Pedagogy for the 21st century

I've been researching and publishing over the last half dozen years or so on student engagement. How we ensure engagement has been profoundly affected by the online practices driven by Covid. This in turn has created further challenges to how we ensure student engagement, a cornerstone of learning and an intellectually-recognized proxy for it. We have met this challenge often by deploying online modes of pedagogic delivery, but remote teaching and learning has placed a further strain on student engagement.

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Happily, multimedia learning methods using imagery are a native fit for the common digital architecture we now routinely use in our pedagogies. Content delivery, whether from home, in a lecture theatre, across continents for conferences, can now be rendered better by combining digital assets with digital infrastructures.  

Before Covid, my research looked at how we engaged our students better by engaging more senses: my work has been framed in theories of multimedia learning modeled around biologically-ordained cognitive capacity. That is, given every human brain is wired to learn by seeing, could engagement as a proxy for learning be enhanced by the use of static and moving imagery. Empirical research confirms cognitive theory: subjects taught using images and words are about 60% more engaged with the academic material than subjects taught using words, or primarily words. It also increases active learning and supports dyslexic learners.

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We are at a socio-digital nexus: the converging of the most visual era of human existence with the scientifically-established recognition that we learn better from images and words than words alone. And the rise of AI art means we can create visual scenes from text inputs, expanding the already enormous supply of still and moving imagery that students consider the norm. Happily, our native platforms like PowerPoint, Keynote and Prezi are all able digitally to convey this content. It is a vital pedagogic trinity we can exploit to enhance engagement in-house and remotely to the same proven effect. There's a TEDx talk I did that helps describe, conceptualize and explain all this.

These images are all examples of multimedia learning tools made by me, and are free for you to use, with attribution


Progressive pedagogy should be inclusive. It should seek to find ways to ensure those marginalized by individual conditions are brought into the fold. Dyslexia is the most common reported disability in HE, and more dyslexic learners join us each year. Dyslexia nearly universally involves issues with working memory, which is part of the cognitive architecture overwhelmed by excessive text. Integrating imagery into curricula has been shown in peer-reviewed longitudinal research to dramatically increase dyslexic learner engagement by between 80% and 100%, something that will become vital as we migrate content online. I developed a specialized online tool to increase neurodiverse engagement in the research process that can be adapted by anyone.

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My parallel area of research and publication is now Institutional Racism in Higher Education.  I come to this with 30 years work on postconflict peacebuilding in SE Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and an intellectual background in postcolonial literatures.

Liberal societies proclaim democratic values. They were also the primary sources of late 20th century imperialism, a process that occupied the lands of others and dictated life outcomes for hundreds of millions of People of Colour. The impact of those policies prevails today, and so do many social attitudes regarding race. This is normal in Higher Education, which has its own imperial past. and present. Universities provided the colonial anthropologists who studied those colonized people so they could be understood, managed and controlled. Scientists plundered continents for scientific materials and discoveries that would enhance empires. They remained until the 1960s exclusionary spaces and have struggled to engage Colour ever since. The proportion of scholars of Colour remains a minority out of proportion to population dynamics, and the dominant White majority persists in valorizing icons of imperialism and Empire, whilst governments attempt to limit discussions of race and racism in schools that is based on advanced understandings of race and racism developed mostly by People of Colour. It is these contradictions and injustices that focus my research attention. The past is very much in the present