22 SES 04 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
This paper aims to discuss and propose suitable methods to explore and analyze university teaching practices. Basically, I want to encourage the use of qualitative studies that privilege the investigation of teaching in situ.
During the last thirsty years, diverse authors (Dall’Allba, 1991, Prosser et al., 1994; Trigwell & Prosser, 1996a, 1996b; Kember, 1997; Prosser & Trigwel, 1999; Samuelowicz & Bain, 2001; Kember & Kwan, 2000; Akerlind, 2003; Postareff & Lindblom-Ylänne, 2008) have mainly distinguished two teaching approaches: the teacher-centered approach and the student-centered approach. Basically, the teacher-centered approach conceives the teacher as the main source of knowledge; his/her role consists of transmitting contents to students. On the other hand, the student-centered approach has its focus on students and the ways they construct knowledge (Ramsden, 2003; Parpala & Lindblom-Ylänne, 2007); the roles of the teacher here is more related to be a facilitator of learning.
Nevertheless, the notion of teaching approaches has been criticized because it rarely takes into account the teaching context and its richness (Ashwin & McLean, 2005); it rather reduces teaching to a ‘performative, individualized and psychologised task’ (Fanghanel, 2009, p. 17). Accordingly, teaching approaches have been studied mainly through surveys and/or interviews with teachers (Postareff & Lindblom-Ylänne, 2008) without taking into account students’ perspectives.
Based on a qualitative study carried out with two lectures from the University of Barcelona what I propose here is that methods that capture the nature of teaching in the classroom and students’ experiences are more appropriate to explore and analyze the complexity of teaching in higher education. Specifically, I suggest that long period of observation in the classroom involving both a thick description (Geertz, 1973) and analysis of the lessons, and triangulation of the obtained data with the students’ viewpoints (gained through interviews and/or focus groups) are key. This way it is possible to portray the richness of the teaching practices in the university.
Some of the research questions that guided the study on which I ground the paper that I present here were: how these two lecturers teach? How do they promote students’ learning? Nevertheless more than discussing these research questions, this paper aims to highlight the importance of studying teaching practices in situ.
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