Good Habits Die Hard:

Debating the Why of How We "Deliver"
University Teaching and Learning

STLHE 2001
Memorial University of Newfoundland
15 June 2001

Michael Moore (Wilfrid Laurier University) and Russell Hunt (St Thomas University)

The plan: Two experienced university teachers and instructional developers engage in debate about the pedagogical grounds for some of the profession's customary assumptions regarding the purposes and organization of post-secondary teaching and learning. Then everyone will be invited to join the fray. This session will attend to examples of practice, but the emphasis will be on educational theory or principle rather than on practical tinkerings with "default-mode" institutional circumstances and traditions that tend overly to shape what we think we can or should do.

The issues: Most discussion of pedagogy in higher education is about doing the same old things in new and presumably better ways. The emphasis is almost always on improving course delivery (practical matters of technique and/or technology) in insitutional settings rather than on re-examining or re-understanding conventional assumptions -- such as those defined by Chickering -- about the purposes and organization of university study. Concerned chiefly with the WHAT and HOW of teaching and learning, we often lose track of the WHY.

Issues addressed may include the necessity or value of scheduled classroom experiences and/or other direct interaction with or among students, of having a textbook, of "covering the subject" via a teacher-generated syllabus, of the academic essay or term paper, of providing extensive feedback on student work, and of rigorous academic standards and grading.

Michael Moore will advocate ways of preserving the instructor's more or less traditional role as educational organizer, synthesizer, motivator, mediator, and evaluator -- including regular class meetings and written assignments. He will contend that the virtual impossibility of preserving today those ideals and arrangements is a practical, not theoretical, problem.

Russell Hunt will suggest such alternatives as decentering the instructor and moving learning out of the classroom, changing the assumptions and circumstances around assignments to make writing more instrumental and less a matter of displaying learning. He will argue that such changes in higher education were overdue long before the current rethinking of university education in response to financial, political, and population pressures.


In this corner: Michael Moore is a 3M Fellow, a former Director of Instructional Development at Wilfrid Laurier University, and until this year Chair of English there.

In the other corner: Russell Hunt is a winner of the Atlantic Instructional Leadership Award, past Learning and Teaching Development Officer, and acting Chair of English at St. Thomas University.

They have argued about these matters at STLHE conferences for many years, but not previously in public.

Apple Pie

(some things Mike and Russ agree on)


(some things Mike and Russ don't agree on)