Roundtable Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Flexible pedagogies and practices: Enhancing graduate capabilities and employability through flexible teaching and learning? (#134)

Thomas Wanner 1 , Edward Palmer 1
  1. University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

 1.    Background/Context

'Flexible pedagogies’, is the current buzzword in educational change in higher education (Kettle et al., 2013; Barnett, 2014; Gordon, 2014; Ryan and Tilbury, 2014). There is, however, much debate on what flexibility means and how it should be implemented at universities and for what purposes? Effective flexible pedagogies and practices require the interplay between (i) flexible institutions that allow flexibility in teaching pedagogies and practices; (ii) flexible teachers who are flexible in the approaches and modes of teaching; and (iii) flexible students who are capable to be flexible learners (Gordon, 2014: 5, 9; emphasis added). Ultimately, these debates are about how higher education systems in Australia and elsewhere can be transformed so that teaching and learning is becoming more flexible and student-centred, and prepare graduates better for a working life in digital and globalised economies.

2.    Issue/Topic: Flexibility in teaching and learning in higher education in order to enhance student graduate capabilities and employability.

3.    Outline of the debates around the topic

3.1. brief overview of literature, various debates and perspectives about ‘flexibility’

3.2. short presentation of case study, conducted by authors, about student and teacher perceptions and experiences about flexible pedagogies which provides the stimulus for initial discussion;

3.3. Major themes for further discussion: i) the role of the teacher or instructor and universities to develop ‘flexible students’ that match the needs of today’s digital knowledge economies; and ii) the best ways to cultivate “flexibility as an attribute or capability” in both learners and educator (Ryan and Tilbury, 2013, p. 4).

 Major questions for discussion

·         What kind of flexible pedagogies and practices are required to enhance rather than undermine students’ graduate skills and knowledge for the 21st century workplace?

·         What are major obstacles to implementing flexible pedagogies and practices and how can they be overcome?

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 The discussion about the role of flexible pedagogies and practices in Australia’s higher education system related to all four conference themes. The discussion, however, addresses mostly themes 2 and 3. A central focus of the discussion is on the use of technologies to provide more flexibility and to ‘enable employability’ (theme 2) (See Kettel, 2013). Another key theme is the development and also assessment of graduate capabilities (theme 3) through flexible learning and teaching, which includes flexible assessment practices. A crucial point of discussion is whether the push of increasing flexibility in delivery, pedagogies  and practices, with its increasing emphasis on ‘student-centred’ and controlled learning actually enhances or undermines the development of graduate capabilities and hence employability of students? Universities and teachers are central for developing ‘flexible students’ and generic graduate capabilities, such as problem solving, working effectively as part of team, and critical analysis (Millis, 2010).  Flexibility needs to be debated, like in this roundtable, because Universities are transforming to a future-oriented system of education where the achievement of student graduate attributes, including ‘flexibility’, becomes a critical outcome.