Reflections on Pedagogy in Higher Education

I read the articles Improving Teaching: Enhancing Ways of Being University Teachers by Gloria Dall’Alba and Students’ Approaches to Learning and Teachers’ Approaches to Teaching in Higher Education by John T.E. Richardson as part of my PGLTCHE course.

Here are my initial responses:

My main take-away from Richardson was the importance for teachers to be cognizant of those factors that impact on students’ learning which they bring into the room with them, broadly defined (as I interpreted his essay) as contextual and environmental. This highlighted the limits of planning a taught curriculum. I struggle with planning (in my professional and personal life!) because it feels so abstract. I want to be alive to the people in room and use the course material as a baseline to work from, almost like an improvisation. However, Richardson’s point that this approach can alienate some students due to their perceptions of higher education brings up an intriguing argument that one’s experience of education is determined as much by belief as by experience. I like the idea of focusing educational interventions on challenging perceptions of learning. Issue remains how to make such an approach general enough that it can be applied to a whole group.

Really enjoyed the Dall’Alba. It was a great continuation of the discussion we had in the first session about ontology, and enhanced my understanding of Roger’s definition of reflexivity. There’s an implicit political argument in the section on the fallacy of a body of knowledge being an incontestable ‘thing’ that is simply ‘there’ waiting to be learned. The decolonising the curriculum movement has made me reflect very deeply about the origins of the knowledge I possess (even the idea of somehow ‘owning’ knowledge is historically contingent). Ontology feels like a good way of shaping the conversation around the legacy of the Enlightenment in pedagogy in relation to individualism and sovereignty.

Heidegger’s idea of teaching as process to ‘let learn’ is a little subtle for me at the moment. There is a risk of putting too much responsibility for learning onto the students. Whilst I do not like the guru/master figure of the teacher, which can be especially prevalent in theatre, I feel teachers have a professional duty to make their position about the knowledges they are teaching known to the students with whom they are working with at the time. These positions should change over time but can only be meaningfully engaged with by students if, as Dall’Alba argues, reflexive practitioners foster a community of learners outside of a taught course.

Final thought on the Dall’Alba. I loved this quote from Iain Thomson on ontology: ‘to bring us full circle back to ourselves, first by turning us away from the world in which we are most immediately immersed, then by turning us back to the world in a more reflexive way’. Reminded me of Brecht’s verfrumdungseffekt – making the familiar unfamiliar in order to see it and ourselves in a new way. The image of learning as a process where we temporarily leave ourselves in order to return with fresh eyes on the world is very appealing to me. Is this not why we read, go to the theatre, listen to music, etc.?


Dall’Alba, G., 2005. Improving teaching: Enhancing ways of being university teachers. Higher Education Research & Development24(4), pp.361-372.

Richardson, J.T., 2005. Students’ approaches to learning and teachers’ approaches to teaching in higher education. Educational psychology25(6), pp.673-680.