Dealing With Difference Essay

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Paper: Teaching In Higher Education: Dealing With Difference

Dr. C Miller
Keele University
Staffordshire
ST5 5BG
United Kingdom
Telephone: 01782 733111 E.Mail: mna45 @mngt.keele.ac.uk

Teaching In Higher Education: Dealing With Difference

Abstract
Government policy in the UK to widen participation in higher education has created debate on how teaching approaches need to be adapted to take into account the differing needs of this heterogeneous mix. The purpose of this paper is to report on how student-centred learning and a reflective approach to teaching facilitates dialogue and takes into account difference and the effect this has on staff and student teaching and learning. An action research type approach was adopted drawing on a practitioner diary which was part of a portfolio designed to develop reflective practice in trainee teachers with a view to improve student learning through feeding developing theory into changing practice. Despite the recent drive towards mass participation in higher education, most lecturers have not accounted for these changes in teaching methods. The process of conscious reflection upon everyday practice as a teacher necessarily incorporates consideration of student needs and encourages revision of practice and sometimes adaptation. Reflection followed by action creates change not only in how to teach students but it also enables learning from student reaction to changes. Reflective discussion with colleagues and students helps build upon experience, and contributes toward developing teaching in practice. Each teacher has a different style and something unique to offer as does each student. This paper illustrates how through encouraging flexible expectations each of the other and facilitating exploration of different perspectives enables teacher and student to appreciate difference through reflexivity which enhances the student learning experience and enriches teaching practice leading to the participation in lectures and seminars of students who may otherwise remain silenced.

Keywords - Action research, Difference, Diversity, Higher Education, Widening participation.

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T1 Introduction he research reported in this paper was undertaken as part of a teacher training programme (Postgraduate Certificate- Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) and was part of a portfolio designed to develop reflective practice in trainee teachers/lecturers. As a newly appointed lecturer I considered it appropriate to explore issues relating to dealing with difference in higher education as government policy in the UK promoting widening participation has led to a debate about teaching, especially how teaching approaches need to be adapted for diverse learners (Hockings et al; 2007)

I have found that my prior (diverse) experience in different types of employment can enhance or encumber me in the practice of teaching, as theory and practice do not always neatly converge. The world of private working practice and that of public institutional education are often paradigmatically opposite but I would suggest that neither representation is right or wrong, merely diametrically different. As a teacher, a researcher and an administrator dealing with difference is an important but everyday part of my working life, it is something ‘I do’ but do not reflect upon. I would like to take the opportunity in this paper using an action research approach drawing upon notes from a practitioner diary to consider the idea of difference from multiple perspectives: how different people might conceptualise learning; how different teaching/learning styles may affect the process of learning; how I as a teacher help people from different racial or social backgrounds to learn; how I as a teacher a researcher and an administrator deal with differing expectations; and how my different ways of knowing the world can be harnessed to…