A bit of history

My own slide into academia came out of desperation. Just as my talent as an artist ran out and my entrepreneurial ambitions lay in tatters I was lucky enough to be misidentified as a good potential university lecturer by my generous institution. I was 43  with no academic experience but a superficially flash CV which looked impressive and industry based (something they said they wanted). At first I was love struck with academia – everyone was so smart, conversation with colleagues was electrifying, students were fun and the hours were blessedly short after freelance work. One thing bugged me, teaching was discussed and taught as if it were foreign language . The language of education was very technical and in meetings I struggled to know what people meant. Marking schemes, assessment matrices, learning outcomes, weighted assessment strategies, benchmarks, standards, quality, peer observation and 2 million different acronyms. Worst of all were these obligatory module handbooks which tied you to a rigid scheme of activities before you had a chance to meet the cohort and assess the best way of getting your stuff across. These were like contracts, that not only told the students what to expect they told them what to do to do well and what they would have to do if they messed up.  In my previous life in theatre the notion of discovery, of surprise of the excitement of watching a director twist and turn manipulating the content to the needs of the cast was not there.  In fact in teaching such flexings of finely tuned  intellect is not considered ‘good practice.’ btw: a term I have come to despise. I was disappointed – everything I had ever learned about how to keep an audience interested – most particularly – not telling them what was going to happen before the show started was to be abandoned. A very bad idea in my view.

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