After a long career as a lawyer, Paul Vine switched to education two years ago. Back to basics and hoping to share a little knowledge and experience with students. At the same time, he started as a researcher in the research group Multilevel Regulation (MLR) research group and was awarded a Comenius Fellowship for his research project – Negotiating Sustainability - last spring.
“My background and main research interest are in interpersonal communication, problem-solving, negotiation and advocacy. How do we move from ideas to action? Of course, like most law programmes, THUAS LAW students already receive some education in these areas. And like most programmes, we use case studies and role-plays to illustrate the key ideas and to give students their first practical experience,” says Paul.
Theory versus practice
“Yet, I soon wondered how easy it was for students to apply the principles from the classroom in the workplace. The theory says that, the closer the training is to the workplace reality, the easier it will be to apply. The literature calls this ’content relevance’, which is a complex way of saying that if you want to ride a bicycle you need to practice riding a bicycle,” Paul explains.
He continues: “At work, most of our graduates won’t immediately engage with high level decisions or advocate for social change. They’ll have a job with (many?) small conflicts and maybe the chance to influence a little change. So shouldn't we teach students how to deal with those situations specifically? This is what my Negotiating Sustainability research in the MLR research group is about.”
Combination with SDGs
In his teaching and research, Paul connects these ‘every day’ conflict resolution, negotiation and advocacy skills with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “For me, it’s a given that our students will be affected by multiple aspects of the SDGs. So our role as educators includes preparing them for those societal issues, to help them to become aware of the problems and learn how they can contribute to a better world.”
What do we teach and how?
Paul's research consists of two parts: testing some educational theory and building a learning community around a competition platform.
In the first part, he investigates the content relevance (WHAT we teach) and competition based learning (CbL or HOW we teach): “For content relevance, we are working with students and new THUAS graduates to map the advocacy and conflict situations that they actually encounter in the workplace. We also look for crossovers with SDGs and the aim is to feed the results back into the curriculum.”
“In respect of CbL,” he proceeds, ”the question is whether we can bring the best aspects of competition into the class, like motivation and potentially deeper learning, whilst mitigating possible negatives.”
Finally, Paul explains that “The Comenius Fellowship ensures that we have some space to conduct the research and also to build a community around the final output – a competition where students and new graduates deepen skills in addressing ‘everyday SDG’ issues. And more than that, to create a cycle of collaboration where they then return as young professionals to guide and help us at THUAS co-create in the future.
Would you like to know more about this research project? You can contact Paul at email@example.com