Showcase Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Embedding learning skills in the curricula (#212)

Selma Macfarlane 1 , Sophie Goldingay 1 , Alan Jenkins 1
  1. Deakin University, Geelong, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content

One of the great challenges as academics is to encourage a zest for learning and knowing in our students. While phrases like ‘embedding learning skills’ may not capture one’s imagination,  others such as developing ‘pedagogy for the children of the oppressors’ (van Gorder 2007), ‘straddling discursive worlds’ (Northedge 2003), and ‘building bridges instead of walls’ (Brown, Henderson & Kloser 2012) might.  Each of these phrases provides an intriguing impetus for the more mundanely expressed activity identified in this paper’s title, which is the focus of our research project.  We have selected a core unit from the Bachelor of Social Work course, which focuses on developing sociological understandings of the self, as a pilot for developing, implementing and evaluating a program combining the development of generic academic learning skills with specific unit and discipline content.  While much of the literature points to the value of embedding learning skills in this way, little has been written about how to do this.  We do not claim to have the answers, but are excited by the exploration of what ‘learning skills’ might comprise in today’s world,  how these skills might be embedded in specific units, and how they link to ongoing professional practice and active citizenship.  In this paper, we show you how we think this may be done.

Addressing sub theme 4: navigating uncertainty and complexity

Our paper addresses both the overall theme of the conference and, particularly, sub-theme four. Students bring with them a diverse array of social and cultural backgrounds and experiences, which create complexities within the classroom in terms of teaching and learning, as well as uncertainty for some students as to how they will navigate the specialised discursive environment of the university and the world of practice beyond. But, rather than see these challenges as problematic, we hope to model an approach that will lead to greater creativity and innovation, and ability to participate in the discursive environment of both academia and the respective discipline.

Drawing on educational literature and our own academic experience, we are interested in how bridges can be built between discursive communities, as knowledge from diverse sources is shared (McKay & Devlin 2014); how students can be encouraged to develop growth mindsets, giving them flexibility in learning and knowing; and how, as educators we can facilitate environments where lifelong learning skills are enhanced.

 Embedding learning skills in curricula content brings together classroom learning, real world experience, professional discourse and academic literacies, as students and educators collaborate to create environments in which complex and uncertain landscapes can be explored.