Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse…

Inside my empty bottle I was constructing a lighthouse while all the others were making ships. -Charles Simic, poet (b. 1938)

The idea of world’s best practice may at times provide a glut of ships-in-a-bottle. By the time I finish my ship, the oversupply makes it redundant. The way this seems to manifest in higher education is that by the time we follow a ‘world’ trend, the practice or initiative is no longer so highly regarded and the field has moved on to some different, more improved practice of focus.

However, maybe we need students who think ‘there are a lot of ships being built. Do we need another ship, or do we need something to help the ships out when they get in trouble?’

When students embark on the voyage of research, they may need to learn this through safe and common strategies with lots of structure and guidance (as per Prescribed Research Level 1 in the RSD: www.rsd.edu.au). However, do we also provide for students to think outside the ‘bottle’, or to imagine a different inside? (This is more akin to the RSD’s Level 4 Self-actuated Research or Level 5 Open Research).

Do we provide a range of active learning experiences where there are both safe and sure processes learned, as well as risk taking and adventuring?

The Levels on the RSD describe ‘extent of student autonomy in research’. Which of the five levels do you think is useful to begin with students in your context?

Author: johnwillison

Senior Leturer, Discipline of Higher Education, School of Education, University of Adelaide.

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