‘Teaching is a form of narrative’

LSE educator Neil McLean elaborates on digital storytelling, challenges in education, and more

Recently, Neil McLean, Director, Academic and Professional Division of London School of Economics and Political Science, shared his philosophy of education with higher-education teachers, during a three-day workshop on “effective pedagogy” organised under the auspices of the Indian School of Business and Finance. Snippets from the interview where he discusses current trends in education.

Can you tell us about the unique features of your teaching programmes?

We do not do a theoretical introduction to education. We emphasise on the kind of choices that can be made by the faculty, to create an environment where students are most likely to learn successfully, with interest and enjoyment. We bring in educational principles and apply them to the Indian context.

Digital storytelling is a great tool to make teaching and learning more engaging. How can teachers wield this tool effectively?

Teachers have always used narratives of different kinds. For thousands of years, they have told stories to make different points and also to make students draw certain kinds of conclusions. But, a lot of narratives are simply about process and procedure — what you do in week one of the course, linking it through week two and week three is a kind of narrative. Narratives, when done well, offer coherence, understanding, and what we do in these sessions keep coming back to the idea of coherence and narrative flow and how can those principles be applied across different kinds of activities that the faculty take part in. Digital storytelling is storytelling in a particular environment and with a particular set of tools. Obviously, it enables the use of things such as visuals much more, but you still need a beginning, a middle, and an end. You still need a protagonist, you still need to think of your audience, and those kind of skills and that kind of awareness is important. It is for the faculty to apply them.

How much importance do the U.K. universities attach to training programmes? Are students required to take special exams or get certification to improve their career prospects?

The most common training is our national qualification, which is the postgraduate certificate and that is a requirement in pre-interim review, at most universities in the U.K. We want our faculty to have choices in how they deliver education to our students, so they can be flexible depending on the needs of different students in different settings.

Tell us about the teaching and learning centre of LSE. In addition, what is the profile of those who come for learning at the centre?

The teaching and learning centre works only with LSE academic staff. We work on design and delivery of education, when they arrive at the school, and as they transition into new courses or to new responsibilities. We also work with the staff when they want to experiment and so bring in technology to the students’ learning mechanism.

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