Freedom to play (and learn)

Oh the Freedom to Learn! What would this experience feel like?

The freedom from institutional demands to design teaching geared to ’employability’ discourse. The tossing away of ‘learning objectives’ declaring in advance what those ‘in-the-know’ must ‘learn’.

The freedom to experience joy, love, to share anguish and hopes, as part of, rather than institutionally defended from, learning.

The conference

Co-hosted by King’s College London and University College London, the first ever Freedom to Learn conference is an  opportunity to engage in a conversation that might help us navigate the modern challenges faced by educational institutions. In particular, this is a space to share our experiences of the policies, practices and pedagogies of wellbeing, inclusivity, accessibility, joy, care and learning that often exist in tension with the rules, regulations and requirements of curriculum design and assessment. The conveners of this conference value not only research but also ideas, speculations and personal narratives.

The Freedom to Play (and Learn)

A video presentation organized by Eda Ulus. [Eda’s free associations follow]

Liberation from the UK hostile environment and its violent border-guard intrusions into Higher Education monitoring of international students.

The experience of genuine equality where students are not entering the online or physical classroom space divided into colonially-influenced categories of varied fee-paying demands, unequal access to community resources, visa regimes.

The tossing away of ‘learning objectives’ would feel amazing! Declaring in advance what those ‘in-the-know’ think students will/should/must ‘learn’ is not learning! It’s performing to pre-set objectives later assessed by those with the power to assign grades.

Who am I to know what students will learn? What I will learn? What as fellow learners we will encounter and explore together?

[end Eda’s free associations]

Our proposal

With this pre-session recording for the Freedom to Learn conference, members of our Center for Psychosocial Organization Studies (surfacingtheorganization.com) will share video clips of spontaneous associations to exciting conference themes: liberation, safety, de-colonising, space, aliveness, power. We may connect some of these video reflections to our interests in psychosocial approaches to learning spaces, such as dynamics like anxieties and fantasies in learning processes. Institutional attempts to manage pedagogical anxieties, such as the ‘not knowing’, may harden and impede liberatory and joyful learning, instead creating rituals of surveillance and illusions of objectivity. We would like to acknowledge anxieties that occur in the classroom, shaped within cultural, social, and political contexts, and work through these challenges productively, rather than disavow them through defensive routines.

Freedom to learn implies that fantasies, anxieties, hopes, dreams, can be reflected upon in online and classroom learning, unharmed by the linear march to pre-set performance objectives and looming ‘waiting-in-judgment’ markers.

And now the presentation!

Pre-session recording for the Freedom to Learn conference, King’s College, 05 April 2024

Contributors

Eda Ulus, Ph.D., University of the West of Scotland, Lecturer in the School of Business and Creative Industries

Beth Cross, Ph.D., University of the West of Scotland, Lecturer in the School of Education and Social Sciences

Sara R.S.T.A. Elias, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business

Nathan Gerard, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director in the Department of Health Care Management at California State University, Long Beach

References

Bradley, Gracie Mae, and Luke de Noronha. 2022. Against Borders: The Case for Abolition: Verso Books.

Cross B, Castellano Verdecia P, Gill D, Baines G and Ai J (2021) Homestretch: A Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences co-produced approach to supporting PhD students through Covid Lockdown, eds.Tasler, Nathalie; O’Brien, Rachelle; Spires, Alex; Nerantzi, Chrissi; Gillaspy, Emma (2021): Being creative in the face of adversity – AnnualCcreative HE Collection 2021. National Teaching Repository. Educational resource. https://doi.org/10.25416/NTR.17709860.v1, https://figshare.edgehill.ac.uk/articles/educational_resource/Being_creative_in_the_face_of_adversity_-_Annual_creativeHE_collection_2021/17709860/1

Cross B (2021) Embodied Crossroads– emerging thoughts on different practices to encourage embodied learning: ulab, interplay and forum theatre.  https://bethatportychalkstorm.wordpress.com/2021/09/01/embodied-crossroads-emerging-thoughts-on-different-practices-to-encourage-embodied-learning-ulab-interplay-and-forum-theatre/

French, Robert B. 1997. “The Teacher as Container of Anxiety: Psychoanalysis and the Role of Teacher.”  Journal of Management Education 21 (4):483-495.

Gerard, N. (2023). Winnicott and Labor’s Eclipse of Life: Work is Where We Start From. New York, NY: Routledge.

Gerard, N. (2022). More alive, though not necessarily more stable: Hans Loewald and the idea of replenishing regression in organizations. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, 27, 283-299.

Reik, T. (1983). Listening with the third ear. Macmillan.

Winnicott, D. W. (1991). Playing and reality. Psychology Press.