During my recent time in Britain, I very much enjoyed attending and presenting at the 2016 Political Studies Association (PSA) annual conference, which was in Brighton this year. I was delighted to be awarded the main prize of the Sir Bernard Crick Award for Outstanding Teaching for 2015 by the PSA, which has been exceptionally chaired by Matthew Flinders in recent years.
One of the reasons that these awards are so important is due to the recognition they grant to the centrality of teaching in the modern university and the acknowledgement of the time and effort we all put into that role alongside and informing our research. It is an honour to be alongside the PSA’s past winners and I have been bowled-over by the goodwill messages from people since the news broke.
My approach to pedagogy embraces what Ian Angus in Love the Questions: University Education and Enlightenment has called a process of co-questioning: the teacher does not already have all the answers but enhances the ability to confront the questions, alongside students, in a dialogical process of co-questioning. Hence the social function of teaching is about “loving the questions”.
Over the years, across a range of courses, I have strived to deliver a whole series of teaching innovations in and beyond the classroom to enliven class and tutorial discussion and promote alternative cultural, national, and linguistic experiences. Most recently, my activities have focused on delivering new political economy courses at the University of Sydney, including my unit ECOP2613 ‘The Political Economy of Global Capitalism’.
This second-year course covers past classics in political economy, from Karl Marx to Karl Polanyi, Leon Trotsky to Rosa Luxemburg as well as contemporary classics in the work of Ellen Meiksins Wood, Charles Post, Jairus Banaji, David Harvey, Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin, J.K. Gibson-Graham, David Ruccio, and Yanis Varoufakis.
Among a series of innovations, one of my approaches to prompt independent student learning has been pursued through a series of ‘Piketty Digests’. With 2014 marked by the public popularity of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (selling more than 1.5 million copies), I have integrated my teaching on capitalist inequalities through such digests, which are chapter-by-chapter weekly summaries of the book in 800 words. These Piketty Digests have been introduced on ECOP2613 through my blog site For the Desk Drawer (and reblogged on Progress in Political Economy) and disseminated to the students through learning platforms. Such short interpretative digests have delivered an original form of engagement with the book that features on the course, intrinsically related to the learning outcomes of the unit of study taught.
As detailed in my #edtech talk to the Institute of Teaching and Learning at the University of Sydney, entitled ‘Blogging as Pedagogy’ (15 May 2015), these ‘Piketty Digests’ have been central to relaying the historical and institutional aspects of the development of the capitalist world economy before and since 1945, including analysis of international inequalities. The Digests have thus proven to be an invaluable learning platform supplementing additional innovations introduced in and beyond ECOP2613 across the whole of my teaching. They also, year-on-year, remain useful tools, accessible in a one-stop location: https://bit.ly/1HbARrC.
It was Antonio Gramsci that once stated that ‘the relationship between teacher and pupil is active and reciprocal so that every teacher is always a pupil and every pupil a teacher’. Every year the content and form of my teaching changes and my students challenge me to co-question and “love the questions” posed by political economy.
Indeed, the yearly cohort of students taking political economy—or ECOP—units never cease to amaze me with their knowledge, activism, commitment and high achievement. ECOP students are a privilege to teach and it was all the more rewarding to pick up the Bernard Crick Award and to feel energised by their enthusiasm in the classroom that has led to this prize.