McGuffins, learning, teaching and universities

D’Arcy Norman suggests that Edupunk is a McGuffin. I like the metaphor. But I think it breaks down a bit, at least in the context I’m interested in.

Wikipedia uses a definition of a McGuffin that suggests it is “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction”. Wikipedia suggests that the defining characteristic of a McGuffin is

the major players in the story are (at least initially) willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to obtain it, regardless of what the MacGuffin actually is.


Importantly, as Wikipedia suggests

the specific nature of the MacGuffin may be ambiguous, undefined, generic, left open to interpretation or otherwise completely unimportant to the plot.

What is important is not the details or nature of edupunk, top-down quality assurance, problem-based learning, teacher-of-the year awards, or anything else. What is important is what happens as a result of the characters wanting to obtain the McGuffin. In movies, what’s important is a good plot.

I work in a university context. In that context, I think what’s important is improving the quality of learning and teaching. I don’t see enough of that happening. To a large extent I think this is due to the absence of appropriate McGuffins. The current McGuffins within a university context aren’t driving the majority of academics to improve the quality of learning and teaching.

Edupunk is the right McGuffin for some. But I’m not sure how widespread that is. The folk interested in Edupunk are generally not the ones that need a McGuffin.

So, what is the McGuffin for improving L&T within a university? Does it make sense for there to be one, or even a small number of McGuffins?

One thought on “McGuffins, learning, teaching and universities

  1. Pingback: Integrating alignment into Moodle and academic practice: A proposal and a RFI « The Weblog of (a) David Jones

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