National Teaching Fellow 2010
Dennis Hayes has taught in secondary schools, special schools, and in further and adult education institutions. This varied experience, coupled with his training in philosophy, has produced a unique approach to teaching that is student-centred but builds the intellectual potential of all students through criticism and challenge. This seeming pedagogic paradox is a result of his conviction that debate is the essence of education. Although once labelled the 'Simon Cowell' of debating, his colleagues in teacher education say that he manages discussion "in a friendly, unthreatening way…and thus invites and empowers people to enter the debate."
Dennis says he wants to create a new 'pedagogy of debate' through his teaching and writing with the aim of removing the 'discussion deficit' in higher education. His favourite teaching environment is not the cloistered classroom but the University Atrium, which he says is his 'Agora.'
Dennis' students are his colleagues and, whether introducing the principles of teaching to catering staff or discussing league tables with Chinese university principals, his methodology is always open, critical debate. As one of his students said, "If I can foster the same ability in my own students then I will consider my time spent teaching to be worthwhile."'
Dennis recognises that his most original ideas are the result of many years debating education and some, particularly his criticisms of the rise of therapeutic education and the demise of academic freedom, are, he says, controversial. Wherever there is debate, he argues, there will be controversy and wherever there is a university, therefore, there must be controversy.
Part of his vision of teaching extends beyond the university campus and seeks to recreate public debate and to reach a wider audience through the media and the web. Dennis argues that working in the academy is a privilege that imposes a civic duty; the duty of bringing ideas and understanding to all through engagement in debate. He has been successful in this goal. Broadcaster and author, Libby Purves, said of Dennis that "Education needs people like him. Badly!"
Professor of Education and Head of the Research Centre for Education and Career Development
University of Derby