In recent years, reports and public debate have depicted a crisis in higher education with students demonstrating difficulties in reading, writing, analyzing and problem solving and university teaching not helping students develop these skills. This situation does not appear to be limited only to Sweden (Enefalk, Andersson & Aronsson et al., 2013). In higher education, the importance of university teachers has not always been emphasized with regards to student learning and student success (cf. Mourshed et al, 2010). There is a cognitive gap between what is taught and the students’ ability to develop the requested competencies (Lisberg Jensen, 2013).
Luleå University of Technology, in Northern Sweden, is attempting to implement and develop a learning environment based on core competencies (Wikberg Nilsson & Gedda, 2013; Alverno College, (n.d.) and the general exam objectives in the Higher Education Act (SFS 1993: 100). In doing this, the university is faced with a number of challenges.
In a pilot research and development project, we have been working with one possible way to support the implementation of a competence-based pedagogical concept by creating educational materials for university teachers and students. The research questions were:
- To what degree are core competencies integrated and developed within current university programs?
- What problems do university teachers face when attempting to implement the competence-based pedagogical concept of the university?
- How can university teachers ensure that their teaching and assessment promotes the development of core generic competencies without sacrificing acquisition of subject-specific knowledge?
Methodologically, the first step was to map core competencies via qualitative interviews with both experienced and inexperienced university teachers as well as undergraduate students. Three key challenges were identified, the first being that some university teachers had difficulties understanding how the core competencies could be taught within their respective subjects or programs. Secondly, teachers voiced concerns that their lack of pedagogical training made it difficult for them to properly teach communication, problem solving, etc. Lastly, the interviews revealed that lack of time and pedagogical support were obstacles to the implementation of the educational concept.
In order to address the indicated problems and support the objectives of the educational concept, a set of digital materials were developed. These materials featured film clips of pedagogically and academically excellent university teachers explaining and providing clear examples of how they implement core competencies in their subjects. The films were then edited and supplemented with further examples and references. These materials are primarily directed at university teachers, as a supplement to existing courses in university pedagogy, but because they will be made openly available online, they will also be accessible to students.
The materials will help teachers to teach in accordance with the university's educational concept, develop and deepen their educational and pedagogical action competence (Jank & Meyer, 1997), and challenge themselves in the role of educational leaders. These materials could also help university teachers teach in ways that help students develop these core competencies in tandem with relevant subject knowledge. Students experience this as particularly useful educational training (Utbildningens användbarhet, 2013).
In this poster presentation, we will show the design of the project, how the results can be implemented in teaching at university level, and how the project has been deepened with further interviews, in order to learn more about how the objectives of the educational concept can be achieved. The presentation has broader relevance for all universities attempting to implement a pedagogical approach that develops generic competencies.
Alverno College (n.d.). The 8 core abilities.
Enefalk. H., Andersson, L. M., Aronsson, A. m.fl. (2013). Våra studenter kan inte svenska. Upsala Nya Tidning 2/1.
Jank, W. & Meyer, H. (1997). Didaktikens centrala frågor I: M. Uljens (Ed.). Didaktik. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 1997, pp. 47-74.
Lisberg Jensen, Ebba. (2013). Studenter på 13-åringsnivå kräver nya arbetssätt. Universitetsläraren 5/13.
Mourshed, M., Chijoke, C. & Barber, M. (2010). How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better. New York: McKinsey Company.
SFS 1993:100. Högskoleförordning. Stockholm: Utbildningsdepartementet.
Utbildningens användbarhet. (2013). Sveriges förenade studentkår om syftet med högre utbildning.
Wikberg Nilsson, Å. & Gedda, O. (2013). Guide 2013 för utbildningsutveckling enligt Pedagogisk idé LTU. LTU: Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet.
HICE (Hawaii International Conference on Education). 16th Annual Conference, 4-7 January 2017.