Education, Practice and Society Learning Lunch

UCL Institute of Education, 5th May 2021

What can we learn from a student’s experience of designed, contingent and improvised online teaching, and how might this inform our post/perpetual pandemic practice?

I was fortunate to be a guest at the EPS Learning Lunch to share my experiences as a learner over the past three years, assembling formal and informal learning experiences in photography and fine art. Reflection on the pedagogic structure, relationship between and student experience of the components, which taken together correspond to progression from undergraduate to postgraduate taught to postgraduate research levels (see links below), spanning the contingencies of pandemic management measures, provided an opportunity to think again about the relationship between different forms of educational provision and learner trajectories. This raises issues of learner agency and responsibility, the strategies and tactics used by learners and the meaningful assemblage of educational experience at a time in which knowledge is increasing seen as a commodity and education framed in terms of providers and consumers. Some resonance here with Stephen Wright’s (2014) exploration of the ‘useological turn’ in the arts, and a shift from spectatorship to usership. Discussion invoked the issues and approaches explored by the Vauxhall Manor School Talk Workshop Group (1974-79).


Three years ago, I left the Institute, rewound thirty years to a fork in the road and took the other path. Since then I’ve combined posts in London, New South Wales and Singapore with education and practice as a photographer and artist. This has included the combination of online and face to face non-accredited courses and awards, an online MA at Falmouth University and a Professional Doctorate in Fine Art at UEL, my local university. At this learning lunch I want to reflect on what I have learnt, as an educator, from the experience of being a student in a range of contexts, and consider the manner in which universities have responded to pandemic related restrictions.

Through an initial 20 minute presentation and subsequent discussion I will consider the pedagogic structure of each of these forms of educational experiences from a student’s perspective and hope to draw on the experience of participants to consider at least some of a the following questions:

  • where does responsibility for learning lie, and how do we align expectations?
  • who is accountable for learning and how?
  • what is the relationship between informal student-led support networks and formal provision?
  • if the formal taught component of a programme is the visible tip of the learning iceberg, what lies beneath the surface?
  • to what extent can student groups be considered a community?
  • how can higher education programmes appropriately recognise and accommodate the skills, knowledge and experience of learners?
  • what is the role of ‘usership’, bricolage and improvisation in the development of an educational programme and a learning trajectory?
  • what can we learn from student experiences of specifically designed online programmes for the contingent development of online provision?
  • what can we learn from student experiences of the contingent development of online provision for the design of online programmes?
  • is higher learning in the throes of deinstitutionalisation?
  • am I as atypical a student as I might at first seem?

OU/RPS Online Certificate in Digital Photography

City Lit workshops
Open Studio Workshops
RPS Licentiate workshops
RPS Licentiate assessment

MA in Photography

Four Modules
Final Major Project
Guest lectures

Lewis Bush Workshops
The Photographers Gallery Workshops
London Centre for Book Arts
Rapid Eye Darkroom
Arte Útil

Professional Doctorate in Fine Art

London Alternative Photography Collective
Institute of Making
Self-Publish Be Happy