The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences (FHSS) of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura- Sri Lanka successfully held the first National Action Research Conference of Higher Education (NARCHE) 2021– the first ever conference of its kind in Sri Lanka on 16th September 2021 in virtual mode.
The need for an action research conference emerged in the year 2019 when the curriculum of the FHSS was revised under the leadership of the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Prof. Shirantha Heenkenda. Accordingly, the primary purpose of the conference was to examine the effectiveness of the newly introduced teaching, learning and assessment methods and techniques incorporated into the new curriculum. However, going beyond this primary purpose, the Faculty decided to pioneer and create a wider forum for action research findings in the country thus opening a new avenue for practitioners to engage in critical debate of research and innovation in teaching, learning and assessment practices in the higher education sector in Sri Lanka.
The Keynote speech of the conference was delivered by Associate Professor Indika Liyanage of the Faculty of Arts and Education of Deakin University, Australia focusing on the importance of “Reflection and reflexivity for ‘practice-changing practice’: Enhancing teaching and learning in higher education” while the Plenary talk was delivered by Dr. Bimali Indrarathne of the Department of Education, York University, United Kingdom under the theme “Critical Reflection for Action Research: Pandemic and Beyond.”
‘Discover and Disseminate: Best Practices in Higher Education’, the theme of NARCHE 2021 is apt and timely, particularly at a time when the world is confronted with new challenges in teaching, learning and assessment due to Covid 19 global pandemic. It is necessary to discover equally effective alternatives and protocols for distance learning, online or otherwise, and share such best practices with the academic community in higher education. Teachers, students, parents, and all stakeholders are expected to respond proactively to the needs of the time by transforming changes and challenges into opportunities that will provide quality education during this uncertain period. The conference was a rich venue for the academics to share their innovative discoveries related to teaching, learning and assessment practices in higher education.
The well attended conference ended with a successful evening panel discussion that was conducted in parallel to NARCHE 2021 under the theme “Good Practices in the Teaching and Learning Process in Higher Education.” The panelists, senior and well-experienced academics and administrators in higher education sector, Prof. Shirantha Heenkenda, the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Prof. Prasad Sethunga of the Department of Education of the University of Peradeniya, Prof. Rohana Basil Marasingha, the Head, Department of Medical Education and former Director of the Staff Development Centre of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Dr. Bimali Indrarathne, Department of Education, University of York, Dr. Namali Suraweera of the Library and Information Science, University of Kelaniya and Dr. Ayomi Irugalbandara of the Department of Secondary and Tertiary Education, Faculty of Education of the Open University of Sri Lanka shared the good practices they have observed, experienced and practiced in both local and international higher education institutes.
NARCHE 2021 organized by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura marks the beginning of exploring the best practices in the teaching and learning process in higher education in Sri Lanka.