As the blistering sun relentlessly beat down on us, a hardy band of L&T colleagues gathered in the fine city of Bratislava for the 5th EuroTLC.
As those of you who have already gone back to face-to-face conferences, it’s an absolute delight to be able to see people and interact with them, especially if you can do that over an ice cream, some street food or even a local brew (all three of which I managed in a hectic hour the other evening).
There is another piece to be written about how much we can even go back to ‘how conferences used to be’, but when you’re there it’s clear there’s still a lot of value to be secured.
Crucially, a lot of that comes in the liminal, informal spaces. This might just be a thought about how to address a very specific and small issue, or a very high-level reflection about how we work.
Since I appear to have become an old hand, I’ve found myself both recognised by reputation (hence the post title) and reflective about how we make teaching work.
The mark of the pandemic has been deep and broad: during the first day I didn’t see a single contribution of have a single conversation that did not mention Covid in some way, from delivery to assessment, student engagement to programme design.
But as we have talked, I’ve also found myself abstracting.
The change forced by Covid was radical and sudden, but it also mirrored the longer-run evolution of practice that has been taking place. The mainstreaming of IT, the increasing centrality of the student experience, the pushback against ‘tradition’: all these things were there before spring 2020.
Covid is thus both a shock and a process: necessity has meant we have to reformulate our work and our practice. Which is a good thing, in the end.
Even if it didn’t really feel like it at the time.
This equivalence has also been striking in a different dimension too. With several excellent papers on internationalisation and how it affects learning, we’ve had time to think about how it sensitises us to factors that were previously inconsequential or ignored.
In that, it is much like our developing work around equality, diversity and inclusion: the working assumptions we all make in creating learning environments are political, in the sense of carrying implications and privileging particular groups or ideas.
Work to bridge gaps to our overseas students is – in that sense – no different from work to bridge to any other student who is outside the dominant mode.
Unlike Covid, this is a slow-moving process and it will require the kind of generational shift of attitudes that brought us to the halfway-house of today. To speak to early career researchers of the kind attending EuroTLC, that is something definitely advancing, but it will take all of us to help make that change.