Rethinking the landscape of education

I have been thinking quite a lot lately about the future of legal education, partly because I had agreed to talk about that at the Society of Legal Scholars Centenary Conference this week (more about that in a future post), but also because there is currently an enormous amount of policy discussion on education futures in general. One of the things we in higher education have, I think, to take much more seriously is the relationship with prior learning – both in terms of content and process. There is still very little notion of higher legal education as part of this much larger learning continuum.

I recently came across a set of webcasts by Helen Haste of Bath University and Harvard Graduate School of Education. These illustrate some of the challenges we face and show how (some) educationalists are thinking about the transformative role of pre-tertiary education in a way that generally we are not in HE. I got to know Helen and (more particularly) her work in moral education through one of my PhD students when I was in Bristol, though I’m sorry to say I haven’t been in contact with her for some years. I find her writing often inspiring and always extremely challenging (in a good way!) – strongly constructivist, with a real sense of the difference education can make to individuals and their communities.

In one of the clips Helen refers to the need to develop in students five core ‘competences’ necessary to the 21st century:

  • Managing Ambiguity. “…managing ambiguity is something we have to teach, because we have to counter the story of a single linear solution.”
  • Agency and Responsibility. “Being an effective agent means being able to approach one’s environment, social or physical, with a confidence that one actually will be able to deal with it.”
  • Finding and Sustaining Community. “Managing community is partly about that multitasking of connecting and interacting. It’s also, of course, about maintaining community, about maintaining links with people… and of course recognizing also that one is part of a larger community, not just one’s own private little world.”
  • Managing Emotion. “it’s about getting away from the idea that emotion and reason are separate… Teaching young people to manage reason and emotion and not to flip to one or the other is an important part of our education process.”
  • Managing Technological Change. “When we have a new tool, we first use it for what we are already doing, just doing it a bit better. But gradually, the new tool changes… our social practices.”

I suggest these have considerable continuing relevance for undergraduates as well as school students.

Helen also refers to Beyond Current Horizons, a UK government project, for which she is lead on youth identity, community and citizenship, which we should also be aware of in thinking about the direction in which HE is moving. In the final clip in the series she describes how lessons learned from this experience, together with her work on a model of the human as tool user, have led her to rethink the priorities for education. You can access the webcasts from this link. Sorry, because its in Real Player format, I can’t embed the clips here, but they are worth viewing.


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