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John Cowan

Page history last edited by Norman Jackson 10 years, 12 months ago

Learning to be a Professional: Using our own life experiences to develop principles for designing good educational experiences

Professor John Cowan, Edinburgh Napier University

“Our own life experiences, from which we will have learnt what becoming professional means, can provide us with a fantastic resource from which to create good educational designs. This seminar is based on my own reflections on how I learnt (and still learn) to become professional, in four different professional fields. Out of these reflections I have gradually extracted some general propositions and principles for educational designs which I believe are more likely to be encouraging and effective in assisting learners to begin the process of becoming professional while they are studying in higher education.”


The seminar should be of interest to anyone who is involved in designing and supporting the development of students and staff as professionals. Prior to the seminar, participants are encouraged to reflect on the influences which have shaped their own development as professional people. During the seminar participants will have the opportunity to explore that statement, and its implications.



Chapter A1




Biographic note

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.  In retirement he remains an active teacher in undergraduate and postgraduate studies at Edinburgh Napier University. This seminar provides a unique opportunity to enjoy the wisdom of a leading thinker and practitioner in the field of education, who can draw on an experience-rich life-time of sustained commitment to the personal growth and professional learning of himself and others.




















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