22 SES 01 C, Paper Session
Digitalization and diversity are two buzzwords that describe two main challenges of higher education institutions (HEI). In this paper, the two perspectives are interlinked. In 2020, the question of digitizing university teaching took on new relevance in the pandemic crisis when higher education institutions (HEI) had to convert their teaching to digital formats from one moment to the next. But for several years now, higher education (policy) actors at the national and European level (Paris Communiqué 2018) have stressed that technological advances are increasingly demanding digitalization strategies from HEI as a way to remain future-proof and competitive. Digitalization is seen as a cross-sectional task for HEI, focusing on administration, research, and teaching. Simultaneously, in HEI, which for decades served only to educate an elite, the student body's composition has been changing towards greater social and cultural diversity (e.g., Altbach et al. 2017; Bernhard 2019; Streitwieser 2014; Teichler 2014). Acknowledging this development, HEI are asked to provide more support for an increasingly diverse student body. In this paper, the discourses on diversity and digitalization in university teaching are analyzed together. The questions the paper wants to answer is:
(a) Which expectations are presented in media and professional discourses in Germany for the years 2010-2020 about how HEI are expected to use digitalization to deal with student diversity in higher education teaching,
(b)Which categories of student diversity/difference come into the focus?
(c) How have these expectations changed from 2010 to 2020? And how has the pandemic crisis changed the societal expectations with the "new normal" of digital teaching?
The contribution is based on a combination of discourse theory (Keller 2011) and neo-institutional, organizational sociology. According to organizational sociological assumptions, HEI are exposed to various environmental expectations to which they react to maintain their legitimacy (Meyer/Rowan, 1977). For example, in discourses, institutionalized expectation structures in the form of norms, values, ideas, and taken for granted scripts are constructed and then guide university actors' actions. The (print) media public and the professional discourse analyzed in this paper can then be considered a mirror of environmental expectations and are at the same time places where social reality is constructed through discursive practices of meaning-making (Keller 2011). From this theoretical understanding, environmental expectations can be reconstructed in discourses. Hence, the paper examines the extent to which HE teaching should be designed to be sensitive to the differences between students? The paper follows a constructivist understanding that differences are socially constructed in historically and geographically situated contexts (West/Fenstermaker). The paper does not search for predetermined categories of differences like social-economic status, gender, impairment. The analysis aims to determine which categories of students' differences are stressed to be essential for pedagogical practices in HE. For example, are international students, people with disabilities, or working people constructed as a legitimate group of students who should be supported by diversity-sensitive teaching? What role is hereby attributed to digital technologies? And how do the role and expectations change during the pandemic crisis?
The investigation is based on a qualitative content analysis (Gläser/Laudel, 2006). From 2010 to 2020, the newspaper magazine Die ZEIT is analyzed for the print media discourse in Germany and the magazine "Forschung & Lehre" published by the German Association of Universities and other Higher Education Institutions for the professional discourse. Die ZEIT was chosen because, as part of the national quality press and as a leading national medium, it focuses on educational topics, especially higher education. The media articles were selected using the Lexis Nexis database. Over 2000 articles were screened to determine whether the articles characterized, typified, or described students in the context of higher education teaching (instructional planning, curricula, courses, supervision and advising, instructional organization, and testing). Both the categories of students' difference and the practices dealing with student diversity were reconstructed using inductive category building. In the analysis, digital teaching practices are just one group of practices examined but will be the main focus. The students' differences are reconstructed from the material as any description of students in higher education teaching. By being mentioned in the discourse, these descriptions are relevant to the discourse because this specific difference was chosen instead of an infinite number of possible other distinctions. That is, all descriptions of characteristics and practices entered the analysis in a first step. This way, it is also possible to compare to what extent digitalized practices differ from other practices.
In the results, the paper will show which categories are constructed as relevant for the pedagogical practice in HEI in the discourses and how this changes over time. In a next step, the paper will present how digital teaching practices are described to respond to certain difference categories of students. The first results show that in the discourses, it is generally less the typical social structural categories such as gender, ethnicity, social origin, or impairments that should be taken into account in the pedagogical practices of teachers. Instead, the focus is on the differences between students in terms of individualizable characteristics, competences, or study practices. Even if quite a few of these individualized differences are conveyed via social structural categories, this connection is often not taken into account in the discourses, thus veiling social inequality problems. In the context of the digitalization of teaching, however, basic structural categories such as impairment, employment, students with care responsibilities are once again coming more into focus. Digitalization is often described as a way of making teaching more flexible and individualized, which makes studying easier for these groups in particular.
Bernhard, N. (2019). Supporting the needs of vocationally qualified students – changes towards institutional permeability in Germany?. Formation emploi, no 146(2), S. 129-147 Gläser, J.& Laudel, G. (2006). Expert interviews and qualitative content analysis: as instruments of reconstructive research. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. Keller, R. (2011). The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD). Human Studies, 34(1), 43-65. Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony The American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340-363. Paris Communiqué 2018. http://www.ehea.info/media.ehea.info/file/2018_Paris/77/1/EHEAParis2018_Communique_final_952771.pdf [29.01.2021] Streitwieser, Bernhard (2014). Internationalisation of higher education and global mobility. Oxford: Symposium Books Ltd. Teichler, U. (2014): Hochschulsysteme – Konzepte und Realitäten. In: Teichler.U.. (Ed.), Hochschulsysteme und quantitativ-strukturelle Hochschulpolitik. Differenzierung, Bologna-Prozess, Exzellenzinitiative und die Folgen. Göttingen: Waxmann Verlag, S. 15–31. West, C. & Fenstermaker, S. (1995). Doing Difference. Gender & Society 9, H. 1, S. 8–37.
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