Keynote talk

"The Virtues and Vices of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education Today"

Dr Gurnam Singh, Coventry University

In the presentation I will explore the ways in which, due to a complex set of social, cultural and political factors, the identities and practices of academics in higher education have been impacted on in recent times. These factors are associated with, amongst other things, the widening participation and expansion agenda, marketisation and the attendant growth of managerialism and performance regimes, the development of e learning, the global economic crisis and the professionalization and regulation of higher education teaching. Against this backdrop, my central argument will be that, whilst much of this change is irresistible, we need to be wary about 'throwing out the baby with the bath water'. In this regard, I will argue that there are some essential 'virtues' about the academic enterprise that are relatively stable and universal and therefore worth reiterating. To develop this argument I will explore the values of teaching and learning through the perspective of the concept of 'virtue ethics' originally developed by Aristotle, but also reflected in idea of 'critical pedagogy' and the work of Paulo Freire. In doing so, I want to emphasise the dangers of over emphasising technical aspects of teaching and learning and conversely underemphasising the moral and social dimension.

Powerpoint presentation (6.10MB)
Paper (129KB)

Speaker Biography

Dr Gurnam Singh is Principal Lecturer in Social Work, Co-Director Applied Research Group in Social Inclusion in Social Care and National Teaching Fellow (2009).

In no particular order he describes himself as a social work academic, community activist, action researcher and educationalist. Gurnam has established a national reputation in the field of social justice, anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice and critical pedagogy and has published widely on this area. He gained his PhD from the University of Warwick in 2004, the focus of his thesis being the experiences of BME practice educators. His interest in social justice and pedagogy is reflected in much of his research and scholarly output. Transcending social care, health and higher education, these cover areas such as 'advocacy for BME families with severely disabled children', 'child protection and BME communities', 'hate crime and preventing violent extremism, 'institutional racism', 'service users involvement', and in more recent times, 'BME student attainment in HE' and 'critical pedagogy and popular education'. His pedagogical philosophy is underpinned by a belief in the transformative potential of education and feels deeply privileged to be working in a field that allows him to make a real and immediate difference to people's lives.