In their seminal works of the early 1990s, both Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens predicted that one manifestation of late modernity would be a popular suspicion of experts and expertise. Since then, the rise of the individual’s ability to have their voice heard through mass social media has eroded traditional patterns of authority – including in academia. On the one hand, this democratisation of knowledge is to be welcomed, as it has enabled new critical voices to emerge and new discourses to develop, especially among groups that have historically been voiceless.
However, it has also created an environment of confusion – a crowded forum of competing voices where volume, integrity and quality are often out of balance. This confusion has allowed those with power to obfuscate, especially when the weight of evidence is against them. In recent times, we have seen former UK Education Secretary Michael Gove claim that the public are ‘tired of experts’, while US President Donald Trump’s infamous refrain of ‘fake news’ is used to sideline inconvenient facts and opinions.
Universities have traditionally been seen as authoritative sites for both the creation and transmission of knowledge. Academics are positioned as experts whose work enriches public life through scientific, social and cultural advances, with expertise that is passed to students through a variety of teaching practices as part of a consensual corpus of knowledge. More recently, universities have increasingly promoted the idea of their graduates as globally-aware and values-led problem-solvers, with the knowledge to tackle ‘wicked issues’ like climate change, public health crises and economic instability.
This forthcoming special issue of Teaching in Higher Education will focus on how universities can and should respond to the ‘post-truth’ world where experts and expertise are under attack, but where knowledge and theory-based practice continue to offer the hope of a fairer, safer and more rewarding world. We are interested to receive papers that re-examine what and how universities should teach in responding to the new public scepticism.
This call for papers is therefore wide-ranging and the following list of possible topics is intended to be indicative rather than prescriptive – we will consider any contribution addressing issues of knowledge, expertise and global challenges as they relate to teaching practices within higher education:
- By what processes do universities develop curricula and pedagogies that juggle authoritative, democratic and critical approaches to knowledge creation and transmission?
- What are the implications of ‘post-truthism’ for teaching around politically contentious issues like climate change?
- What are the challenges related to responding to calls to ‘decolonize’ or ‘decentre’ ‘Western’ knowledge and legitimating subjugated knowledge in formal curricula?
- What are the challenges for the critical education of students from diverse backgrounds including those drawing on marginalised forms of knowledge?
- What are the challenges for the critical education and development of self-reflexivity of students from mainstream culturally hegemonic backgrounds?
- How does the way in which students conceptualise and understand knowledge develop and change through their studies?
- How can universities develop the capacity of students to use critique and engage critically with a range of contradictory sources?
- What role might digital literacy have in supporting students to engage with different forms of knowledge and challenge?
- In what ways does the teaching of research methods and/or research ethics need rethinking to provide a stronger basis for knowledge (re)creation?
- Can the role of the academic as ‘public intellectual’ be used to reframe concepts of expertise, especially through social media?
- Are there alternative ‘teaching’ approaches through which universities can engage with the wider public more directly?
- How does teaching in higher education prepare graduates for their future role as global and/or local innovators and problem-solvers?
- What role does international mobility of staff and/or students have in the sharing of knowledge between cultures?
- How should academic research inform teaching practices to enhance the status of the knowledge created and the embodied expertise?
Potential authors are asked to submit abstracts of up to 500 words with a deadline of 5pm (GMT) on Friday 17th November 2017. Abstracts should provide an outline of the proposed paper, including its empirical, theoretical and/or philosophical basis. We actively welcome abstracts from across the globe.
Abstracts should be e-mailed to Alison Stanton at firstname.lastname@example.org. We expect to inform successful authors in December 2017, with a provisional submission date for full papers of Friday 1st June 2018. The special issue will be published in January 2019.
- Co-editor: Neil Harrison, University of the West of England
- Co-editor: Kathy Luckett, University of Cape Town