Distributed resilience? A networked approach to fostering student resilience

Hasty, William (2017) Distributed resilience? A networked approach to fostering student resilience. In: 3rd International Enhancement Themes Conference, 2017-06-06 - 2017-06-08.

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The concept of resilience has taken root across a wide range of research, practice and policy contexts over the past decade, with everything from bacteria to ecosystems to ideologies being re-framed and re-imagined in terms of their ability to bounce back from shocks and withstand ongoing pressure. From these roots a body of work on what it means to be resilient, or seek to foster it in others, continues to grow; indeed, this concept, which originated in “ecological thought”, has “in the last decade become one of the key political categories of our time” (Neocleous, 2013: 3; see also Chandler, 2014). It is now a truly “influential and societywide construct” (Martin, 2015: 117). That one concept can be operational in so many different contexts inevitably raises questions about exactly how we coherently define the term and the extent to which meaning, interpretation and application can be shared across such different contexts (see Sehgal, 2015). This paper represents an attempt to critically explore the basic contours of ‘resilience-thinking’ in higher education, focusing particularly on the potential it represents and the problems we might pay heed to when considering its use in part-time and distance learning contexts. Reflecting largely on a critical engagement with the literature and then briefly on aspects of development work with students and staff at the Open University, this paper outlines a case for a relational interpretation and networked application of resilience in higher education.