Legacy learning and career development: higher-education students as agents of change
Students are faced with a variety of daunting tasks. They navigate institutional expectations, manage time for their studies and homework, often while working multiple jobs and contributing to a household by way of care for others, duties around the house and balancing their budget. Further, they are subjected to a changing world full of environmental, economic and societal uncertainty. The “evolving future” has become as unpredictable as it is unstable, and within these challenges lies the importance of fostering “the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions” (CERIC, n.d.).
I live in Abbotsford, BC. In 2021, we navigated the global pandemic, raging forest fires, a heat dome and a devastating flood. Our community remains shaken to the core by these unprecedented challenges. This is one town, in one province of our massive country. Our challenges are unique to Abbotsford, but the outlook is equally complex across Canada. During such challenging times, the importance of career influencers – “professionals [who] have the potential to influence students in their careers through their role and everyday practice” – is undeniable (Ho, 2019, p. 137). We need students to become agents of change, and career development is one path to hope for our people, communities and world.
My PhD research focuses on the role of legacy in pedagogy (Legacy Learning). I examine Plato’s theory of the loadstone (attracting students to you like a magnet and infusing them with your knowledge and ability to attract further students); Maxine Greene’s consideration of learning through sedimentation (information builds up as sediment and is passed along to the next person in a synthesized form) (Greene, 2013); the role of mirror neurons in learning (you neurologically “practise” what you observe and the effect can be strengthened through relationship) (Zardi et al., 2021); and Indigenous ways of teaching and learning, amplifying the work of Sarah Davidson and Robert Davidson in their book, Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning Through Ceremony (2018). Davidson & Davidson point to the importance of process, with failure as an option and celebration of the journey as the focus as opposed to assessment.
I propose that legacy is a pathway to exponential growth, but our students are currently drowning in a tidal wave of information that flows over them through technology (Chan et al., 2015). Students are squeezed between the potency of exponentially growing knowledge they receive verbally, physically and affectively through their instructors, and the flow of information coming at them from their devices. To combat this evolving issue and turn the focus on successfully developing and producing agents of change, I propose including mindfulness and reflective practices as part of the higher-education curriculum in tandem with David Boud’s “feedback loop” – an ongoing conversation between the instructor and student to promote learning (Carless & Boud, 2018, p. 1318).
So, how does career development fit into this conversation? By framing curriculum within a Legacy Learning context, the evolution of a career is framed as a process achieved by considering students’ past experiences in relation to their current place in the process, and how that feeds their future evolution. Each journey is unique. There is no longer an arrival employment opportunity. Rather, future stops encourage community involvement by furthering equity, diversity and inclusion as a vital aspect of society’s future; averting ecological impacts of current and past practices; and actively engaging with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Each student has an important part to play in our future, but they will need our stories, support, guidance and encouragement to get there. As I said earlier, we need agents of change, and to get there, students will need everything we have to offer.
Hannah Celinski is an Assistant Professor and Department Head of Arts Studies at The University of the Fraser Valley. She began as a music theatre performer in Toronto, eventually opening Aerial Dance & Acro Academy in Abbotsford before returning to academia. Celinski is currently pursuing a PhD in Educational Theory and Practice: Curriculum and Pedagogy at Simon Fraser University. She has a Master of Arts in English from Simon Fraser University, a Bachelor of Arts in English (Honours) from The University of the Fraser Valley and a Music Theatre Performance Diploma from Sheridan College.
Boud, D. & Carless, D. (2018). The development of student feedback literacy: enabling uptake of feedback. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 43(8), 1315-1325. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02602938.2018.1463354
Chan, N., Walker, C., & Gleaves, A. (2015). An exploration of students’ lived experiences of using smartphones in diverse learning contexts using a hermeneutic phenomenological approach. Computers and Education, 82, 96-106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.11.001
CERIC. (n.d.). Glossary of career development. https://ceric.ca/glossary-of-career-development
Davidson, S. & Davidson, R. (2018). Potlatch as pedagogy: Learning through ceremony. Portage & Main.
Greene, M. (2013). Curriculum and consciousness. In David Flinders (Ed.), Curriculum studies reader (2nd ed., pp. 134-147). Taylor and Francis.
Hagendoorn, I. (2004). Some speculative hypotheses about the nature and perception of dance and choreography. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11(3-4), 79-110. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1SU17_clyZ_l8m7SG98c8kjY2pN1AgqHM/view
Ho, C. (2019). Professionals in post-secondary education: Conceptions of career influence. (Doctoral dissertation, Simon Fraser University, Surrey, Canada). Retrieved from http://summit.sfu.ca/item/18827
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Zardi, Andrea, Carlotti, Edoardo Giovanni, Pontremoli, Alessandro, & Morese, Rosalba. (2021). Dancing in Your Head: An Interdisciplinary Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 649121–649121. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.649121