Summary: A comment on feeling comfortable by Trudie Roberts. Description: “Splendid isolation”

I recently attended an interesting small conference on professional learning. It was a wonderful meeting of serious academic researchers. Many views were like-minded and there were no major differences, overt tensions or disagreements. ‘No fights and nobody even feelings injured in fact nothing to laugh at at all’(1). It felt very comfortable and safe. Is this the function of academic meetings? Are they meant to be a welcome respite from the increasingly maddening, chaotic and frenetic real world? Maybe.

It has been said that Universities are useful as they frequently provide a sheltered work environment for the more Aspergic members of a society and this meeting with its strong re-enforcement and approbation of collective ideas certainly fulfilled some kind of group therapy. I’m sure my fellow attendees would be shocked at my questioning the status quo. However can we afford the luxury of only preaching to the choir? Most of us working in Universities are funded by the taxpayer and don’t they have a right to question how our research is making a difference in society. This, of course, is the old researcher – practitioner/policy maker debate. But given the not infrequently made comment concerning decades of research into teaching schools and how come kids still leave not able to read or write do and the fact most of us live in a very challenging financial environment do we not need to think how we turn our research findings into change. If that means inviting challenging strangers into our meetings and coming out of our comfort zone then it will need a change of mind set on our part.

(1) With apologies to George Marriott Edgar