IDS working papers;219

Learning and teaching participation : exploring the role of Higher Learning Institutions as agents of development and social change

Published on 1 January 2004

This paper explores the potential of Higher Learning Institutions (HLIs) as agents of social, institutional
and individual change. It argues that while HLIs have a clear role in building the capacity of individuals
and organisations to undertake key development initiatives and to practice participation, they are often
restricted by internal and external constraints. Perceptions of HLIs as experiencing hierarchical power
systems, structural rigidities, traditional elitism, and research which is disassociated from local realities
imply that a paradigm shift in the learning and research approaches of HLIs is greatly needed. In response
to some of these concerns, a wide range of initiatives and innovations are promoting learning of
participation and participatory teaching and learning. These are helping to challenge different constraints
and are enhancing the developmental potential of HLIs.
In April 2002 a global dialogue on Learning and Teaching Participation (LTP) was launched at IDS
with the purpose of sharing innovations and experiences in order to make these stories and lessons
learned more widely available, as well as helping to promote learning and teaching participation through a
dialogue on strategies, methodologies, processes, practices and theories. This paper draws on the key
issues and findings from the dialogue and related research to discuss practice and potentials of learning
and teaching participation in HLIs. It concludes that significant achievements have been made in bridging
theory and practice, linking HLIs and communities through collaborative research, and developing
participatory methods for more effective learning. However, challenges still remain and further research is
needed to address the contextual implications of learning and to develop appropriate participatory
methodologies to support these ventures.

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