulate such a discussion through a presentation of models that promote active citizenship and agency. The models are based on principles of i) identifying learner motivation, ii) establishing collaborative strategies, iii) the formation of experimenting communities that are able to co-create something that is of value together and iv) establish open laboratories, where in principle all technologies and all materials can be transformed into new cultural and pedagogical practices (Thestrup & Robinson, 2016). The experimenting communities in the open laboratories can even communicate, play and create meaning together with other communities on a global level (Gauntlett & Stjerne Thomsen, 2013). We suggest that these models scaffold a progression from developing a deep domain knowledge, critical thinking and production to collaborative strategies that stimulate co-creation and self-directed learning. That progression is both a developmental and curricular process, as well as an individual process. We know from research on learning that learners tend to move from understanding the concrete to being able to generate and articulate the abstract principles behind the concrete cases (Bruner, 1966). As individuals develop more domain knowledge, their confidence, motivation and interest increases (Renninger & Hidi, 2016). As the graduate student progresses the educator role changes. In the early phases of learning, the undergraduate student gradually becomes a domain expert through the scaffolding of practices that are initially controlled by the educator and support the student’s development of knowledge and ability to apply critical thinking. However, as the students becomes more knowledgeable, the educator becomes, to some extent a student herself, in that learning develops through a shared pathway. As the graduate student progresses, their role also changes and learning becomes a joint activity, where learners (educators and students together) take on different roles as questions are articulated and possible scenarios are developed. The student and educators are then both learners and researchers equally and as such become participants and creative thinkers (Resnick 2017) in a learning process. That shift, from novice to knowledgeable, supports all learners (educators and students) to move toward a more active process of learning. But these processes are very individual as well. While, in general, many undergraduates are through supported learning strategies and graduate students are moving toward being more independent, self-motivated learners and producers of knowledge, some undergraduates may be independent at a much earlier stage. The process should be flexible enough to support all kinds of learning. This progression allows students to become aware of their own potential, competences and skills and their ability to act on real-life issues. Consequently, students are able to move toward directing their own learning as active citizens in an unpredictable world. This is what we might regard as an entrepreneurial mindset but to get to this we have to pay attention to how students understand who they are, what they can do and how they can work with others to create something of value. Creating learning environments where this is possible means that both educators and students must be ready to see learning as a progression where we are all in the process of both being and having agency and becoming citizens of the world. Bruner, J. (1966). Toward a Theory of Instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Gauntlett, D, & Stjerne Thomsen, B. (2013). Cultures of Creativity: LEGO Foundation. Localised 16.04.2018 at http://www.legofoundation.com/ko-kr/research-and-learning/foundation-research/cultures-creativity Fung, D. (2017) The connected curriculum for Higher Education UCL Press Renninger, K. A. & Hidi, S. (2016). The power of interest for motivation and learning. New York: Routledge. Resnick, M. (2017) Lifelong kindergarten: The MIT Press. Thestrup, K. & Robinson, S. (2016) Towards an entrepreneurial mindset; Empowering learners in an open laboratory In P. Papadopolous, R. Burger & A. Faria (eds.) Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Education Vol. 2 Emerald 147-168
Original languageEnglish
Publication year11 Sep 2018
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sep 2018
EventPhilosophy of Higher Education Conference (PHEC 2018) ‘Student Being and Becoming in the Future University’, at Middlesex University, UK, September 10-12, 2018 - Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Aug 201812 Sep 2018


ConferencePhilosophy of Higher Education Conference (PHEC 2018) ‘Student Being and Becoming in the Future University’, at Middlesex University, UK, September 10-12, 2018
LocationMiddlesex University
CountryUnited Kingdom

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