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Navigating Free Speech and Inclusivity in Higher Education

Navigating Free Speech and Inclusivity in Higher Education

Balancing inclusivity and free speech in Australian universities is no easy feat, requiring more than just policies and guidelines; it demands a cultural shift where everyone takes responsibility. Institutions like the University of Sydney are making strides by hosting forums and debates that champion diverse viewpoints (University of Sydney, n.d.). However, as seen with the controversial visit of a far-right speaker in 2018, these events can highlight the tension between free speech and community standards (ABC News, 2018). This incident underscores the need for universities to go beyond mere allowances and actively foster respectful dialogue.

One crucial step is embedding inclusivity and respectful behaviour into the fabric of campus life. The University of Melbourne’s Respect Week is a great start, promoting awareness and education around these values (University of Melbourne, n.d.). However, to truly make a difference, universities should integrate these principles into everyday interactions and curricula. Workshops on unconscious bias, inclusive teaching practices, and conflict resolution can be mandatory for staff and students alike (Staats, 2016).

Integrating these principles into teaching pedagogy is particularly effective. By providing examples and encouraging debates, universities can bring back a sense of discourse to the academic environment. This approach not only educates but also empowers students to engage respectfully with differing viewpoints, fostering a culture of open and inclusive dialogue aligning with the Australian Universities Accord Final Report.

Furthermore, Australian National University’s (ANU) clear guidelines on acceptable conduct, coupled with robust support services for those affected by offensive speech, set a strong foundation (Australian National University, n.d.). Yet, these guidelines must be actively enforced and regularly reviewed with input from the entire university community. Peer-led initiatives, where students and staff collaborate to uphold and promote community standards, can also be highly effective.

For example, Monash University’s Respectful Communities initiative involves both students and staff in promoting a safe and inclusive environment. This program includes bystander intervention training, which empowers community members to address and prevent disrespectful behaviour (Monash University, n.d.). Additionally, the University of Queensland has implemented an Ally Network that provides training and support to create a more inclusive campus for LGBTQ+ students and staff, showcasing the impact of community involvement in fostering inclusivity (University of Queensland, n.d.).

In addition to structural changes, fostering a culture of accountability is vital. This involves not only addressing incidents of harmful behaviour swiftly and fairly but also celebrating positive examples of respectful and inclusive conduct. Recognising and rewarding individuals and groups who contribute to a supportive campus environment can encourage others to follow suit.

Ultimately, creating an inclusive and respectful university culture requires a concerted effort from everyone involved. By making inclusivity and respect part of daily practice, and holding each other accountable, universities can ensure that diverse perspectives are valued and all members of the community feel safe and respected.


References

ABC News. (2018, July 12). University of Sydney protests over far-right speaker. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-12/university-of-sydney-protests-over-far-right-speaker/9990182

Australian National University. (n.d.). Code of conduct. Australian National University. https://policies.anu.edu.au/ppl/document/ANUP_001222

Monash University. (n.d.). Respectful communities. Monash University. https://www.monash.edu/about/respectful-communities

Staats, C. (2016). Understanding implicit bias: What educators should know. American Educator, 39(4), 29-33. https://www.aft.org/sites/default/files/ae_winter2015staats.pdf

University of Melbourne. (n.d.). Respect week. University of Melbourne. https://students.unimelb.edu.au/student-support/student-conduct/respect-week

University of Queensland. (n.d.). Ally network. University of Queensland. https://about.uq.edu.au/about/ally-network

University of Sydney. (n.d.). Differing views: Valuing disagreement. University of Sydney. https://www.sydney.edu.au/engage/events-sponsorships/sydney-ideas/2018/differing-views-valuing-disagreement.html

Reflection on “Neijuan” and Its Impact on International Students

Reflection on “Neijuan” and Its Impact on International Students

The Concept of “Neijiuan” or Involution

In a recent reflective assignment, one of my students highlighted the concept of “neijuan” (involution) in China, as described by Liu (2021). Involution refers to the phenomenon where increased competition and overqualification lead to stagnation in productivity and individual frustration.

This term captures the reality faced by many young Chinese who, despite higher education and qualifications, find themselves in jobs that do not match their skill levels. Involution originated in anthropology where Clifford Geertz used the term “agricultural involution” to describe how increasing labour in rice paddies did not result in proportional economic gains but rather led to intensified labour without significant improvement in living standards (Geertz, 1963). Young people in China are similarly trapped in a cycle of intense competition without corresponding economic advancement according to The New Yorker.  It describes these shorthand memes to describe work hours, “996” (nine in the morning to nine in the evening, six days a week), which was a badge of honour now mentioned in a more negative tone, particularly the way it has morphed into “007” to describe the online demands as 24 hours, 7 days / week .

Youth Unemployment in China: A Growing Concern

Youth unemployment in China is a pressing issue that has far-reaching social and economic implications. Recent data highlights significant challenges faced by young people in the job market. According to Kang, the 16 to 24 age group accounted for more than 60 per cent of China’s urban population, representing nearly 62 million people. Non-school students made up more than 30 per cent, or 34 million people. Louise Loo, lead economist at Oxford Economics, estimated that the jobless rate for the 16-24 age group could have been closer to 25 per cent in December based on the old methodology, which included school students. She noted, “And to the extent that students are [in school], doing advanced degrees, for instance, only because they have failed to find a job, then the new statistic grossly undermines the associated social and economic risk of youth unemployment”.

Graduates Entering the Job Market

In 2024, around 11.79 million people are expected to graduate from university in China, an increase of 210,000 from the previous year, according to the Ministry of Education. This surge in graduates entering the job market intensifies the competition for limited employment opportunities. China’s labour market is further stressed by its declining population and youth unemployment. The Third Child Policy of 2021 aims to address this, but urbanisation and a record-high youth jobless rate of 21.3% in June 2023 complicate the issue (Attané, 2022; Loo, 2023).

Supporting International Students

Are we doing enough to support our international students, particularly those from China? It’s crucial to address their needs and challenges as they navigate the job market. For instance, 38 percent of online car-hailing drivers have a college education or above. While intellectual discussions during rides are delightful, we must find more appropriate and sustainable solutions to address these employment challenges.

The issue of youth unemployment in China requires urgent attention and action. It’s not just about providing jobs but ensuring that young people have meaningful and fulfilling employment opportunities. Policymakers, educational institutions, and businesses must collaborate to create a robust support system for young job seekers.

References:

  • Attané, I. (2022). China’s New Three-Child Policy: What Effects Can We Expect? Population and Societies, (596).
  • Geertz, C. (1963). Agricultural Involution: The Process of Ecological Change in Indonesia. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 10.1525/9780520349815
  • Islam, R. (2023). An employment and labour perspective. Fifty Years of Bangladesh: Economy, Politics, Society and Culture, 157.
  • Loo, L. (2023). Lead Economist at Oxford Economics.
  • Siddiqui, T. (2005). International labour migration from Bangladesh: A decent work perspective. Working Paper No. 66. Policy Integration Department, International Labour Organization. 10.4236/jss.2024.121007
  • SBS News. (2023). “From yoga instructors to dog trainers: The jobs the government says we need to fill”. Retrieved from SBS
  • The New Yorker. (2023). “China’s Involuted Generation”. Retrieved from The New Yorker

MetaCognition: a critical learning competency

How often do we stop to think about our thinking?

Metacognition is the awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes, is a cornerstone of effective learning. It allows individuals to evaluate, regulate, and adapt their cognitive strategies, leading to improved problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Edward de Bono, in his Six Thinking Hats framework, refers to this as the ‘Blue Hat’ thinking, which involves managing the thinking process itself.


As the philosopher John Dewey once said, ‘We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.'”


In the context of higher education, metacognition plays a pivotal role in fostering self-awareness and lifelong learning habits. This blog post explores how metacognitive strategies can enhance learning in ethics, sustainability, reflection, and business communication, illustrating the transformative power of self-awareness in education.

Metacognition comprises two primary components:

  • Metacognitive Knowledge: Includes declarative knowledge (understanding oneself as a learner), procedural knowledge (knowing how to perform tasks), and conditional knowledge (knowing when and why to apply specific strategies) (Schraw & Dennison, 1994; Flavell, 1979).
  • Metacognitive Regulation: Involves planning (selecting strategies and resources), monitoring (awareness of comprehension and performance), and evaluating (appraising the task performance and strategy effectiveness).

“The significance of metacognition is connected to the very essence of how we live. ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’ as Socrates wrote, underscores the importance of self-reflection and critical evaluation in personal and academic growth.”


Role of Metacognition

  • Enhancing Critical Thinking and Self-Reflection: (Declarative Knowledge), e.g. Students engage in case studies and reflective journals, promoting awareness of their thought processes and ethical considerations (Schön, 1983).
  • Understanding and Evaluating Personal Values and Biases: (Conditional Knowledge), e.g. In teaching ethics, we specifically incorporate reflective journals into the assessment process in order to facilitate students to examine their responses to ethical frameworks, encouraging them to consider different perspectives and refine their moral reasoning (Schön, 1983).

Integrating MetaCognition

  • Importance of Reflection in Learning: (Procedural Knowledge), e.g. Reflective practices, such as journals and self-assessment, allow students to consolidate their learning and understand concepts more profoundly (Azevedo & Cromley, 2004).
  • Developing Self-Regulation and Goal-Setting Skills: (Conditional Knowledge), e.g. In sustainability courses, students may be assigned projects that require them to reflect on their personal carbon footprint and sustainability practices, promoting a deeper understanding of their environmental impact and fostering sustainable thinking (Boud & Molloy, 2013).
  • Self-Monitoring and Evaluating Communication Effectiveness: (Procedural Knowledge), e.g. Students learn to monitor their communication skills and evaluate their effectiveness, leading to improved interactions (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000).
  • Adapting Communication Styles Based on Audience Feedback: (Conditional Knowledge), e.g. In business communication courses, role-playing exercises and presentations can be used to help students reflect on their communication strategies, allowing them to adapt and improve their approach based on audience feedback (Roll & Wylie, 2016).

Importance of Teacher Feedback and Feedback Literacy

Teacher feedback plays a crucial role in the development of metacognitive skills. Effective feedback helps students understand their strengths and areas for improvement, guiding them in refining their cognitive strategies and enhancing their learning outcomes. Feedback literacy, the ability to understand and use feedback effectively, empowers students to take an active role in their learning process, making them more reflective and self-regulated learners (Boud & Molloy, 2013).

Feedback is a shared responsibility between teachers and students. For feedback to be effective, both parties must engage actively in the process. Teachers provide constructive insights and evaluations, while students must learn to interpret, internalize, and apply this feedback to their learning strategies. This collaborative approach ensures that feedback serves its intended purpose of fostering continuous improvement and self-awareness.

Feedback literacy comprises several competencies that collectively contribute to the metacognitive learning process. These competencies include:

  • Understanding Feedback: Students must comprehend the feedback they receive, including its purpose and how it relates to their work.
  • Seeking Clarification: Students should feel empowered to ask questions and seek further explanation when feedback is unclear.
  • Reflecting on Feedback: This involves critically analyzing feedback to understand what changes are necessary and why they are important.
  • Applying Feedback: Students must develop the ability to implement feedback into their future work effectively.
  • Engaging in Dialogue: An ongoing conversation between teachers and students helps clarify expectations, address misunderstandings, and support the continuous refinement of learning strategies.

By developing these competencies, students become better equipped to engage in the metacognitive processes of planning, monitoring, and evaluating their learning. This holistic approach to feedback and feedback literacy significantly enhances students’ ability to self-regulate and adapt their learning strategies, ultimately leading to improved academic performance and personal growth.

Metacognitive Teaching Tools and Templates

  • Reflective Journals: Templates for reflective journals can guide students in structuring their thoughts and reflections systematically. One such template is the “Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle,” which prompts students to describe, analyse, and evaluate their experiences (Boud & Molloy, 2013).
  • Self-Assessment Checklists: Tools like Zimmerman’s (2002) self-regulation checklist help students monitor their learning strategies and progress.
  • AI-driven Feedback Platforms: As students engage in a dialogical conversation with AI, such as intelligent tutoring systems, their curiosity and interaction can enhance metacognitive awareness. These platforms provide personalized feedback and recommendations, helping students to better understand their learning processes and improve outcomes (Aburayya et al., 2023; Lim et al., 2023).

Conclusion

By integrating metacognitive practices across disciplines such as ethics, sustainability, reflection, and business communication, higher education can significantly enhance students’ critical thinking, self-awareness, and adaptability. Educators are encouraged to embed metacognitive strategies in their teaching methods, fostering a reflective and self-regulated learning environment for students.

Students can also leverage AI tools to assist their metacognitive practices. Tools such as intelligent tutoring systems and AI-driven feedback platforms can provide personalised insights and recommendations, helping students to better understand their learning processes and improve their outcomes (Roll & Wylie, 2016).


“In the words of Confucius, ‘Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.’ Embracing metacognition not only reveals the depths of our understanding but also lights the path toward continuous intellectual and personal growth.”


 

References

10 Numbers to Describe our world

10 Numbers to Describe our world

Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers 
Paul Morland’s “Tomorrow’s People” is an engaging and insightful book that uses ten key numbers to predict and analyse the future trends affecting humanity. It effectively underscores the global interconnectedness of issues such as climate change, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and equality.

 

Here are the ten numbers that Morland uses to reinforce these themes.

Number Theme
1 The impact of being the only child on family dynamics and society.
43 The average age of a population and its implications for the workforce and economy.
100 The rise of centenarians and the challenges of an aging population.
19 The age of first childbirth and its influence on family size and population growth.
70,000 Human migration and its impact on cultural and demographic shifts.
4,000,000,000 Population growth in Africa and its global implications.
54 The number of countries and the effects of geopolitical changes.
7 The number of children per woman in high-fertility areas and the demographic transition.
23 The significance of urbanisation and the growth of megacities.
94 The increasing literacy rate and its role in shaping future societies.

Economic: Changes in workforce dynamics, pension systems, and healthcare.
Social: Shifts in family structures, migration patterns, and urban living.
Political: Geopolitical tensions, policy making, and governance challenges.
Environmental: Impact of population growth on resources and sustainability.

Tomorrow’s People” offers a compelling overview of how we live in a global environment and how these ten numbers will shape our future. The book urges proactive policies and global cooperation to address upcoming challenges, encapsulating Morland’s approach to understanding the future of humanity through crucial demographic and social indicators. It provides valuable insights into the interwoven fabric of our global society and the critical factors that will influence our collective future.

Morland, P. (2022). Tomorrow’s People: The Future of Humanity in Ten Numbers.   Picador. .

Reflection
How many of these numbers truly resonate with you? How might they impact your perspective on our global future? Most of us are too comfortable to fully grasp their significance.