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Professor John Cowan

Page history last edited by Norman Jackson 10 years, 9 months ago

Life-wide learning:  “What matters to me as a teacher?”

Professor John Cowan, Edinburgh Napier University


John Cowan explains why he values a Rogerian approach to learning and teaching – and how that can be arranged in life-wide learning.  He favours, (in an approach which he hopes is less cumbersome than this sentence), the purposeful self-managed, self-directed and self-evaluated development of higher level cognitive and interpersonal abilities – according to intended and unintended learning outcomes.  He instances an Edinburgh Napier programme strand for post-graduate students seeking CIPD membership, outwith their degree award.  This entails all of the above features, with life-wide learning personally chosen and managed to be generic and cross-life, in professional, academic and personal areas. 






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Professor John Cowan entered academia after a successful career as a structural engineering designer. His research at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, where he was the first Professor of Engineering Education in the UK, latterly concentrated on student-centred learning and the learning experience. On moving to the Open University in Scotland, he encouraged innovative curriculum development and campaigned nationally for rigorous formative evaluation in higher education. His passion for and professional interest in student-centred learning now spans over 40 years. During that time he has placed an ever increasing emphasis on preparing students to exercise stewardship over their life-wide development while at University, and in lifelong learning thereafter. He continues to share his wisdom with higher education teachers at Napier University.


John’s collegial spirit is well known. In describing himself he says, “it's best just to think of me as a part-time teacher nowadays, with personal history to draw on and a willingness to share with some colleagues, if they want to innovate in areas where I have some experience.” SCEPTrE has benefited hugely from his willingness to share the wisdom he has gained from a lifetime of committed professional practice and personal and his own professional development (most recently in a set of ITunes podcasts). 


John has inspired many higher education teachers. In reviewing this book Becoming and Innovative Teacher’ Professor John Biggs wrote’"...a delightful and unusual reflective journey...the whole book is driven by a cycle of questions, examples, strategies and generalizations from the examples. In all, it is the clearest example of practise-what-you-preach that I have seen."  


This sums John up very well!


SCEPTrE Life Achievement Award 2010

SCEPTrE would like to acknowledge the significant contribution that John has made to the profession of higher education teaching and to his commitment to education that truly encourages and draws upon students’ life-long and life-wide learning experiences.




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