Professor Alf Rehn gave an inspirational keynote during the Pedaforum 2022 Higher Education Pedagogy seminar held in Helsinki. In his speech, he talked about how university lecturers today can grow professionally to support their students and how graduates on their part can learn to thrive in the job market.
Professor Rehn offered food for thought, which we combined with our own reflection on issues that may help academics, and anyone for that matter, to embrace change and turn it into a positive force.
1. READ: We need to know the past to understand the future
History matters! We need to have good theoretical and contextual knowledge of our field, this applies to both students and teachers. During the last couple of years there has been a growing focus on developing students’ competences, both at scientific universities and especially at universities of applied sciences.
According to Alf Rehn, there is nothing wrong with memorising and learning facts by heart. However, only when one knows the principal theories and foundations of a specific field is it possible to have a framework to base one’s thinking on, and thus, be able to come up with something innovative.
Taking the time to read professional journals and books, keeping up with the latest developments and current affairs, is important for any professional. Relying on news from the yellow press and Twitter bubbles will not broaden anyone’s understanding of the complex phenomena to be acknowledged in a professional life.
2. OBSERVE: We can learn a lot by observing our surroundings
Futurists talk about the importance of detecting weak signals indicating what the future will entail.
Many things of the future have been with us for a long time already. We can all see the future coming together by keeping a watchful eye on things happening around us. Observation skills and the knowledge of different observation methods are important for becoming future savvy. We need to keep seeing the world with new eyes.
Being able to observe our surroundings means that we need to put our smart phones aside and be present in the here and now. An estimated 80-85 % of our perception, learning, cognition, and activities are mediated through vision. Instead of looking down, we need to look around and see what is happening.
3. EVOLVE: We must keep up with the times and continue learning
The only constant is change and the world around us will keep on evolving. We need to keep our brains active and encounter new topics, new ideas and new ways of doing things. It is important to step outside of our comfort zones and do something different, even radical, every now and then. It is human to stick to habits and same ways of working, but it is in fact healthy to take a step back and view things from a different perspective.
We should be meeting people from different professions, distant countries or fields of study. We should listen to people with different views or professional backgrounds. We should read papers written in different languages than our mother tongue and read about topics totally foreign to us.
If we did, we would be better at tolerating different points of view and coming up with novel ideas and new ways of thinking. It would be easier to embrace change and think outside of the box. New innovative ideas would become easier to approve, include and even like.
The authors represent the Erasmus+ funded project SUCSESS – Strengthening university-enterprise cooperation in South Africa to support regional development by enhancing lifelong learning skills, social innovations and inclusivity.