How do I engage with the institution?
When you zoom out of the micro context discussed in Engagement 3, you arrive at the meso context which describes the institutional level. When we analyse at the level of institutions, we often encounter terms such as institutionalised, systemic, and structural. What these terms have in common is that they indicate that recurrence of certain patterns is not always incidental. These patterns are instead outcomes of the way in which an institution is organised. Furthermore, these patterns and outcomes recurrently affect specific people negatively. As with earlier instances, the reverse can also be observed: some people enjoy a position of privilege or recurring benefits. These recurrences can be traced back to the institutional level. After all, an institution is made up of people and thus a reflection of their views. But whose views? This is an important implication for online inclusive education because it means that teachers must consider how an institution is not experienced as a neutral space for all students.
This engagement will allow you to reflect on the interplay between different institutions, and what this means for individuals in higher education institutions. Before looking at concrete instances of such interactions, it is useful to expand on the meso context and what it exactly entails.
Institutions can be found in a society and are manifestations of the values, ideas, priorities, politics, identities, and traditions that can be distilled from the dominant discourses. An institution can be any kind of organisation – especially one that has an important societal role, such as a government, church, or school.
A higher education institution is where most formal learning activities for adults take place, but it is influenced by other prominent institutions in the society it is located. The government’s policies on higher education, moral codes prescribed by religion, and the gender policy of the university are all examples of conditions set by different institutions. To illustrate the mutual shaping happening between institutions, you can see them as connected cogs; when one cog turns, the others also turn with it. When one of these cogs turns significantly with connected cogs following suit, we can speak of systemic change which has community impact. Shifts at the institutional level produce outcomes that leave an indelible mark on the communities that those institutions reach and the social fabric.