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The Teaching & Learning Community
A blog emphasising how great the teaching and scholarship community is in PSA (and the discipline more widely) and the importance of cultivating this growing community.
Last year Madeleine Le Bourdon and I won the Jacqui Briggs prize in the annual PSA Academic Prizes. for outstanding contributions in advancing teaching and learning in political studies by a team or group of scholars. Winning the prize was great. Not only because lots of people congratulated us and we had a lovely time, but also because it was recognition of the work of our research Centre for Teaching Innovation and Scholarship (CTIS), and more fundamentally for us, of the importance and value of community in the teaching and scholarship space. I want to use this blog to not only encourage people to apply for prizes (see aforementioned lovely time), but also to emphasise how great the teaching and scholarship community is in PSA (and the discipline more widely!) and the importance of cultivating this growing community.
Teaching is at the centre of what we do, it can be the place of the greatest successes and the greatest frustrations of our work. When we design and plan modules, seminars and lectures it can feel like quite an isolated activity and when we try to innovate or experiment with new approaches and ideas it can be difficult. And yet, we are part of a community of scholars who all teach, and we are part of a thriving inter/sub discipline that is working on pedagogic research. There is increasing recognition of the importance of teaching and scholarship in the UK HE system, with a growth in scholars employed on teaching and scholarship contracts (I am one of them). Politics academics are building successful careers on their scholarship and making important contributions to our discipline (I aspire to be one of them!). There is greater emphasis on pedagogic outputs in leading journals and the teaching focused panels are often the most hotly attended tickets at conferences.
My involvement with ‘scholarship’ through my work and my directorship of the Centre of Teaching Innovation and Scholarship has been rewarding, educational and nourishing. Since being awarded the prize CTIS members have continued to work on lots of projects and outputs including ‘GlobalChallenges: Social Media, Pedagogy and International Studies’ on teaching International Studies through Social Media; ‘Thinking Inside the Box’ project, a student-led, co-curricular curriculum redefined endeavour; The International Strategy Fund to look at how to build reciprocal equitable relationships with global education partners; Jack Holland delivered the Distinguished Scholar and Mark Imber Lecture on ‘Popular Culture: International Relations and the (Small) Screen’; and we produced several publications on topics such as hybrid learning, on student centred design thinking and on learning and activism through social media. We have also held workshops on Decolonial Approaches, run a sandpit activity on ChatGPT in assessments, and presented at the University of Leeds’ Student Education Conference. This activity and engagement is only possible because we are building a community of shared practice.
The PSA Teaching and Learning Network ran a series of fascinating panels and roundtables at the annual conference, covering topics from skills modules, to teaching focused careers to social media (look out for an upcoming piece in Politics on The Joy of The Teaching Track from Cathy Elliot, Karen Watts, Kalina Zhakova, Keith Smith, Rose Gann and Madeleine Le Bourdon). I was also fortunate to attend their annual conference in Leeds which brought together a supportive group of people to have a range of stimulating conversations- read a great write up of that conference by Maia Almeida- Amir here. We are lucky to have Rose Gann at the helm of PSA and she delivered the keynote address for this conference – charting the growth in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and reflecting on what that means for the discipline. I was new to this specialist group and through it have made a range of meaningful connections and found it to be a welcoming and supportive group.
This collegial spirit of scholarship is not limited the PSA (though you guys are great), nor is CTIS the only Teaching and Scholarship research group (though we too are great ofc). UCL’s Centre for the Pedagogy of Politics are really active, running a series of events, hosting a blog and seminar series as well as producing a podcast and an amazing resource and bibliography. BISA and ISA both have reasonably long-established teaching and learning specialist groups. BISA Teaching and Learning group offers small funding pots to members to enable early career scholars to undertake pedagogic research. King’s college War Studies department ran a workshop on Teaching International Relations and Security Studies. And the Western Political Science Association (WPSA) run the Inclusive Teaching and Pedagogy Virtual Community. This is not an exhaustive list, but examples of the work going on within politics and international studies on pedagogy and teaching.
In recent conversation on our Podcast ‘Politics and Pedagogy Robbie Shilliam encouraged us to think about teaching as knowledge cultivation – to move us away from the idea that knowledge must always be about more, about output, and ‘newness’. Whilst in another (soon to be released) conversation Roxani Krystalli urged is to see the care and joy of teaching as sustaining. It is in the spirit of these scholars, and their generosity that I suggest we do not need to see our teaching, or our scholarship, as individual endeavours, but that we can draw from and add to a growing community of educators that are actively researching the pedagogies of politics (and indeed the politics of pedagogy!).
Louise Pears, Lecturer in Global Security Challenges and co-director of the Centre for Teaching Innovation and Scholarship in the School of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds. Her subject interests are in feminist security studies, popular culture and social media and world politics, race and international relations, critical terrorism studies, and research methods. What underlies all of these areas is an interest in the everyday practices of world politics. She is a feminist teacher and teaching is at the centre of her work and research. @louisepears @CTISLeeds