Vincenza Pellegrino

A «Collective» University: The development of public knowledge in a participatory perspective

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Participative Research and teaching; Collective University; Public Knowledge.

This article focuses on the evolution of public universities in a participatory perspective. The first part is devoted to the European context: hyper-specialisation of knowledge in different fields; job insecurity for both researchers/lecturers; increased stress, caused by the emphasis on measuring productivity. These processes generate in the university system growing discomfort, and a widespread perception of a lack of recognition. In the author's view, the discomfort may lead to the need to re-arrange teaching and research so as to earn a different recognition of knowledge that pays special attention to the interaction with the relevant social groups that are directly affected by the various scientific disciplines. The second part of the essay explores University policies and processes of «participative» research and teaching in both the social sciences and the natural sciences. In the third part, the essay proposes a case study of «participative teaching» which was carried out for three consecutive years in two courses (Sociology of Globalisation and Social Policies) offered by the University of Parma. The experiment involved over 400 students, twenty «co-teachers» (asylum seekers, migrant women from different associations, socio-educational workers) and about 100 citizens. The essay provides a qualitative analysis of the evidence from the focus-groups which were organized before class (with the purpose of allowing the teacher to choose the topics and teaching methods with his/ her co-teachers), and discusses - by building on participant observation - how the courses were actually taught in a context in which teacher, co-teachers, students and citizens were all in the same classroom at the same time. The case study sheds light on a variety of aspects that are relevant to appreciate the «collective» University model outlined in the article.

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