The acronym OAK may represent the values of Deep University with the oak tree acting as a metaphor and educational semiotic that can provide a basis for the development of a culture of democratic practice and deep learning. In current times the valuing of Optimism, represented by ‘O’, in being confident about success and the future is vital for students embarking on both their university studies and later as graduates beginning their careers. In choosing a value to represent ‘A’ there are several possibilities. For instance, an important outcome for students is to be Active and Autonomous in their learning, and to be Authentic as people and in their practice. Similarly, one might argue for students’ Affability in being sociable/civil and courteous. This is a value that underpins quality communication, collaboration and negotiation without which little can be achieved. However, it is suggested here that the value of Altruism, in being concerned with the good of others also encompasses affability but suggests a deeper quality that is more enduring and able to relate to students ultimately seeing themselves as problem solvers and able to make a contribution to improving the world we live in in some way. This relates well to the need for transformative practice and in doing so the valuing of Knowledge for ‘K’, as in students having a thirst for learning and acquisition of theoretical and practical understandings, and their application, to make a positive contribution to society. These values emanating from OAK can assist in transcending the limitations of traditional epistemology and the industrial model of learning that continues to permeate educational institutions.
Shirley O’Neill, University of Southern Queensland, Brisbane, Australia