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poster image of fraying rope, “Crucial Conversations in Teaching and Learning”University of Regina education professor Marc Spooner is one of the provocateurs to kick-start a discussion Wednesday on the purpose of higher ed.

Guest speaker promises provocative talk on audit culture in higher education

For years, Marc Spooner has warned of the dangers of relying on performance metrics to assess higher education. Ontario is about to confront these dangers on a whole new scale.

Spooner will be one of two keynote speakers at the conference “Crucial Conversations in Teaching and Learning,” May 1.

“Now that the Ontario government is proposing to tie 60 per cent of provincial funding to how universities perform on 10 metrics, the issues I will be discussing are no longer hypothetical or examples from far away, but the new reality in Ontario,” said Spooner, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina.

He will be joined by Elinor Whitmore, vice president of the Stitt Feld Handy Group, as they lead participants in crucial conversations about the impact of surveillance, accountability, and audit culture on the academy.

He will also be involved in an event happening in the evening of May 1 called “Provoking Conversations.” This discussion will revolve around knowledgeable provocateurs speaking briefly to the question: “What is the purpose of higher education, and how do we get there?”

Spooner sees this event as more participatory and informal than the keynote address.

“The evening will feature a much shorter talk and be centred rather around small and large group discussions,” he said.

Spooner, who has been researching the effects of neoliberalization and corporatization on higher education for years, said he sees his role as bringing some insight and understanding into how audit culture and key performance indicators affect how and what we teach.

Spooner will be joined by two other provocateurs from the University of Windsor, law professor Sylvia McAdam and business professor Ashish Mahajan. Ken Montgomery, dean of education, will moderate.

“Provoking Conversations” will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Green Bean Café. Those who wish to attend are encouraged to register at: http://cleo.uwindsor.ca/workshops/121/.

—Peter Marval