Pedagogies for diversity: retaining critical challenge amidst fears of ‘dumbing down’
Growing concerns about retention and attrition rates in a mass and increasingly marketised higher education system have encouraged the idea that ‘meeting learner needs’ should be a key focus for institutional attention. It is suggested that this approach is unrealistic, however, because of the extent of the diversity which it attempts to respond to. An alternative response is to move away from the individualised focus on needs, deficits and ‘support’, towards a consideration of ‘activities, patterns of interaction and communication failures’, in relation to higher education pedagogical cultures. This move reconceptualises the idea of ‘barriers to learning’, attempting to understand how more subtle aspects of higher education pedagogical cultures may themselves be creating conditions which make it difficult, or even impossible, for some students to learn. Deliberately forging a middle path between conventional and radical approaches to pedagogy, the article attempts to identify examples of ‘older’ values a...