I arrived in 1995 to Aotearoa Bear Mountain – no bears there anymore Fish are rarely seen there Deep links and resonances with this land – this is a country of my choice Why? I can be who I am and I can contribute to the best of my potential.
This presentation was born out of my frustration of having to spend more time to fill all the forms required to get funding to get to this conference than it took me to prepare this presentation and accompanied paper. Then, when my application was rejected AKO Aotearoa supported me to come and I am forever grateful. Thank you AKO Aotearoa for supporting me and also supporting teacher voices to be heard across the country. So what happened to our profession that our voices need to be heard? We are teachers, right, we talk all the time, numbers of students are forced to listen to us, why do we want our voices to speak even louder?
SO what happened? Neoliberalism happened …. And I am not a politician and I do not want to dwell for too long on politics, but without an exploration of the current context we cannot talk about the teacher factor as we are all conditioned, encouraged or discouraged by that context. Neoliberalism, Higher Education and Research Peter Roberts and Michael A. Peters (2008)
Conley, D. (2008) You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. p.392.
To put is simplistically – neoliberalism encourages and supports this kind of distribution of wealth and it reflects in every pore of our society.
Pierre Bourdieu (1998) defines neoliberalism as a programme for destroying collective structures, which may impede the pure market logic. He states that in the name of a ‘narrow and strict conception of rationality as individual rationality, it brackets the economic and social conditions of rational orientations and the economic and social structures that are the condition of their application’(p.1). He critiques the neoliberal discourse perceiving it as an utopian theory, which succeeds in convincing its supporters to be a scientific description of reality. In doing so, by focussing on very narrow individualistic notion of rationality it omits to perceive complexity of social structures, cultural understanding as well as thorough understanding of human psyche, assuming that solely material prosperity will lead into overall improvement of quality of life. In other words, if 1% get richer, remaining 99% will feel better. Numerous challenges from various sides of the world have been posed to this paradigm, (Hong, 2008, Bourdieu, 1998, Shore, 2009 and 2010) but in spite of that, the ways how tertiary education providers manage their staff and business increasingly follows the neoliberal rule.
Higher education is becoming an export service industry Neoliberal tertiary institutions are modelled like corporations and Vice-Chancellors and Deans are perceived as entrepreneurs (Connell, 2013). This creates social distance as well as mistrust. The gap between academic staff and management is widening and more and more academics are giving up managerial positions stating that their academic integrity is at stake when they are forced to play a ‘business game’. Most of these retreat in doing research and teaching realising that their hard deserved academic position is being jeopardised by rising class sizes and tendency towards not replacing academic staff members, but simply increasing everybody’s workload. Contract staff ‘Degrees that bring revenue are privileged whereas philosophy and critical thinking is perceived as non productive although philosophy and reflective critical thought was central idea of university (Connell, p.2).’ Rotating leadership among senior academics may be a better model employed at some universities, however, this model contradicts a neoliberal paradigm and it is not likely that it would be appreciated within a business like structure.
Oladi, S. (2013). The instrumentaliziation of education. The Atlantic Journal of Graduate Studies in Education: Special Edition. Retrieved on August, 28th 2013. from:http://ejournal.educ.unb.ca.
…And another brilliant course has been cancelled funds to go to the conference or conduct small and effective master classes while another re-branding campaign is in full swing?
Fake consultations …. We probably can do all of that but not under conditions when there is no time to reflect, develop, create and innovate. Innovation is a collaborative process. Talking over lunch with a learned colleague can be more useful then reading ten refereed articles. Dialogue characterised with mutuality and reciprocity enhances creativity. Sharing knowledge at conferences and symposia is a way to expand it, and it should not be a privilege of academics.
Knowledge cannot be possessed, it is meant to be shared and applied. Copyrighting ideas is like packaging air and selling it. Ideas, similarly to air, are essential for our existence; they are not a commodity that can be sold. Only thirty years ago was unimaginable to sell bottled water. Today empty plastic bottles are filling our landfills in countries with perfectly healthy tap water. Neoliberal tertiary providers are packaging knowledge, bottling it and sticking degree labels on it and academics are becoming factory workers adding minerals and vitamins to it. Let us reverse this by putting our efforts into making education a human right, acknowledged as essential need for every society to thrive.
Example – a young colleague from another university serving on a board requesting a fee. I believe it is my job as an academic to serve on various boards. But if I am not given time from my institution to do so, something’s gonna give!
(to mention only a few: Argentina, Finland, Denmark, France, Greece, Norway, Scotland, Turkey, Brazil, Croatia and Germany).
Programmes and courses that prioritise so called disadvantaged students and polytechnics have done a fair share of enabling non-traditional students to study at tertiary level. In addition, there are examples around the world that employ different and holistic pedagogies to explore ‘different ways of knowing’. In New Zealand, Te Wananga o Aotearoa is a tertiary education provider founded to improve socio-economic wellbeing of students who had negative experience with secondary education. It is a Maori led organisation, grounded in Maori values, committed to revitalisation of Maori cultural knowledge focused on breaking inter-generational cycles of non-participation in tertiary education with the aim of transformation through education (Te Wananga o Aotearoa, 2011). Ideally, mainstream tertiary education should provide opportunities for quality bi-cultural education if for nothing else, to honour the Treaty. International examples of alternative ways providing tertiary education outside of the institution are numerous. Oases in Melbourne, Australia (OASES, n.d) brings together leading thinkers, activists and practitioners to deliver a unique style of small group learning experiences. In this environment they acknowledge that everybody can be a leader and through each person more deeply recognising their roles, people can more confidently engage with the broader community in thinking, dialogue and action that has a real impact in communities they serve. Oases is an accredited provider, organised as a cooperative where students undertake community projects while studying on a postgraduate level. Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems is an independent ‘think and do’ tank based in Bristol, UK. Their believe that people matter and combine research, learning and consultancy (Schumacher Institute, n.d.). IONS Institute of Noetic Sciences, founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell who after seeing the beauty and fragility of our home planet decided to dedicate his life to sustainable development, provides creative courses and research on topics where mainstream universities would fear to tread (IONS, n.d.).
Reflection itself may be seen as a threat to neoliberalism. Neoliberalism encourages mindless busyness and obsession with outcomes, which does not allow time for reflection. The ‘use and discard’ metaphor used in sustainability studies can easily transfer to teachers who become easily discarded and replaced to fit a uniformed curriculum. Some textbooks offer CDs with ready-made Power Point presentations that can be easily presented by anyone or just be given to students to go over them instead of reading a whole book. Any engagement in reflexive sensitivity would expose commodification of knowledge as non viable. Although it appears that education can be purchased and students may be perceived as customers, increasing conflicts between students and government in relation to student loans and starting life with an enormous debt with a qualification that may not be relevant or needed any more, quickly brings up a question is tertiary education a human right or a privilege?
This space exists between ignorance and wisdom, clumsiness and mastery, among students, between their personal, professional and political lives, between teacher and a student, between institutional requirements and individual learning and teaching styles, between a range of cultures, ages, orientations and beliefs that inhabit our classrooms, between academic rigour and real life learning. As teachers we navigate and successfully sail through these spaces using our knowledge, intuition, passion and interests. This space can be utilised only when we relate to our students and when they relate to us, only when within our departments, we relate to our colleagues and managers and they relate to us. Honest feedback enlightens and allows all parties to enhance their knowledge and being. We are teachers and learners
NTLT 2013 - Ksenija Napan - The ‘Teacher Factor’ and the Process of Co-creative Learning – Exploring the In-between Space and the Process that Drives it
The ‘Teacher Factor’ and the
Process of Co-creative Learning –
Exploring the In-between Space and
the Process that Drives it
Ko Air New Zealand Boeing 777 te waka
Ko Medvednica te maunga
Ko Sava te awa
Ko Ngati Pakeha te iwi
Ko tangata Tarara te hapu
Ko Ksenija Napan toku ingoa
No reira, tena kotou tena kotou tena
Tena kotou katoa
Tihei Mauri ora
K.Napan Inspiration for social practice
A challenge to every
• Export service industry ?
• The role of Vice-Chancellors and Deans?
• The gap?
• Rising class sizes
• Non replacement of academic staff members, but
increase in everybody’s workload.
• Contract staff
• ‘Degrees that bring revenue are privileged whereas
philosophy and critical thinking is perceived as non
productive although philosophy and reflective critical
thought was central idea of university (Connell, p.2).’
• Would rotating leadership be a better model?
Co-creating a better context
• Universities are meant to be
spaces for collaboration,
inquiry and discovery and
academics are meant to be
critics and consciousness of
• If academia wants to retain its
integrity, it needs to be outside
of the neoliberal paradigm, or
knowledge development and
exploration will be possible
only within narrow confines of
performativity (Oladi, 2013).
• The role of the tertiary education is disseminating
but also creating knowledge
• Knowledge can be created through inquiry,
dialogue, participation and research
How are relations of production and consumption constituted
in an increasingly neoliberal institution that quells resistance
through exhaustion, attrition, evaluation, competition, and
distinction? (Haritaworn, 2011, p 27.)
• Can we utilise our strengths; keep publishing our concerns, get
together, dialogue, share knowledge, blog, do our best and find
ways to replenish our spirits?
• Can we retain our enthusiasm in spite of institutional efforts to
trim our wings or fix us?
• How can we overcome our fear of becoming another taxi driver
with more degrees than a thermometer?
• How can we retain our enthusiasm and find strength to transfer
it to our students and colleagues while another compliance
procedure is taking up a whole day you planned to finish that
long awaited article?
• Can we dare to stand up and confront when needed, can
we support each other and not buy into threats that there
is not enough while our students pay mega-fees ?
• Can we promote well-grounded excellence, which embeds
collaboration as opposed to competition?
• Can we confront manipulation and unethical practices?
• Can we assess our students’ work justly and not lightly,
even when our existence depends on retaining them?
• Can we give them a critical feedback when one wrongly
accentuated word can create a massive complaint that will
take up a lot of our time that could otherwise be spent on
creating better teaching/learning processes?
How can we become not only good teachers, but also
good allies to each other? (Haritaworn, 2011, p 27.)
• The term ‘university’ originally means a ‘community
of teachers and scholars’. Community implies allies,
communication, commonality, support. A community
is a place for growth and development of new ideas.
The notion of academic freedom defines tertiary
education as it allows scholars to explore and expand
ideas regardless of how strange or unusual they may
• With skyrocketing tuition fees turning the
idea of public education into a farce, what
alternative models of empowerment,
liberation, and education can we develop,
both within and outside the institution?
(Haritaworn, 2011, p 27.)
• It seems that if neoliberalism continues to drive us,
tertiary providers of the future will need to
‘outsource’ critical thinking to alternative places
where academics would be able to share and grow
ideas as opposed to merely reproducing them.
• Fully funded tertiary education is offered in a number of
• In New Zealand, tertiary education was free from the advent
of the welfare state until the early nineties. Since then, tuition
fees sky-rocketed coinciding with proliferation of neoliberal
• As it is not likely that tertiary education will become free
anytime soon, what are alternative models of empowerment,
liberation and education that we can develop?
How important is reflexive sensitivity when it comes
to inquiry and co-creative teaching and learning?
Co-creative teaching – a
threat or opportunity?
• Questions are asked
• Courses are co-created and in a constant state of
transformation, based on student involvement
• The content and the process of courses are
continuously revisited and only purposeful
learning is encouraged
• It requires competent and reflexive teachers
capable of seeing beyond the mask of disinterest
sometimes present on student’s faces.
• When teachers become lifelong learners and develop the ability to
transfer that inquisitive attitude, students become unstoppable and
no neoliberal structure can prevent them from learning
• Classrooms become touchstone spaces when students come to
connect, re-group and reflect. Learning happens everywhere else, in
the bus, at home, on the beach, in the library, on-line, while they are
awake or while they dream
• The teacher becomes a main support person in the process of learning
and may retain a position of the source of knowledge, but this role is
expanded by being knowledgeable and skilful in development of
processes conducive to learning
• Learning processes become reflective of what each new generation of
students brings and all participants contribute to continuous
refreshment of learning practices