Monday, 13 May 2013

'at home' in higher education?

My reading about retention of students in higher education is taking me in the direction of belonging and from belonging into identity and place.  So I've become particularly alert to the ways in which people use space to create place, to establish connections between the people they are or would like to be, the things they do and the places they inhabit.   

This was illustrated for me yesterday when, in a brief respite from case study research design, I went to visit several makers participating in Stroud International Textiles Festival Open Studios Weekend   Part of the delight involved in these weekends is discovering places on your doorstep you never realised existed.   Of course during Open Studios weekend, the studio becomes a shop window, the artistic process is self-consciously available for public consumption.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed imagining the private creative process taking place within them on a daily basis.   Yesterday's visits revealed two makers' studios tucked away up a narrow, tree-lined path.  One was little more than a lean-to with a view of the garden; the other was a purpose-built garden 'room' with a green roof.  Both were compact, distinctive workplaces. 

It got me thinking about my own 'studio' (derived after all, from the Latin studere, to study): essentially a desk in the spare room, a noticeboard and a shelf of books.  It's the nearest I can get to the garden room with the green roof.  But this workspace has become an important part of my development as a doctoral researcher.  It keeps that part of my life distinct, it's an acknowledgment of the importance of place to the development of a learning identity.  

These observations feed my thinking about the larger questions about learning and social spaces; about the ways in which student populations use campus space - inclusively and exclusively; what it means - and who is allowed - to feel at home in higher education?

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