Measurable results in predefined categories versus out-of-the-box approaches along non-standard routes – faultlines in universities are often hierarchical, but there is a way out.
“Students love it because it’s different!” What creates excitement on the ground might cause panic in offices whose job it is to enforce standards and ensure comparability. Risk and chaos are welcome by some as creative forces stimulating intellectual enquiry but feared by others as uncontrollable forces that upset finely tuned mechanisms of accountability. Contingency is seen by some as a hallmark of the unpredictability of life but defined by others as precisely the resources needed to even out the creases. More often than not, this pits “frontline” teachers against management and administrators. Does it have to be this way?
The question is of interest to me because Resonance Pedagogy is focused on the specificity and open-endedness of learning relationships and suspicious of abstract prescriptions and measurements. To find answers, I call some of the most prominent practitioners of Resonance Pedagogy, and some of their answers surprise me.
“I have seen this too,” says business ethics researcher Christopher Baird. “Colleagues love it and some even say what’s the big deal, whereas senior management tend to be much more cautious, because they say it’s impractical and doesn’t lend itself to performance management. The key, to me, is first and foremost to acknowledge these different views and start a conversation.”
Resonance Pedagogy does express a preference, but there’s not point saying I wouldn’t start from here. Anna-Lena Demi, in an article on literature teaching, argues that we need to move away from a focus on skills and phase models of comprehension and staggered outcomes often favoured by senior leaders, but there is an olive branch: qualitative, empirical research can be used for the type of quality needed for compliance purposes, provided it is done at scale.
This is easier than ever. Large-scale data models can facilitate the analysis of text corpora comprised, for example, of narrative accounts of learning experiences. We don’t need yet another Likert scale when more detailed and sophisticated insights can be gleaned from distributional semantics and topic analysis – areas that I have been working on for a few years now, with my colleague Cory Massaro.
Adds Dietmar Wetzel of Hamburg Medical School: “Some of the standard indicators still work. At our institution, attendance is much higher in seminars with plenty of the kind of interactive elements that Resonance Pedagogy encourages us to use.” Wetzel points out that it is also worth considering who a particular form of evaluation is actually supposed to convince. “Many people can be much more effectively reached with a testimonial or a story.” He uses a method called Feldpartitur, developed by social scientist Christine Moritz, for sophisticated analyses of classroom interactions.
I don’t think you’d find anyone opposed to teaching quality assurance. The conversation to be had is about approaches and methods, where there has been a lot of movement, but also around audiences and aims.