Looking for Trouble: Encountering the Unknown at the National Gallery of Ireland

McCarthy, Marian and Blackshields, daniel (2012) Looking for Trouble: Encountering the Unknown at the National Gallery of Ireland. In: National Academy’s Sixth Annual Conference and the Fourth Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference. Threshold Concepts: from personal practice to communities of practice, 2012, June 28 - 29 2012, Trinity College Dublin., Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


This workshop addresses the question of how encountering some intriguing works of art can help teachers in higher education “venture into new and strange places” (Barnett, 2007: 147), constructing what might constitute ‘troublesome knowledge’ for them, when out of the comfort zone of their own disciplines. It is hoped that such a venturing forth, will help chart ‘the unknown’, enabling teachers to identify with their students’ experience of liminality. Within accredited programmes in teaching and learning in higher education, a fundamental threshold concept is that teaching is about learning, rather than about the delivery of disciplinary knowledge. If all scholarship is concerned with encountering the unknown (Schwartzman, 2010, in Land, 2011), then lecturers on these programmes find themselves in liminal spaces grappling with the troublesome knowledge of realising that content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1994) are substantively different. The former is focused on the disciplinary knowledge in which the lecturer is expert; the latter is concerned with the dilemmas of how the discipline might be taught. Teaching the discipline constitutes another way of knowing for the lecturer and another way of being. Teaching the students how to learn in the discipline is all about listening to them, rather than talking at them, and realising that the discipline does not exist in splendid isolation, but is nestled in the four scholarships of discovery, integration, application and teaching (Boyer, 1990). It is difficult for lecturers to realise that there is another discipline that is part of the DNA of disciplinary understanding - that of teaching as learning and as research. Lecturers need to take a risk, to let go of their transmission of the discipline, in the interest of transformation and student learning. This workshop sets out to meet this need in foregrounding and encountering ‘troublesome knowledge’. [This workshop will take place in the National Gallery with the group departing from the Hamilton Building]

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