Resonance Pedagogy

Can Bristol be (even) more resonant?  

Looking ahead at the possibilities of innovative teaching at Bristol, I draw on conversations with Resonance pedagogy practitioners.  

I wouldn’t start from here. This might work elsewhere but we do things differently. That would require resources we simply don’t have. In the current climate we need to cover our back.  

OK I’ve got it out of my system, and perhaps yours as well. These are the objections people can raise against new ideas around teaching – but my sense is that this is a really exciting time for Bristol, and that there is an appetite to try out new things, in order to make teaching – even including assessment! – more enjoyable for both students and teachers.  

After two years as a BILT Associate working on Resonance Pedagogy, I want to do two things here: draw some conclusions from interviews with practitioners, a wide-ranging literature review, and my own practice. I’ll then make just a few suggestions, hoping that some will be of interest.  

Key themes emerging from conversations and research: 

  1. Give students an actual say. Ask where they’re coming from, and harness their interests and experiences. Allow students to co-create your unit, and embrace different responses. Resonance, joy and, ultimately, attainment rely in no small part on student agency.  
  1. Go to your own intellectual limits. If a unit ties in with your research interests, bring your actual questions to class. For all the research-led teaching, we need a bit more teaching-led research.  
  1. Yes, this needs time. Alienation, indifference and repulsion are linked to acceleration. The miracle of time is this though: you slow down, and you end up having more time rather than less. Intense learning experiences become possible; amazing intellectual results will follow.  
  1. Think about space. Does your classroom have a front and back? Does it look like an army formation in there? Or do you meet around a middle? (My class on Centrist politics has chairs arranged in a circle. Quite fitting, I thought.)  
  1. Engage with those who (seem to) disagree, especially across levels of hierarchy. We’re all trying to do good things. We sometimes speak different languages, but we’re good people.  

So here’s a few things that occurred to me as necessary components in teaching innovation. These are from my own perspective, so I’d love to hear from you especially if you disagree!  

I would love to do a more systematic analysis of how Bristol already shares some of the values and practices of Resonance Pedagogy without perhaps always being aware of it. This could be done at the level of policy and also on the ground, in the ways colleagues teach.  

Secondly, I would be keen to see more conversations between colleagues about teaching (ironically, teaching can be quite lonely).  

And finally, I think teaching innovation needs to be envisaged and planned with people across the different parts of our University on board. It’s not just a matter of teaching staff sharing ideas. Students are often consulted but much less often involved in actual decision-making than in other countries. Senior Tutors and School Managers for example may all have ideas and experiences and resources to contribute to teaching-related conversations. Their work impacts on teaching already, so let’s bring them into conversations around teaching practice itself.  

Happy to discuss.  

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