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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 3. 14th March 1973

Staff Seminar defended

Staff Seminar defended

Dear Sirs,

The Editors would presumably be disappointed if someone, with the confidence of the thick-skinned, didn't grasp some of the nettles wrapped up in the Editorial of "Das Salient" last week (28.2.73). So would I, as one of the organisers of the recent seminar on "Learning and Teaching in the University Community" which, we were told, sent "everyone away feeling a lot more depressed than they had been before".

I haven't yet had a chance to check on this as there were 150 people at the seminar, but I already suspect the editorial assessment. Like the Editors, I have no reliable means of knowing what the "real results" of the seminar were, but I believe more was achieved than they conceded. It is no insignificant fact, for example, that so many of the academic staff were attracted to a conference which directed the focus of its attention at the learning and teaching processes.

Unquestionably, some left disappointed that the timing and short duration of the conference had made it difficult for many students to attend and limited the depth and practical content of the programme. Others, however, left as they had arrived — "depressed" that the learning and teaching business is so complex, but "anxious" too to understand some of the associated problems, for learner and teacher.

Various possible approaches to understanding were considered including "dialogue" (between staff, students and administrators) and "community development" in the university, discussion of which allowed Rob Campbell and Peter Wilson to foreshadow many of the issues raised in the Salient Editorial.

I accept, of course, that the relations between the university and the society outside it are supremely "worthy of discussion and action" and other seminars will be founded on that assumption. But the very function of the "learning and teaching" seminar was to examine some of the comparatively "less important" matters - like assessment, teaching methods and aids, the contribution of the supporting services and so on - which, nevertheless, are of immediate importance if there is to be improvement in the quality of educational practices at Victoria.

The University has recently made practical expression of its concern over this area of its activity by appointing a Director to develop a new Teaching and Research Centre. It seems a constructive step and it could be far-reaching, at least as long as we see the university's role as largely an educational one. As long as that role embraces the transmission, evaluation and extension of knowledge and ways of knowing, the skills of learning and teaching will be worthy of development and discussion. In the end they will contribute not only to the stock of talents with which the university community (present and future) can "get out and work" but also to the discernment with which they can "question the nature of our present society".

Yours faithfully,

Allan Laidler,

Secretary, Lecturers' Association.