The spiritual side of learning

03 February 2005

The spiritual side of learning

ASTON University are taking an innovative approach to learning and teaching with the launch of their new Flexible Learning Development (FLD) Centre for academic staff which is based on spiritual Japanese principles of knowledge sharing and creation in the form of ba.

Ba is a place (which may be physical, virtual or metaphorical) offering a shared context in which knowledge creation can happen. The intention of Aston University in establishing the FLD Centre is to create a suitable ba for staff for reflection on learning activities and the production of and delivery of teaching materials. This will be a combination of physical environment, time to reflect, help to reflect (from inspiration of secondees) and appropriate support from current Aston staff or by invited visitors who are experts in their fields.

Unlike many Higher Education institutions, the focus of Aston University’s new initiative is not to focus too much on technology, but to help academic staff by providing them with other resources in the form of time (in the form freedom from academic commitments) and space to gather their thoughts upon the best ways to convey their knowledge to their students.

‘Not only will the Centre provide valuable time and resources for teaching staff, it offers flexibility,’ explains Professor John Edwards, Director of the FLD Centre. ‘People are encouraged to do things differently and to try new ways of teaching which may be more successful. University staff that are proficient in one area of learning methods will be brought into the centre to help guide others in the use of that method. Due to Aston’s efficiently small size staff from all schools and departments can work together and help each other out. While other universities do offer training to their academic staff we are the first to conceive it in quite this way.’

Another factor which will be involved in the FLD Centre will be student input which may include the recruitment of one of Aston’s own placement students within the Centre. The aim of the Centre is to produce innovation for the benefit of students so by injecting student input staff can find out which methods are most successful in their given subject.

‘At a time when student’s needs are becoming increasingly diverse it is important that we listen to student input and inject it into the Centre. There is little point in promoting learning and teaching methods which are not what any student wants,’ Prof. Edwards concludes.

The FLD Centre will also act as a focus for raising awareness of the trends in resources and activities for learning and teaching, not only locally at Aston, but also more regionally and nationally. The latter will be achieved both through secondment of staff and through dissemination channels such as learning and teaching journals and conferences.

Written by Babs Coombes. For further information please contact me on 0121 204 4549 or email: b.a.l.coombes@aston.ac.uk

Notes for editors:

Objectives of the FLD Centre

The Aston University Flexible Learning Development Centre will encourage staff to reflect on their learning and teaching resources and methods and their appropriateness for students. The Centre will provide advice anf encourage the development of learning resources by encouraging/facilitating reflection on good practice. This will manifest itself in three ways:

1. The Centre will encourage staff to explore and embrace new ways of developing their learning resources and by sessions which demonstrate possibilities. These sessions will be run by current staff (seconded from within Aston or elsewhere) and by invited visitors.

2. Sabbaticals, secondments and workshops will give staff the opportunity for creativity and innovation in the design of learning activities and resources.

3. Resources will be available to help staff implement ideas developed via the Centre using a range of learning technologies both printed and digital. These resources will include not only tools and techniques, but also training and help with preparation of material.


The FLD Centre has been established with the aid of the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund (TQEF) and Professional Standards funding.

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