Towards Globo Sapiens: Transforming Learners in Higher Education, Patricia Kelly, (Sense Publishers, Rotterdam/Taipei 2008) Series: Educational Futures, Rethinking Theory and Practice.
Ostensibly a case-study of work with first-year engineering students at an Australian university of technology, Patricia Kelly’s book is also part autobiographical, part polemical and even part social commentary. Her narrative style, though occasionally a trifle dense in parts, with rather a lot of jargon, does hold up a mirror to the life of her students – and students in general – which portray many of the social, cultural and intellectual problems that young people face. In the January 2002 issue of The Pantaneto Forum we published an article by Kelly, which is the subject of this book.
Every journey starts with the first footstep and Kelly takes this metaphor quite literally. On page 152 we are graced with a picture of Kelly’s feet – bandaged and swollen after a long trek. The journey Kelly undertakes with her students sometimes appears no less painful, but behind the metaphorical allusion, Kelly is making a serious point. University life over most of the world is plagued by student drop-out rates which are much too high. For some countries, in particular the UK, drop-out rates have leapt in recent years, as an increasing percentage of young people come to university, many of whom are ill-equipped to deal with university life. If this situation is not bad enough, there is the added problem of many students who finish their degrees and then find problems fitting in to the world of work – the global marketplace. The ideal for Kelly is a graduate who is both globally competent as well as globally portable, which she dubs “Globo Sapiens”.
A teaching method which Kelly advocates to achieve this goal, and which is the subject of this book, is the use of reflective journals. Kelly defines Globo Sapiens as “reflexive citizens/professionals connected by a common sense of global responsibility and a willingness to act accordingly in their integrated personal and professional lives”. (Page 124).
In practical terms, Kelly’s students were required to write eleven or twelve 300- or 500-word weekly journals on guided topics, together with a peer interview and selected readings. The idea was to force students out of their “comfort zone” and get them to reflect on world issues and their own responses to the course.
Kelly describes in great detail the whole process, which is sometimes quite a shocking – even harrowing experience – for both student and teacher, but which, when successful, becomes a transformational experience for the students.
Hopefully the teachers or students do not suffer as much as Kelly’s feet!