The attention to the quality of university teaching and professional development of university teachers has been increasing in Europe. Besides the strengthening European directions, among others the three-cycle degree programs, the European Qualification Framework, the learning outcome based education, the strengthened program design, university teaching practices and how they are supported may still differ in national contexts. There is little comparative research on university teachers’ teaching approaches and professional development in different countries, although this kind of research is important in order to understand how macro contextual features and cultural differences may influence university teachers’ work. The purpose of the study was to compare Finnish and Hungarian university teachers’ approaches to and practices of teaching, their practices of professional development and perceptions of departmental cultures.
Traditionally university teaching was often considered as part of researchers’ work rather than an actual teaching profession. This is also reflected in research on teaching: Although there is a lot of research on professional development of primary and secondary school teachers, less attention has been paid to university teachers’ professionalism from a holistic point of view. During the recent couple of decades a rich research line has emerged, focusing on university teachers’ conceptions of learning (e.g. Prosser, Trigwell, and Taylor 1994), their conceptions of teaching in general or good teaching in particular (e.g. Trigwell and Prosser 1996; Kember and Kwan 2000; Parpala and Lindblom-Ylänne 2007; Wegner and Nückles 2015), and their approaches to teaching (e.g. Trigwell and Prosser 2004). Fewer studies have concerned academics’ professional development. Most of these studies mainly focused on the impact of formal, in-house trainings (e.g. Gibbs and Coffey 2004; Cilliers and Herman 2010; Norton et al. 2005; Postareff et al. 2007; Stes and Petegem 2011), whereas more informal forms of university teachers’ professional development have received less attention (see e.g. Warhurst 2006 as an exception).
While the importance of professional cultures for supporting teaching and professional development in schools is discussed thoroughly, this is seldom studied in the context of university education. For deeper understanding the departmental culture, the ideas of school cultures by Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) were adapted to the university level in this study. Based on their field experiences in schools Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) identified the following types of professional cultures: (1) individualism, (2) balkanization, (3) contrived collegiality, (4) professional learning communities, and (5) clusters, networks, federations.
The aim of the study was to examine teaching practices and working cultures of university teachers in Finland and Hungary to see if there are any differences between the two European countries. In more detail, the following research questions were addressed:
1) What kind of approaches to teaching university teachers show in Finland and Hungary; are there differences between the countries?
2) What kind of professional development activities teachers participate in, and are there differences between the countries?
3) How do teachers perceive professional cultures in their department; are there differences between the countries?
An additional purpose of the study was to examine and validate new scales measuring teaching approaches, professional development activities and professional cultures in university departments.
Biggs, J. and C. Tang 2007. Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 3rd Edition. Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press. Cilliers, F. J. and N. Herman 2010. Impact of an educational development programme on teaching practice of academics at a research‐intensive university. International Journal for Academic Development, 15: 253-267. Gibbs, G. and M. Coffey 2004. The impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills, their approach to teaching and the approach to learning of their students. Active Learning in Higher Education, 5: 87–100. Hargraeves, A. and M. Fullan 2012. Professional capital. Transforming teaching in every school. Teachers Colleges Press, Toronto, Canada. Heikkinen, H.L.T., H. Jokinen, and P. Tynjälä 2012. Teacher education and development as lifelong and widelife learning. In: H. Heikkinen, H. Jokinen and P. Tynjälä (eds.). Peer-group mentoring for teacher development. London: Routledge, 3-30. Kember, D. and K. Kwan 2000. Lecturers’ approaches to teaching and their relationship to conceptions of good teaching. Instructional Science, 28: 469-490. Norton, L., S. Newstead, J. Mayes, J. T. E. Richardson, and J. Hartley 2005. Teachers’ beliefs and intentions concerning teaching in higher education. Higher Education 50: 537–571. Parpala, A. and S. Lindblom-Ylänne 2007. University Teachers’ Conceptions of Good Teaching in the Units of High-Quality Education. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 33: 355–370. Postareff, L., S. Lindblom-Ylänne, and A. Nevgi 2007. The effect of pedagogical training on teaching in higher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23: 557–571. Prosser M., K. Trigwell, and P. Taylor 1994. A phenomenographic study of academics' conceptions of science learning and teaching. Learning and Instruction, 4: 217-231. Stes, A. and P. Van Petegem 2011. Instructional development for early career academics: an overview of impact, Educational Research, 53: 459-474. Trigwell, K. and M. Prosser 1996. Changing approaches to teaching: A relational perspective. Studies in Higher Education, 21: 275-284. Trigwell, K. and M. Prosser 2004. Development and use of the approaches to teaching inventory. Educational Psychology Review, 16: 409-425. Trigwell, K. and M. Prosser 2014. Qualitative variation in constructive alignment in curriculum design, Higher Education 67:141–154. Warhurst, R. P. 2006. “We Really Felt Part of Something”: Participatory learning among peers within a university teaching‐development community of practice. International Journal for Academic Development, 11:111-122. Wegner, E. and M. Nückles 2015. Knowledge acquisition or participation in communities of practice? Academics’ metaphors of teaching and learning at the university. Studies in Higher Education, 40: 624-643.
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