Thursday, March 27, 2014

On the neoliberal perversion of education

"According to neoliberalist ideology, knowledge is a commodity. Higher education is a market where knowledge and skills are traded. Universities offer marketable knowledge and skills, as well as supplying marketable services. Neoliberalism in higher education forges learners into contributors to the market economy in a knowledge society. This in turn impacts on the meaning and use of knowledge that is learnt. Høstaker and Vabø (2005) argue that a transformation of knowledge occurred in the second half of last century. Previously knowledge was generated within academic disciplines and research traditions associated with a search for truth based on reason. Neoliberalism transformed this to a knowledge that is judged more on how it performs in a context of application – in this case the market place. This transformation of knowledge is to what Giddens calls Type 2 knowledge, generic knowledge that is trans-disciplinary, transient, useful and applied; a commodity sold in the market place. Engagement research shows affinity with this view of knowledge. It assumes that education is about students constructing their own practical knowledge to apply in suitable situations. Knowledge is embedded in pedagogy, a means of achieving success but not its end"

Student engagement research in higher education: questioning an academic orthodoxy. Teaching in Higher Education doi: 10.1080/13562517.2014.901956
Abstract: This article suggests that student engagement research is not often investigated critically. It attempts to change this. After briefly outlining a conceptual framework for student engagement, it explores three critical questions about it. First, it asks whether in trying to be all things in teaching and learning, student engagement focuses too much on an engaged generic learner that neglects the impact of specific contexts. Second, it asks whether engagement research, with its focus on identifying engaging classroom practices, has come to emphasise pedagogy at the expense of curriculum, which is a more philosophical and political understanding of purposes, knowledge and values in higher education. It asks, third, whether student engagement has gained its high profile because it aligns with and supports a neoliberal ideology that has an instrumental view of knowledge and emphasises performativity and accountability.

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