Facilitating Reflective Learning in Higher Education

By Anne Brockbank; Ian McGill | Go to book overview
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Our Themes

We address the central theme of learning in higher education. Our primary purpose is to suggest how learning can be effectively and consciously promoted. However, our purpose cannot be separated from the following questions. What is the purpose of higher education? What kind of learning should higher education be promoting? We review these questions in order to identify the relevance of our approaches to promoting learning.

Higher educational institutions aspire to create the conditions for learning, and a growing number of academic staff, policy makers and writers are now more explicit about the purpose of the institutions in promoting learning that is not merely instrumental. Higher education is rightly endeavouring to ensure that students can realize their aspirations after university as well as providing an enriching experience on the path to graduation and post-graduation. However, beyond the instrumental are explicit aspirations captured in phrases like transformational learning, critical learning, lifelong learning, which we examine later. These aspirations, or purposes, of higher education are explored and justified in the context of contemporary understandings of society, knowledge and the relevance of universities in the future. Higher education is having to justify its existence as it is no longer taken as a privileged given by society. Indeed, the pressure to justify causes concern for some in that the traditional qualities of higher education such as academic freedom, autonomy, and the pursuit of knowledge, may be sacrificed.

Given the aspirations for learning that includes, yet goes beyond the instrumental, how can learning be promoted and encouraged that meets these aspirations? The key for us is in the nature of learning and the interactions and relationships between academic staff as teachers and student learners and between learners themselves.

Drawing from our experience as learners and teachers in higher education as well as sources drawn upon and referred to later, we recognize the shift that is taking place in knowledge and understanding about the nature of learning. In some ways the views of what learning is, how it can be

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