Keynote 1

  • Cutting down jungles and irrigating deserts: curricula as spaces of interruption?

    Maggi Savin-Baden

    Coventry University, UK

    The increasing adoption of problem-based learning and the growth in online learning each reflect the shift away from teaching as a means of transmitting information, towards supporting learning as a student-generated activity. To date problem-based learning (PBL) has been seen as a relatively stable approach to learning, delineated by particular characteristics and ways of operating. Most of the explanations of and arguments for problem-based learning, thus far, have tended to focus on (or privilege) the cognitive perspectives over the ontological positions of the learner. This paper seeks to present a challenge to the higher education community about the possibilities for reinventing problem-based learning as both a philosophy and approach to learning. What I would like to suggest is not just a constellation of questions and a number of big ideas, but instead some suggestions and priorities. It will be argued here that the notions of interruption and liquidity in the context of reconceptualisation of learning spaces may offer some purchase on the questions and issues we face as a community. This paper will suggest some options and possibilities, but it will begin by arguing that:

    • We need to reinvent PBL as a much more troublesome learning space than it is already.
    • We need to recognize the diverse types of problem-based learning: face- to-face, PBLonline and PBL in immersive virtual worlds, and the impact of these on student experiences of learning
    • Learning spaces are increasingly absent in problem-based learning
    • Such reinvention will result in liquid learning becoming central to PBL

    The reason we need to reinvent problem-based learning as a more troublesome learning space is because of the challenges of new and emerging technologies and what the constellation of ‘learning’ means. However, it is also important for us to examine the implications of such spaces of interruption in terms of engaging students and improving learning. This paper suggests that perhaps higher and further education communities can embrace some of these ideas and concepts. Further, perhaps there needs to be an engagement with the necessity of creating new curriculum spaces that help students to embrace contemporary dislocations and mediate rhetoric differently - and encourages us to be brave teachers.


    Maggi Savin-Baden is Professor of Higher Education Research at Coventry University, and Director of the Learning Innovation Research Group.

    As some one who has always been interested in innovation and change Maggi’s interest in learning has been the focus of her research for many years. Her current research is focussing on the impact of virtual worlds on learning and teaching.

    Over the last three years she has been developing the method of interpretative meta and more recently she gained funding to develop the use of intelligent avatars for problem-based learning in virtual worlds. To date she has published five books on problem-based learning. In 2007 her next two books were published entitled Learning Spaces (McGraw Hill) and A Practical Guide to PBLonline (Routledge). In her spare time she is doing an MSc in digital technology and learning to ice skate and snowboard.