22 SES 05 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
In higher education, most disciplines require their students to accomplish an academic thesis as a final challenge before awarding them with a degree. This is especially true for the social sciences and humanities. Not only can the bachelor thesis be seen as the culmination of one’s educational achievements, but also as a learning process which holds high potential for the development of key competencies (Spronken-Smith & Walker, 2010). During their bachelor thesis or final study project, students often widen the boundaries of their knowledge, develop skills for managing time, resources and motivation, learn to solve complex problems and cope with frustration and procrastination (Howitt, Wilson, Wilson & Roberts, 2010; Friedman et al., 2010). Mostly, these abilities can be classified as key competencies or 21st century skills (as defined by e.g. the Partnership for 21st century Skills, 2009). They are especially helpful when facing the challenges of a changing labour market. In sum, the bachelor thesis holds high potential for the development of key competencies which ultimately lead to employability, one of the major goals of the Bologna Declaration (Schaeper, 2009).
From a pedagogical point of view, different questions arise when looking at the learning process during the bachelor thesis: How can key competencies be addressed and properly fostered? What do educators do to support the learning process and do they actively foster the development of key competencies? If so, how?
To answer this question, this paper draws on the concept of research-based learning as its main theoretical foundation. The type of learning occurring during the process of writing a bachelor thesis “mirrors the research process” (Bignold, 2003, p. 6) and can thus be qualified as research-based learning (or inquiry/enquiry-based learning) “in which asking questions, thinking critically, and solving problems are encouraged” (Friedman et al., 2010, p. 766). Research-based-learning can be seen as an ‘umbrella term’ (e.g. Deignan, 2009) overlapping with several other known learning principles, such as problem-based learning, self-regulated learning or project-based learning (Bignold, 2003; Spronken-Smith & Walker, 2010). First, The paper aims at clarifying the characteristic aspects of research-based learning in order to derive recommendations for the support of learning during the bachelor thesis, resulting in the development of key competencies. Second, the paper discusses different ways of actively fostering key competencies in higher education, focusing on the advantages of reflection on action (Schön, 1992). It discusses different approaches how reflection can be supported to facilitate the development of key competencies (Boud, Keogh & Walker, 1985; Jones & Shelton, 2006; Korthagen & Vasalos, 2005). Third, an explorative approach is used in which the author investigates (good) practices in several degree programs in the humanities and social sciences. The question is how the support is designed and conducted in order to help students cope with the difficulties emerging in the process and to foster the development of key competencies.
Taking into account the changes the European Higher Education Area underwent because of the Bologna Declaration, the study focuses on the way thesis writing is supported in higher education and identifies pedagogical potentials for the development of key competencies. As the bachelor thesis is a learning experience that exists in almost all study programs throughout Europe and different studies suggest that European students face similar challenges when dealing with their final study project (Todd, Bannister & Clegg, 2004; Meuus, van Looy & Libotton, 2004), the findings of this paper can be useful not only for improving the pedagogic support in Germany, but throughout Europe.
Boud, D., Keogh, R. & Walter, D. (1985). Promoting reflection in learning: A model. In D. Boud, R. Keogh & D. Walter (eds.), Reflection: Turning experience into learning (pp. 18–40). London & New York: Kogan Page / Nichols. Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design. Choosing among five approaches (2. ed.). Thousand Oaks : Sage. Deignan, T. (2009). Enquiry-based learning: Perspectives on practice. Teaching in Higher Education, 14 (1), 13–28. Friedman, D. B., Crews, T. B., Caicedo, J. M., Besley, J. C., Weinberg, J. & Freeman, M. L. (2010). An exploration into inquiry-based learning by a multidisciplinary group of higher education faculty. Higher Education, 59 (6), 765–783. Howitt, S., Wilson, A., Wilson, K. & Roberts, P. (2010). 'Please remember we are not all brilliant': Undergraduates' experiences of an elite, research-intensive degree at a research-intensive university. Higher Education Research & Development, 29 (4), 405–420. Jones, M. & Shelton, M. (2006). Developing your portfolio: Enhancing your learning and showing your stuff. New York & London: Routledge. Korthagen, F. & Vasalos, A. (2005). Levels in reflection: Core relfection as a means to enhance professional growth. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 11 (1), 47–71. Meeus, W., van Looy, L. & Libotton, A. (2004). The Bachelor's thesis in teacher education. European Journal of Teacher Education, 27 (3), 299–321. Schaeper, H. (2009). Development of competencies and teaching-learning arrangements in higher education: Findings from germany. Studies in Higher Education, 34 (6), 677–697. Schön, D. (1992). The theory of inquiry: Dewey's legacy to education. Curriculum Inquiry, 22 (2), 119–139. Spronken-Smith, R. & Walker, R. (2010). Can inquiry-based learning strengthen the links between teaching and disciplinary research? Studies in Higher Education, 35 (6), 723–740. Todd, M., Bannister, P. & Clegg, S. (2004). Independent inquiry and the undergraduate dissertation: perceptions and experiences of final-year social science students. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 29 (3), 335–356. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills - P21. (2009). P21 Framework Definitions. URL: http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/P21_Framework_Definitions.pdf Yin, R. K. (2006). Case study methods. In J. L. Green, G. Camilli & P. B. Elmore (eds.), Handbook of complementary methods in education research (pp. 111–122). Mahwah, N.J, Washington, D.C.
Search the ECER Programme
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.