So, What’s the Learning? #2: Disentangling cause and effect: the challenges of translating interdisciplinary research into policy


We are back with another summary blog generated from a rich and informative “So What’s the Learning” webinar.

Each #SWTL webinar offers:

  • The sharing of interesting pedagogic perspectives with the wider HE community
  • The chance to consider how such learning applies within your own context
  • Opportunity to develop tangible skill(s) for enhanced practice

Our second session: : Disentangling cause and effect: the challenges of translating interdisciplinary research into policy was led by Dr Arinola Adefila, Deputy Director of SCoLPP at Staffordshire University, and Prof Maria Lúcia T. Garcia, Professor and Postgraduate Lead for Political & Social Programmes from The Federal University of Espírito Santo, Brazil. Working across continents (during COVID lockdowns!) this research partnership dealt with concept complexity through an humanitarian lens. Negotiating the differing contexts in terms of language and culture produced rewarding outcomes for both the project and the researchers. Our presenters share their thoughts on the place of activism as educational researchers. If you need motivating or nourishing- this is the webinar for you!

Want to view the recorded webinar?

Things that resonated for us- SCoLPP’s learning points

We have pooled our reflections together in a little sketchnote. We would love to hear your learning- what did the session prompt for you?

Take another look (part 3 of 3)

By Paul Orsmond and Dr Eleanor Atkins

Learning in higher education (HE) is about the individual. For many students formal learning is primarily an individual event; as is the assessment of learning, the delivery of feedback (individual and anonymous), and student progression. Collaborative work, where it occurs, is principally organised by tutors, but it’s often the individuals within groups who are assessed. Individual students provide feedback on their individual experiences for the National Student Survey. Learning is about acquiring ‘know what’ and ‘know why’. As a result, an independent learner is formed. This is problematic.

Higher education must deliver inter/transdisciplinary education and generate graduates who are capable of collaboratively solving modern global challenges, including climate change. This requires transformative competencies such as ‘reconciling tensions and dilemmas’, working in an ‘interdependent’ fashion and creating new knowledge and values. In addition to ‘know what’ and ‘know why’, this requires ‘know who’ and ‘know how’. Learning as an individual event will not deliver. What is to be done?

We need to take another look at what learning is. To address external demands of future learning, HE needs to become more familiar with social learning. There are five key themes to social learning.

Theme 1. Participation – contrary to established thinking, learning is more than acquisition of knowledge and cognitive understanding. It’s participatory. We need both acquisition and participatory learning models in operation.

Theme 2. Context – ‘know how’ and ‘know who’ are always learnt in context through participating in practices. Knowledge doesn’t reside just in the head, isolated from the world. For social learning, knowledge is always in person in practice – this is called knowledgeability. Such knowledge isn’t transferred. It cannot be taught in the decontextualised classroom. It must be experienced. You must do it yourself.

Theme 3. Practices – learners develop practices, such as negotiating meaning, through participating with others. This learning allows for the development of learner identities.

Theme 4. Identities – learners, such as students, develop new (professional) identities as they learn. Learning isn’t just about knowing more, it is about becoming someone different. These new identities are not always recognisable to learners in themselves.

Theme 5. Belonging – with new shared identities learners have a new sense of belonging. This allows more effective working together, imagined possibilities and the development of shared learning histories and relationships.

Do these themes look familiar? They should. This is because we are all social learners. These themes represent how learning takes place within a community of practice (CoP). Higher education is made up of many different communities where social learning is taking place. Hence, learners in higher education are not just students; everyone is a learner. How can we tap into that huge resource?

Phenomenon-based learning, encapsulated within CoP, spans learning across universities and with societies outside universities. In the February ‘What’s the Learning’ session we want to work with you in developing a university wide Global Challenge. Using the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals, we want to begin to construct a curriculum that allows all learners to be part of global sustainability.