Co-Chairs: Rosaline Govender and Anthea Jacobs

With the post-Covid -19 turn in higher education it is imperative that we pause and critically reflect on our educational practices during the last 27 months. As reflective practitioners, it is of utmost importance not only to describe but to critically reflect upon and theorise our own actions with a view of transforming our practice. Gibbs (1988) reminds us that it is not sufficient to have an experience in order to learn. Without reflecting on this experience, it may quickly be forgotten, or its learning potential lost. With this in mind the Professional Learning Project (PLP) of HELTASA invited Prof Jack Whitehead from the University of Cumbria to facilitate a webinar on, Transforming educational practices in HE through critical reflection on 14 July 2022 via Microsoft teams from 1-3pm. Prof. Jack Whitehead was joined by his colleague, Marie Huxtable.
Dr Rosaline Govender (Project Manager) and Dr Anthea Jacobs (Scholarly Practitioner) chaired the webinar. It was pleasing to note that a total of 101 delegates attended and there was robust discussion at the webinar.

Prof Whitehead’s ‘educational’ perspective, is focused on the generation and sharing of living-educational-theories with values of human flourishing as explanatory principles in explanations of educational influences in learning and as embodied, evaluative standards of judgment. A living-educational-theory is an individual’s explanation of their educational influences in their own learning, in the learning of others and in the learning of the social formations within which the practice is located (Whitehead, 1989). Such explanations help individuals to answer questions of the kind, ‘How do you know that your practice has improved?’ and ‘what standards of judgement do you use to justify a claim that your practice has improved. The approach rests on each individual’s acceptance of their professional, educational responsibility, to ask, research and answer their question, ‘How do I improve my professional educational practice in Higher Education with values of human flourishing?’.

Professor Jack Whitehead reminded participants about the importance of critical reflection for professional development. He demonstrated how this can feed into a Living Poster and offered the critical reflection planner to kickstart the documenting of reflections. Prof Whitehead started the webinar by referring to the philosophy of ubuntu, “I am because we are”. The webinar was a good demonstration of this philosophy, as Prof Whitehead shared of his time, his knowledge and experience, and his vast array of online resources. He reminded us of the importance of ubuntu as a standard of judgement for how to improve our own professional educational practice in the academy.

Professor Whitehead shared suggestions for improving our own professional learning, ranging from the notion of a Living Poster, to key messages taken from different keynotes delivered at a previous HELTASA gathering, to understanding the architecture of knowledge in community-based research, to critical reflections in educational practice, to name but a few. All the while touching on and making connections with important contextual higher education teaching and learning elements such as a teaching philosophy, teaching portfolio, student evaluations and mentorship. The sharing of examples of students’ living posters are useful as it points to the importance of involving students in the teaching and learning process as we journey towards more transformative pedagogies.

The most important take-home message is how a Community of Practice (CoP) is beneficial for deliberating around and sharing/explaining the educational influences in one’s own learning, the learning of others and the learnings from social formations.