Keynote Speaker: Paul Ashwin

How teaching, learning and assessment without knowledge undermine the educational role of higher education

Professor Paul Ashwin


In this keynote, I will argue that, whilst student-centred teaching, learning and assessment are an important corrective to traditional teacher-centered approaches to higher education, by obscuring the importance of knowledge they can undermine the educational character of higher education. I will argue that there are three ways in which losing a focus on knowledge does this. First, it obscures the ways in which students are transformed by their engagement with knowledge. Second, it obscures the importance of the expertise of teachers in designing an environment that provides students with access to knowledge, and third it obscures the role of educational institutions in providing a context in which knowledge can be made available to students and wider society. I will conclude that overly focusing on students’ learning processes can have the unintended consequence of undermining the educational role of higher education.


Paul Ashwin is Professor of Higher Education and Head of the Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University, UK. Paul’s research focuses on teaching, learning and curriculum practices in higher education and how they are shaped by higher education policies. His recent books include ‘Transforming University Education: A manifesto’ (Bloomsbury 2020) and he is the lead author of Reflective Teaching in Higher Education (2015, 2020 Bloomsbury), which is designed for all those working in higher education who are interested in further developing research-informed approaches to university teaching. Paul is Deputy Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, Office for Students and Research England, a coordinating editor for the international journal ‘Higher Education,’ and co-editor of the Bloomsbury book series ‘Understanding Student Experiences of Higher Education’.

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