Didactics in reverse: looking critically at skills discussions in the English subject discipline

Paddy BullardMCRh

The ‘Didactics in Reverse’ roundtable addresses a set of problems that trouble many English subject professionals when they are asked to explain their discipline to prospective students. What skills are taught in an English degree programme? And how exactly do English graduates to use them once they leave university? The Subject Benchmark Statement for English (2015) sets out with laconic clarity the categories of ‘subject knowledge’, ‘skills specific to English’ and ‘generic skills’ in which we deal. The terseness of these specifications is replicated in Programme Specifications for English degrees up and down the country. We are used to describing the skills of our discipline in a language that is almost abstract in its economy. We also understand how far short that language falls from describing the skills that all sorts of English graduates practice every day in their working lives, or the sources of those skills in the study of language or literature.

Correspondingly, the conversation about English subject skills is divided upon itself. On one side is the data-driven instrumentality of the employability agenda; on the other is the tradition of humanistic explanation and counter-critique that seeks to explain, either positively or negatively, the values and moralities of the discipline. The ‘Didactics in Reverse’ roundtable seeks to find a middle way through this division by looking critically at how we discuss the skills of our discipline. Our aim is to examine impartially the contradictions and difficulties in which that discussion involves us. Instead of projecting our discipline into the world of work, we want to reverse the perspective: what does and what should our discipline look like from the world outside the university sector?

Round Table Participants:
Nicola Abram (University of Reading)
Will May (University of Southampton)
Paddy Bullard (University of Reading)
Amy Sackville (University of Kent)
And two further panellists, to be confirmed.

Sun 1:00 pm - 2:15 pm