Higher Education Pedagogies: A Capabilities Approach

Higher Education Pedagogies: A Capabilities Approach

Higher Education Pedagogies: A Capabilities Approach

Higher Education Pedagogies: A Capabilities Approach

Synopsis

What does higher education learning and teaching enable students to do and to become? Which human capabilities are valued in higher education, and how do we identify them? How might the human capability approach lead to improved student learning, as well as to accomplished and ethical university teaching? This book sets out to generate new ways of reflecting ethically about the purposes and values of contemporary higher education in relation to agency, learning, public values and democratic life, and the pedagogies which support these. It offers an alternative to human capital theory and emphasises the intrinsic as well as the economic value of higher learning. Based upon the human capability approach, developed by economist Amartya Sen and philosopher Martha Nussbaum, the book shows the importance of justice as a value in higher education. It places freedom, human flourishing, and students' educational development at its centre. Furthermore, it takes up the value Sen attributes to education in the capability approach, and demonstrates its relevance for higher education. Higher Education Pedagogiesoffers illustrative narratives of capability, learning and pedagogy, drawing on student and lecturer voices to demonstrate how this multi-dimensional approach can be developed and applied in higher education. It suggests an ethical approach to higher education practice, and to teaching and learning policy development and evaluation. As such, the book is essential reading for students and scholars of higher education, as well as university lecturers, managers and policy-makers concerned with teaching and learning.

Excerpt

We often have to explain to young people why study is useful. It's point
less telling them that it's for the sake of knowledge, if they don't care
about knowledge. Nor is there any point in telling kids that an educated
person gets through life better than an ignoramus, because they can
always point to some genius who, from their standpoint, leads a
wretched life. And so the only answer is that the exercise of knowledge
creates relationships, continuity and emotional attachments. It intro
duces us to parents other than our biological ones. It allows us to live
longer because we don't just remember our own life but the lives of
others. It creates an unbroken thread that runs from our adolescence
(and sometimes from infancy) to the present day. And all this is very
beautiful.

(Umberto Eco, 2004: 7)

This chapter opens with a very brief and unapologetically partial selection of lecturer and student voices as expressions of what I take to be 'educated hope' (Giroux, 2001: 2) about higher education in order to establish at the outset the approach of this book. I have set out to produce a narrative which articulates a guarded optimism about higher education as a site for personal engagement, transformation and change through individual development and the potential contribution of higher education and its graduates to social well-being and public life. The late Edward Said (quoted in Higgins, 2001: 22) argued as a university teacher that 'the whole idea of education is to change and improve things, so that other cultural and political possibilities can emerge, even at moments when so-called pragmatists say this is impossible'. Any country, he asserts, owes the well-being of its citizens not only to the state of its economy but also to the health of its public culture and the nurturing of lively and viable intellectual communities in and through critical reading in higher education. We ought to learn 'to deal sceptically and perhaps even subversively with injustice, dogmatic authority, corruption and all the blandishments of power' (quoted in Higgins, 2001: 22). Martha . . .

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