Rumpelstiltskin: Spinning Gold from Pandemic Straw

Golden glitter spilling from a small jar. Pink background. 
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In this blog piece, Dr. Klodiana Kolomitro, Associate Vice-Principal (Teaching and Learning), reflects on the necessary shifts to improve the higher education landscape in the post-pandemic reality

Can you feel it, too? It’s the residue of one of the largest disruptions to education combined with a call to action in the higher education landscape. How do we move from hopelessness, despair, and fatigue to hope, joy, and flourishment? How can we heal as a community? I see the following necessary shifts in teaching and learning to help us get there.

1.Maslow before Bloom

The physical isolation of the pandemic accentuated the need to create a space and place for students as whole human beings at a time when academics and personal life were constantly colliding. A post-pandemic landscape needs to welcome and encourage the whole student through physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization needs, as articulated by Abraham Maslow. When students are provided with the necessary safety nets then learning can begin. In post-secondary institutions, we have been focusing on the work of psychologist Benjamin Bloom and his taxonomy of educational objectives and expectations for higher-order learning. Putting Maslow before Bloom encourages a pedagogy of care as we pay attention to the basic human needs that need to be met for students to be able to turn their attention to learning.

2. Multi-access to learning

We have learned many lessons from student engagement and accessibility that open a new paradigm for the design of learning environments. We have witnessed that a purposeful blend of physical and virtual learning experiences can promote a more socially just and equitable education system that supports individual life circumstances. Flexible learning designs when pursued in an intentional manner acknowledge individual differences and needs and extend from course design, delivery and assessment through to our ways of being with our learners.

3. Relationality as the driving purpose of education

Relationality, which is fundamental to Indigenous worldviews, can help guide our work in a post-pandemic world. Relationality embraces deep connections to the land, and to the other; it harnesses the power of the greater good, our responsibility to serve society at large, and the obligation to be held accountable to “all of our relations”. Can we shift our thinking towards learning in community where we embrace all voices to benefit from reciprocity and mutuality? Living through the pandemic has strangely connected us, in our shared isolation.

Spinning gold from the pandemic straw requires us to uncover the humanity in all of us and embrace deep and meaningful connections with ourselves, our learners, our colleagues, and our communities.

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