Re-thinking teaching in higher education: Reflecting with Heidegger and Irigaray

Year: 2021

Author: Dall'Alba, Gloria

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Increased interest in teaching has been evident in recent decades within the higher education sector and among governments that recognise the importance of the sector for economic development and prosperity. The increased attention to teaching is associated with a performativity agenda, evident in an emphasis on measurable outputs relating to teaching and courses. Alongside this interest is heightened activity in promoting teaching quality. Some of this activity is taken up by those responding to the performativity agenda, and also by teachers seeking to enhance their teaching. Accredited programs about teaching and learning in higher education have been one strategy adopted in promoting teaching quality. In this presentation, I reflect upon and theorise the experience of teaching in one such accredited program for teachers in higher education. Participants ranged from those with limited or no teaching experience to over 30 years’ experience of teaching in higher education, as well as spanning the disciplines, including architecture, engineering, the humanities, and health, social and natural sciences. With the agreement of a cohort of program participants, I use brief extracts from online discussion and other completed coursework in illuminating my reflections and theorisation of teaching in this program.In exploring and articulating this experience of teaching, I canvas selected ideas from the scholarly works of Martin Heidegger and Luce Irigaray. Despite substantial differences in their philosophies, Heidegger and Irigaray share some common concerns, with implications for pedagogy. Moreover, both have written explicitly about education, highlighting an ontological dimension of learning, which is concerned with how we are learning to be, not only what we come to know. This has resonances with the program explored in this presentation, as well as aligning with an ‘ontological turn’ in higher education. One way in which this ontological dimension has been taken up in the program is through experiencing anew our teaching, as well as the learning by and with our students. The purpose of reflecting upon and theorising the experience of teaching in the program is to harness relevant insights from Heidegger and Irigaray for re-thinking teaching, as a means of deepening understanding of what is entailed in being teachers in higher education. Turning the spotlight on our own teaching and research practice, while highlighting pedagogical purposes, can contribute to re-imagining education research.