The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) recently hosted a webinar on Living Educational Theory. The webinar was facilitated on MS Teams by CELT’s Nalini Chitanand: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) Programme Coordinator and Shubnam Rambharos: Teaching and Learning Development Practitioner.
Chitanand explained that the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) is a professional development programme that aims to foster and promote research informed and scholarly higher education practices. The programme introduces participants to several theoretical and methodological approaches. One of the methodologies, Living Education Theory is a values-based methodology for improving educational practices through asking questions such as, ‘How do I improve my practice?’
CELT Acting Director, Prof Livingstone Makondo delivered a warm welcome message to the guests. “We are here to ensure that our staff are better equipped to execute diverse teaching and learning roles that they find requisite in whatever they do, day in day out.”
Professor Jack Whitehead (UK and visiting professor at University of Cumbria) and panellists of practitioner-researchers Dr Pip Bruce Ferguson (New Zealand, Teacher, staff developer, researcher), Dr Swaroop Rawal (India, Actor, International Life skills educator, Author and researcher), Rev Dr Delysia Timm (South Africa, Research Associate, coach), and Mrs Marilynne Coopasami (DUT, Lecturer, PhD Candidate) engaged in interactive discussions and shared their experiences and research of generating their own living-educational-theory.
Prof Whitehead introduced the Living Educational Theory and shared the global resources and exemplars on his website (http://www.actionresearch.net). He explained that this was an international resource for action researchers who are generating their own living-theories with values that carry hope for the flourishing of humanity from enquiries of the kind, ‘How do I improve what I am doing?’
“When you are on my website, if you go into the what’s new section of the 2021 academic year, you can access the issue of the journal of the Living Educational Theories. I am hoping that the brief introduction to the resources available for you will assist you in improving your own Living Educational theories and share those with global community,” said Prof Whitehead.
Dr Ferguson has worked in education all her working life. She started as a primary school teacher, managing up to 38 children in a class, before moving on to adult education and staff development in polytechnics, a Māori university, and the University of Waikato.
Dr Ferguson shared on how Living Educational Theory has benefited her life’s work as a teacher and staff developer. “I have worked in education all my life, initially as a primary school teacher and later as a staff developer. In the latter work I frequently did classroom observations to help lecturers improve their practice. The use of reflective practice by good practitioners led me to conduct my doctoral investigation into how this practice could lead staff to produce publishable research and thus contribute to an emergent research culture in the polytechnic where I then worked.”
Following Dr Pip’s presentation was Dr Swaroop. “In my PhD, I wanted to create the most unique curriculum in Life Skills education using drama for learning. I then decided to confront myself with the most help from Living Education. When you follow your values, you will experience the life of affirming energy,” said Dr Swaroop.
Dr Timm was not shy of addressing difficult issues, but she did so in a particular unique way- she asked the right (often hard) questions. Her curiosity and naturally enquiring mind often led her to new experiences and insights, and as a result, new projects, and activities. She has published her research in book chapters and academic journals.
She shared a presentation on how she uses Living Educational Action Research Framework to provide evidence for concerns experienced by students and staff seeking to flourish as humans. Amongst the points she raised, she mentioned identifying concerns experienced by students and staff as they sought to improve their lives and flourish as humans from an academic development professional in Higher Education’s point of view. These concerns are that students do not believe in themselves and emotional issues that they experience are getting in the way of their learning, students are not actively engaging with the teachers and with the subject matter hence whole-being-learning is not happening in the classrooms.
DUT’s Coopasami provided a reflection which included her educational journey. In her presentation, she discussed cultivating a society that flourishes by focusing on values.
“I have intentionally used the ENVISION2030 values in my journey with my students whereby I have unpacked and explored my values as their teacher and their values as the students. We have together been on this journey especially during the COVID-19 pandemic whereby we had to suddenly live out our values, walk our values and speak our values. The values of honesty, accountability, transparency was an overlapping of values that presented itself in our classrooms. These became shared values with the current ENVISION2030,” she said.
The webinar ended with questions and answers session. Rambharos delivered the vote of thanks.
Pictured: Guest presenters with the facilitators