Learning and teaching participation: exploring the role of higher learning institutions as agents of development and social change
This paper explores the potential of Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs) as agents of social, institutional and individual change. It argues that while HLIs have a clear role in building the capacity of individuals and organisations to undertake key development initiatives and to practice participation, they are often restricted by internal and external constraints. Perceptions of HLIs as experiencing hierarchical power systems, structural rigidities, traditional elitism, and research which is disassociated from local realities imply that a paradigm shift in the learning and research approaches of HLIs is greatly needed. In response to some of these concerns, a wide range of initiatives and innovations are promoting learning of participation and participatory teaching and learning. In April 2002 a global dialogue on Learning and Teaching Participation (LTP) was launched at IDS (Institute of Development Studies), UK, with the purpose of sharing innovations and experiences in order to make lessons learned more widely available, as well as helping to promote LTP through a dialogue on strategies, methodologies, processes, practices and theories. This paper draws on the key issues and findings from the dialogue and related research to discuss practice and potentials of LTP in HLIs. It concludes that significant achievements have been made in bridging theory and practice, linking HLIs and communities through collaborative research, and developing participatory methods for more effective learning. However, challenges still remain and further research is needed to address the contextual implications of learning and to develop appropriate participatory methodologies to support these ventures.