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CARL GOMBRICH - BLOG

Higher Education, Interdisciplinarity, and some related things like Expertise and Future of Work

Welcome to my new blog. You can read more about me in the About tab, top left. I'm looking forward to getting back to 'writing and thinking out loud' about Higher Education, Interdisciplinarity and other things that interest me. You can talk to me either here or on my linked Twitter feed.

 

Work, skills, education and 21st century blarney

Had a good ol’ chat with Tom Bennett on Twitter last night. In case you don’t know Tom (and neither do I, really) he’s a superb edu blogger – very funny and very much in the ‘trad’ camp when it comes to the current debates on school education. Tom hates stuff about teaching 21st century skills: emotional intelligence; resilience; teamwork collaboration and those sorts of things. I sent him this link which he commented on as ‘total gibberish’. I’m not so sure. But even if I’m

Interdisciplinarity: easy but hard; hard but easy.

In some ways the concept of interdisciplinarity is easy: when doing research or when learning, follow the problem, not ‘the subject’. That is (on one view) ‘interdisciplinary research’ or ‘interdisciplinary learning’. Karl Popper said it in 1963: ‘We are not students of some subject matter, but students of problems. And problems may cut right across the borders of any subject matter or discipline.’ So don’t worry about what ‘discipline’ or ‘subject’ you are meant to be doing;

Qualification or Formation?

I tweeted out something about universities as places of formation. Oliver Quinlan said he liked the way it was expressed and asked if I had I done a blog about Qualification vs Formation. I hadn’t, so here it is: a blog on the difference between Qualification and Formation, and the place that universities have in that discussion. I think universities have increasingly become places of qualifications in the past 10, 20 maybe 30 years. I don’t mean this in an entirely positive

The New Amateurism

I blogged recently on dilettantism. This was intended as a piece of provocation. But it was also, in my view, an optimistic take on the ‘New Renaissance’ brought about by the knowledge revolution and new ways of learning and working that we are seeing. The suggestions were meant as playfully speculative, in line with the subject matter. I was surprised, then, when talking to my dad last week, to hear that many of the contributors to his new learned journal of the Oxford Centr

Cognitive Work

Some of the most sceptical remarks about a liberal/interdisciplinary education come from those who are experts in established academic disciplines. The criticism is that by providing a wider base at undergraduate level one is dumbing-down the education. Here are some questions I have put to my colleagues  in this situation: 1. What intellectual tasks do you find difficult? For example: Learning a foreign language? Learning maths or computer programming? Reading 2-3 novels eve

Specialism, Generalism, Details and the Big Picture

Interdisciplinarity is in vogue in education. It’s been in vogue in the US for a while and throughout most of the last 100 years some major institutions in the States have offered interdisciplinary modules or fully interdisciplinary degrees. The discussion is now in full flow in the UK, after some isolated but noticeable attempts at similar projects over the last 50 years or so. It is widely agreed that in areas such as International Development, Gaming, Behavioural Economics

‘Difficult Thinking’ and Interdisciplinarity

At the SRHE conference on Structuring Knowledge last week, Gareth Williams said that we need people in our universities to do the ‘difficult thinking’. I agree. Elsewhere on this blog I have argued against education being too easy, or even too much fun – at least in a superficial sense. Great rewards come from overcoming great difficulties and in the intellectual sphere this sort of work takes place in universities. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against having fun – at least I

Reclaiming Generalism

Ask yourself this: would you prefer your prime minister to have studied one thing at university or to have had a more rounded higher education? I put this question recently to a group of 60 school and college students who came to UCL. They had come to see what the Arts and Sciences degree was about. Many of them were interested to consider it as a degree they might take. When asking the question, I did my best to point out to the students that I might be biased. Further, I ac

Knowledge, Democratisation and Power

My job takes me to meet and speak with people who have radically different ideas about the nature of knowledge: its origins, its history, its future. I love these conversations. They are often profound even if they are problematic in revealing, in some ways, how far apart very intelligent people can be on what we might call fundamental questions for our individual and communal lives. When it comes to a history of knowledge, there have always been different views as to how our

Breadth vs Depth in university education

Health Warning: I am finding it increasingly difficult to keep separate my personal views about education, as expressed on this blog, and the work I am doing on Arts and Sciences BASc. I guess this is inevitable and may be no bad thing. It is worth saying, though, that by no means all that I write or say here will feed into or be applicable or relevant to courses we offer on the BASc. A couple of weeks back I was taken with a comment from my colleague Prof Vincent Walsh that

Failure and Confusion

Encouraged by recent discussions of failure in learning (both here at Wimbledon High School for Girls and at the upcoming PELeCON conference), I discuss both failure and its other ‘negative’ bedfellow: confusion. Living with both failure and confusion is essential to successful learning – and, indeed, a successful life. PS I’m learning that I do find it hard to think of more technical/academic stuff off the cuff when faced with the camera (e.g. the ‘Popper’ stuff in this vid

Assessment in universities

The way we assess students at university is currently subject to some interesting challenges. I discuss two of these challenges in the vlog below. 1. The challenge to university assessment posed by an economic situation which causes a younger generation questions the processes, values and even competence of the older generation. 2. The challenge to assessment posed by the immediacy and ubiquitounsess of high-quality academic materials and different points of view available el

Flipping the lecture hall: first thoughts

Inspired by Khan, reading more at Steve Wheeler’s blog and many other links, I am thinking more about how we can use technology at universities to give the students what they want: meaningful contact time with their lecturers, professors and the leading academics. This is about putting the people back at the centre of the learning. It is using technology to do stuff technology can do, and allowing people to do the things most of us want people to do. How can we do this? Well,

Future Universities – teaching low-tech

Lots on the future of universities in the air. I’m sorry I missed the series at Cambridge with Martin Rees, Stefan Collini and others talking on the subject. I am mostly concerned with undergraduate education, rather than research. Two themes come to mind in this regard. 1. How we address learning in the light of the technology and communication revolution. 2. How we address learning in the light of the tremendous challenges posed by the crisis in capitalism and the consumpti

Interdisciplinarity, future work and the learning of ‘languages’

Currently my work has me thinking about future employment, the world of work and the role of universities in preparing students for this aspect of their lives. For this blog entry, I want to put aside the issue of whether there is a conflict within universities between scholarship and preparing people for the world of work. There are other articles on things like this in this blog. Let’s assume here that the proportion of the population going to university will remain high an

 

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