22 SES 09 D, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Parallel Paper Session
Pedagogical management and teacher-student relationships in Higher Education are complex, dynamic processes that involve a sensitive issue: power. The discussion of pedagogical power involves some critical questions: Who decides what is to be learned, and how? Who decides what is evaluated, and how? Should the teacher hold all the pedagogical power? Or should the students share part of this power and contribute to the decisions? What would we gain and lose by doing that?
With these questions in mind, and with the theoretical support of Dewey, Freire, Knowles, Mezirow, and others, we have explored with our students an experiment in participatory pedagogy and student-empowered democratic learning.
According to Dewey (1927), democracy is the method by which educational institutions can transform society, and education is the place where democracy should be learned and practiced to create transformative citizens. This, in turn, involves inter-subjective and dialogical reflection on practice and social sharing — for those and with those who partake academic practice (Light and Cox, 2001).
We approach this reflection from the point of view of complexity theory, seeing classes as knowledge-building networks and learning as sharing and co-implication (Davis and Summara, 2010), and we explore, in this context, ten participatory strategies: personal strategies (portfolio, competence diagnosis, learning contract, and evaluation stars) and collaborative strategies (participatory course management, collaborative projects, collaborative construction of evaluation instruments, collaborative portfolio evaluation, evaluation friend, and evaluation friends’ team).
We have explored these strategies with 380 students in successive participatory action-research cycles, in three academic years (2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11), six different subjects, and twelve degrees, at the Polytechnic College of Education where we teach. This population ranged from young full-time students to mature students working full-time, some of them deaf, Erasmus students, and immigrants, covering a diversity that illustrates the richness of new adult publics in European Higher Education institutions.
We have focused on strategies organized as democratic processes, with some evidence and reflections that resulted from the content analysis carried out. We discuss the student participation that took place in the development of the strategies and illustrate the fragile balance in democratic pedagogical management but also show the potential for empowerment that shared power can offer.
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