One way to get compassion into society is to embed it into the education system, not only in terms of teaching and learning but in assessment too. This is equivalent to the kind of institutional endorsement that roots compassion right down into the system – provided institution-relevant benefits are demonstrated. I am not sure how this can be done in schools but I do know a little bit about wrestling successfully with a university system to get compassion assessed and therefore, credit bearing, on degree programmes. In the university of Hertfordshire this is now the case on some modules in Business, in the Humanities, and in Computer Science – that is, for post and undergraduates. It has been a seven year journey but now strong evidence is coming in on the management of student group work – something which is daily and everywhere in universities:
1. That students in all ethnic categories report feeling much more compassionate to themselves and others and can substantiate what they mean by this with examples of changes in their behaviours and attitudes to others in the learning space.
2. That tutors are have welcomed the training for this kind of teaching and assessment coming into their inductions as new teaching staff to the uni – all disciplines. No one now escapes! : ) Notably, experienced staff are now also slipping in for this training and trying to get it into their departments. Here is one reason why.
3. Statistical evidence – from our data analysed by statisticians at The Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh; the Royal Veterinary College, London; and the University of Hertfordshire, all confirm statistically significant increases to student academic performance on the modules using compassionate teaching and learning.
4. This evidence has been presented to OFFA – the UK government’s
Action in 2017: Please let me know if you are in a position, or are interested, in embedding this kind of practice into your university’s new staff induction programmes, and/or into any modules in your university.
The University of Hertfordshire is looking for new partners in other HEIs for this action research. Expressions of interest have so far been received from Oxbridge, Salford, York, Derby, California State University and Tianjian University, China. I would be delighted to hear from you before the next funding application and I will support you in your efforts on the ground to get practice going in your university.
Theo Gilbert, FHEA
Academic Skills Tutor, School of Humanities