A flipped academic

A flipped academic

I have recently changed my role at the University and am having to think aout where I see in what direction I see my work developing. I recently came across the label of a ‘flipped academic’. The term originates with Alex Bruton in Canada and was popularised in an article in The Guardian newspaper here. The idea of the flipped academic sees teaching practice as enabling learners to apply theories and models to real-world problems. But this sounds to me to be very similar to problem-based or experiential learning. It mirrors the idea of the flipped classroom on the assumption that knowledge & facts can be easily accessed online.

But the flipped academic extends such ideas into all aspects of the academic endeavour. The Guardian article quotes Alex:

to reinvent the brand of the academic (ie. the perceived promise an academic makes to society) as more than just a teacher and academic publisher; as someone who also wants to engage deeply with communities and find new ways of developing, delivering and discussing knowledge.

In other words, the role of the academic is not limited to the creation of generalisable knowledge and theories. Instead, it is be concerned with the use of that knowledge in practice situations. 

A flipped academic appreciates the value of Massive Open Online Courses in promoting learning and disseminating research-based knowledge. As an example, science communication practices see engaging in student experience work and extra-curricular offers is an important part of academic work. It also sees the value of consultancy work and policy engagement. The work of ‘flipped’ academics also generates ‘products’ such as an Open Educational Resources Assessment Manual or a theory-driven curriculum design process as well as more obvious material products such as Graphene

Flipped academics:

  • work out loud to get their ideas out to wider audiences and to start having an impact as early as possible. Traditional academic publishing comes later. This takes, to borrow from Seth Godin Seth’s Site , a focus on Shipping the work as blog posts, external-facing courses, presenting to practitioners, creating learning materials and so on.

  • focus on ‘community’ engagement work, such as service-learning . Community here refers to people, organisations, networks and groupings that sit outside a university. Two examples at my University are the Living Lab s and SLICCs . Another project I was directly involved in is the European Students, Sustainability Auditing which provided participants with direct practical training and experience in social responsibility auditing of partner universities. On completion of the project, the students could also gain academic credit through submission of a reflective practice portfolio.

  • engage in action research (as a social scientist) and the generation of actionable knowledge.

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