Wednesday, September 6, 2023

why not being an academic means university students get more benefit from my teaching

Over the last 25 years or so, I've found myself approached from time to time to speak as a guest / associate lecturer within within various universities and faculty schools. And sometimes, I've also been asked to help design new degree course content around themes of social entrepreneurship; social innovation; and there's even a podiatry degree that now has an enterprise start-up module in it thanks to me!

The feedback is always that students enjoy my sessions, and they seem to get more out of them than they do in their usual taught syllabi (a group of students who were part of a startup bootcamp I was part of told me that they'd gained more useful knowledge from the 2 day sessions I'd delivered, than they had from the last 2 years of their business degree!). 

However, despite this consistent appreciation and validation from students, I'm sometimes not invited back...

So there's obviously a dilemma here: students enjoy it, but the university doesn't.

This relates to the old-school marketeers story of the bakers dilemma: understanding that your customer and consumer are often two very different groups of people, each with their own divergent expectations and needs: 

- students want new experiences, they want to learn in new ways, they want to develop their own critical skills in new ways;

- but further and higher education is a regulated teaching context, where curriculum content has to be covered, and assessed in pre-determined ways.

I'm therefore always trying to walk the line between ensuring a university is able to ensure compliance with its teaching requirements, but at the same time, students get an experience different to what they might usually enjoy.

But I also recognise that I'm not 'academically gifted' in the traditional sense: I scraped through school with a clutch of GCSE passes; similarly limped through College with only 2 A-Levels just about passed; and was only offered a place at a business school through clearing (which subsequently saw me graduate with a 'Desmond'* after 5 years) - but I've since gone on to create, co-design, and develop curriculum content and modules for a number of universities and international colleges; influence national policy and company law, etc. 

And all of this means I carry a prejudice and bias about how I see the value of taught curriculums and formal education - but in turn, this means I'm more emboldened to take risks and do things very differently to how students might usually experience learning in academic institutions. And it's this difference that they seem to appreciate and enjoy: having someone who not only talks about how things can be done differently, but physically models this too, encourages them to re-examine their own wider learning and how they are engaging with it, and in doing so, get even more value and benefit from it.

* if you don't know what this is, then I'm obviously far older than I'd like to think I am for making this cultural reference...

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