22 SES 08 B, Employability and Salaries
University pedagogy has gained increased importance in higher education in Sweden, as in many other countries. Courses in university pedagogy are provided at universities as part of competence development, and are now decisive in certifications of university teachers’ pedagogical merits and even ranking of applicants for teaching positions. At best, these courses can lead to new ideas and reflections among university teachers regarding their practice and challenge pedagogical and didactical traditions; important functions in the higher education system that is facing new challenges in the form of new student groups and the demands of new technologies.
However, higher education has also been highly influenced by international policy-discourses (Biesta et al, 2009). A specific example is the relation between the Bologna process, an instrument for massive international coordination and standardisation of higher education, and Constructive Alignment (Biggs, 1999) which has become a popular tool to align teaching practices and organisation of education programmes. The topic of university pedagogy has been highly influenced by Constructive Alignment (CA), almost to the degree of it becoming a hegemonic pedagogical model in university education courses. While there are several serious risks following an implementation of a “one-size fits all” model of teaching over all subjects matters and contexts, this development is also a matter of a performative teacher discourse in which university teachers increasingly become administrators of knowledge in factories producing degree holding employees for the market (Friberg, 2015). Emerging is a limited and instrumental view of the role of higher education as a socio-political tool (Lyotard, 1984), which risks excavating university pedagogy of its pedagogical dimensions and reducing the autonomy of university teachers with focus on standardisation and emphasis on effective output.
The aim of this paper is to revive and discuss the pedagogical dimension of university pedagogy. Instead of claiming a return to a soon forgotten university, shaped by Humboldtian ideals, we suggest that the shape of higher education and its pedagogy can escape the grip of techno-political instrumentalism as well as transcend the limitations of Enlightenment and Modernity. We emphasise the relational and emancipatory possibilities given by higher education. By understanding the relationship between teachers and students as a gathering for common interests, higher education can maintain its pedagogical dimension (Simons & Masschelein, 2009). We maintain that good university pedagogy must revolve around the teacher’s reflections regarding the subject matter and students, as well as educational dimensions such as qualification, socialisation and subjectification (Biesta, 2009).
Given how the Bologna process has been an instrument of change in European higher education, and the implications of this organisational paradigm shift for teachers within higher education, this paper is of both pedagogical and theoretical relevance as it contributes tools for further reflection for practitioners and researchers within European higher education.
As stated above, the aim of the paper is to revive and discuss the pedagogical dimension of university pedagogy. Our method is thus a theoretical analysis that follows the following steps. First, we contextualize the idea of university pedagogy as an educational phenomenon that must be related to a discursive shift that has happened in the past two decades. This shift stretches from the international policy-level (e.g. the Bologna process) where higher education is described as a tool for the employment market, down to the everyday-life of the university teachers through increased goal-orientation and standardisation. We then discuss a common model utilized in the field of university pedagogy, namely John Biggs (1999) Constructive Alignmen (CA), and argue that this model fits the discursive change following the Bologna process in an ideal manner. We then elucidate what we see as the pedagogical and didactical flaws of this model, with the assistance of several theorists, for instance Gert Biesta; Jan Maschelein and Jaques Rancière. We note that while CA has a sympathetic focus on the activities and learning of the students, it risks making the teaching instrumental, risks neglecting the teacher - student relationship and, finally, risks hollowing the didactical and scientific traditions of different subject matters. We then suggest that teaching in higher education should be discussed in terms of university didactics, rather than university pedagogy. Teaching with the perspective of university didactics would ground the teacher in both the subject matter being taught and the local context, as well as considering the triadic relationship between teacher, student and the subject matter. Finally, we draw some conclusions about the consequences for higher education and university pedagogy.
While generating results, our theoretical analysis described above, can be viewed as results on its own . However, our most important contribution is the using university didactics as a manner of allowing for greater plurality in teaching in higher education. We argue that the demands for transparency and accountability within both CA and the Bologna-process risks standardising teaching and thus rendering differences between subject matters and sciences as well as making the de-professionalizing the university teacher. However, that is not the only reason why CA is to be regarded as an insufficient pedagogical model. The strongest argument here is that the ever-more diverse student groups that enter higher education should be seen as the most important incentive for a more nuanced pedagogical and didactical reflection over the aims and goals of higher education than what CA allows for. By emphasising didactics that embrace the ambition of intellectual emancipation and the relationship between the teacher, student and subject matter, we can allow teachers in higher education to have inclusive encounters with their students and their studies rather than being reduced to administrators of learning.
Andersen, H, L. (2010). ”Constructive alignment” och risikoen for en forsimplende universitetspædagogik. Dansk Universitetspædagogisk Tidsskrift nr. 9. 30-35 Biesta, G. (2011). God utbildning i mätningens tidevarv. Stockholm, Sweden: Liber. Biesta; et al. (2009). What is the public role of the University? A proposal for a public research agenda. European Educational Research Journal, 8(2), 249-254. Biggs, J. (1999). What the student does: Teaching for enhanced learning. Higher Education Research and Development. 18(1), 55-75. Friberg, T. (2015). A holistic, self reflective perspective on victimization within higher education in Sweden. Critical Studies in Education, 56(3), 384-394. Lyotard, J-F. (1984). The Postmodern Condition. A Report on Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press Simons, M. & Maschelein, J. (2009). The public and its university: beyond learning for civic employability. European Educational Research Journal 8(2) 204-217.
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