I understand teaching as a moral activity. Kathie Jenni, writing on the moral responsibility of intellectuals, concludes that our global context of radical, remediable suffering “entails a substantial obligation of service that increases with enhanced ability to help” (2001, p. 437). In other words, she asserts that capable agents are obligated to do not just a little but a lot to relieve suffering. Jenni does not see hypocrisy in considering the suffering of the world academically. Rather, it is precisely because we are in a privileged position to recognise our moral responsibility that there is the impetus for engagement.
My approach to teaching has also been strongly influenced by the action teaching work of the psychology academic Scott Plous (2000, cited Azar, 2008) who argues that the learning experience should lead to not only a better understanding of the subject area but to a more just, compassionate and peaceful world. Plous suggests that teaching is not just about acting and reflecting – but about doing this in ways that promote humanity. Similarly Ronald Barnett (1997, 2004) says that education should ‘disturb’ human ‘being’ in order to prepare students to cope and thrive in a world of increasing complexity.
My Teaching History
I have been teaching, facilitating groups and engaged in community-based training and education for nearly 30 years. This has been with a range of groups from university students and staff, through to five-year-olds in a rural town. I have conducted workshops with many human service professionals and their managers. Some of the topics I have explored include: community development principles, action research, participatory methods, values, self awareness, self care, reflective practice, ethical support and Duty of Care legislation, conflict and negotiation, developing student-centred learning, organisational development, team building, relationship development, communication, SRV, understanding needs, exploring professional boundaries and ethics, introduction to human services, and exploring research paradigms.
At The University of Queensland I currently teach courses in the Masters of Development Practice, the Bachelor of Social Science and the Bachelor of Arts (Sociology).
Community Development: Local and International Practices (SOSC7288/2288) This (semester 1) course introduces students to the basic approaches, methodologies and techniques of community development within a broader framework of approaches to international development. Students will be introduced to project planning and community participation processes. Students will develop basic skills in community development practice, and will engage in a critical exploration of case studies focused on contemporary challenges both in the domestic and international context.
Research, Planning and Design (SOSC3201) This (semester 1) course is only available to BSocSc students and is recommended to be completed in the final year of study. It enables students to apply and extend core research skills developed in earlier courses through an applied group research project conducted with an industry partner. Students become skilled in project planning, team work and industry liaison.
Project (SOSC3202) This (semester 2) course involves the conduct of original research with an industry partner. It is the companion to SOSC3201 and both should be completed in consecutive semesters in the third or final year of study. The course integrates and applies skills acquired in core courses, and majors, through applied team research projects with an industry partner. Students identify plan, implement and evaluate a research project to address the problem, and disseminate research findings through written and oral reports.
Inequality, Society and the Self (SOCY1070) This is an issues based course where students get to apply their developing sociology skills to real world problems and injustices such as gender discrimination, racism, rising income inequality and climate justice in Australia and globally. The course content is dynamic, using current debates and issues as the basis for learning.
Participatory Development Practice (SOSC7093) This (semester 2) postgraduate level course provides a comprehensive introduction to community development method and the use of analysis in community development practice. Examination of a range of assessment: paradigms and approaches, skills, techniques and structures of community development. Students completing the Graduate Certificate in Community Development, or the Community Development field of study in the Development Practice suite, are encouraged to complete this course close to the beginning of their study. Transformative Economics (SOSC7433) Economics is often positioned as something outside our control. In everyday discussion, reinforced by mainstream media, "the economy" is spoken about as though it were a distant entity. At best, we see it as an irrelevancy to fill the nightly news with its impenetrable language, at worst, as an evil juggernaut that we are powerless to influence. In this course, we seek to reclaim economics as a transformational vehicle to create positive change within communities, by interrupting dominant economic discourses and reimagining economic possibilities. We critique mainstream economic approaches and think about how economic, social and environmental concerns can be better integrated. Clearly grounded in a community development approach, this course invites participants to reimagine the economic world, to identify alternative ways of engaging with the economy and to reposition themselves and the communities they work with - as economic actors.
Community Cultural Development (SOSC7133/2133) This course is predicated on the principal of diversity and the importance of supporting and promoting local community cultures as a critical aspect of belonging and identity. It begins, as a starting point, with the challenge of working developmentally in cultural spaces that are increasingly globalised and commoditised. Community cultural development thus is positioned as an act of resistance against essentialism and universalism. From this position four components of cultural development are explored: valuing and enlivening local culture, valuing and enlivening indigenous culture, cultural diversity, and participatory culture.
Community Planning, Engagement and Governance (SOSC7123) This course enables participants to understand the nature of community planning, engagement and governance including their values, and philosophies, and; apply a range of community planning, engagement and governance skills, techniques and methods in a challenging social, economic, physical and political environment.
Frame-working for Community Development Practice (SOSC7103) Advanced community development course that provides an opportunity for students to articulate, develop and critique their own personal and professional practice framework. Examination of use of frameworks in community development practice in different contexts and historically. It is advised that students enrolling should have either several years of community development practice, or have previously studied SOSC7093: Community Development Method and Analysis. Students enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Community Development or who are completing the Community Development field of study are encouraged to complete SOSC7103 towards the end of their study.
Development Practice Thesis (SOSC7100/SOSC7101) Students work by themselves, under the individual supervision of a member of the academic staff of one of the following schools: School of Social Science; School of Political Science and International Studies; or School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. This allows students of exceptional ability to engage in a substantial research project. Students need to be self-motivated and self-disciplined and will determine and develop their own project in consultation with their supervisor. At the outset of their research, it is vital for students to swiftly identify and focus upon a clear research question. The semester then involves independent reading and research, regular contact between student and supervisor, and the preparation of a 10,000 to 12,000-word report. This course can only be undertaken if the planned project is of immediate interest to a supervisor in one of the three Schools. Prospective students must themselves identify and approach a potential supervisor and discuss their proposed research question; supervisors are not assigned by the Program Director, however they can assist in facilitating potential supervisors, if necessary.
Contemporary Approaches to Human Services (HSER1011) This course introduces students to the key elements of human services practice - its purpose, knowledge bases and theories, values and methods. It provides an overall framework for understanding human service practice that will be used throughout the program.
With thanks to the 2014 students of SOSC7133 for their permission to use their images - and for such a fun semester!
Australian Awards for University Teaching 2019 Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning