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    European Sociologists Call For More Effective Teaching
    By News Staff | January 23rd 2013 04:26 PM | 13 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    In Europe, where over 19 million students are in tertiary education, they are looking for ways to improve the teaching skills of scientists in order to teach more effectively the next generation of innovators.  It would seem obvious that reducing the anti-science mentality of the culture would be the obvious step but the sociologists argue instead that the position of 'teacher researcher' should be created under the social sciences banner.

    The new position paper, 'The Professionalisation of Academics as Teachers in Higher Education', published today by the European Science Foundation, discusses current developments and challenges in the European Higher Education landscape. The authors establish a set of nine principles of good teaching and recommend that universities that strive for quality education offer educational development opportunities for their teachers. They claim that well-designed educational development programs lead to increased satisfaction of teachers and changes in attitudes, behaviors and teaching practice.

    The position paper underlines that "excellent teachers are made, not born; they become excellent through investment in their teaching abilities. Leaving teachers to learn from trial and error is a waste of time, effort and university resources."

    The publication therefore highlights six recommendations for important advances to be made toward the professionalization of teaching and student learning:

    - define professional standards for higher education teachers;

    - measure teaching effectiveness and provide constructive feedback for academics;

    - establish the institutional support base for educational development locally;

    - create the role of 'teacher researcher' and recognize research on teaching as research activity and teaching excellence in hiring and promotion decision; 

    - allocate meaningful funding for educational development;

    - establish a European forum within a currently existing institution that pools and shares resources and existing expertise.
     

    Sir Roderick Floud, Chair of the Standing Committee for the Social Sciences says,"Higher education is an important aspect of the 'absorptive capacity' of societies, the degree to which new knowledge is accessed, understood and used, and a crucial means of realising the ambition of making Europe more innovative". He continued; "As one of the main 'outlets' for research, not just for social science but for science in general, higher education is one of the most important routes along which research directly impacts daily life".

    The document aims at presenting the state-of-the-art in the field and increasing the visibility of the growing research on improving teaching abilities of scientists through teacher development programs, in order to increase application of this research.




    Comments

    UvaE
    Even at the university level where students are generally more motivated than in high school, teaching is a full time endeavor. But if research is a priority, then most professors can't do it all. Given the cost of tuition, universities should let only their best do research and have the rest commit themselves to teaching. The good researchers can be responsible to act as mentors for honors theses. This will help students develop research skills. But those professors should not be asked to be involved with teaching basic courses.
    Gerhard Adam
    But if research is a priority, then most professors can't do it all. Given the cost of tuition, universities should let only their best do research and have the rest commit themselves to teaching.
    That's the "kiss of death".  You've just advocated the old cliche; "Those that can do, while those that can't teach".
    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE
    That's the "kiss of death".  You've just advocated the old cliche; "Those that can do, while those that can't teach".
    Not entirely. If the teachers had no research skills whatsoever they would not have been hired. And the thing  is that teaching is also a skill,  but it can't be developed to satisfaction if professors are pressured to constantly publish--that's not to mention family commitments that most also have.

    Gerhard Adam
    Regardless of whether teaching is a skill or not, you indicated that only the "best" would be allowed to do research.  Under that criteria, you've completely alienated anyone that is going to get stuck teaching the basic classes.  You've sent a clear message, that they are not one of the "best", so they are being relegated to teaching rather than research.
    Mundus vult decipi
    UvaE
      Under that criteria, you've completely alienated anyone that is going to get stuck teaching the basic classes.  You've sent a clear message, that they are not one of the "best", so they are being relegated to teaching rather than research.
    There's a high degree of personal satisfaction that comes with teaching, and the pay in universities is nothing to complain about, so alienation in most cases is not what would ensue.  
    Gerhard Adam
    There's a high degree of personal satisfaction that comes with teaching
    Only if that's what you wanted to do.  If your desire was to be a researcher and not a teacher, then it is alienating.  Your point is only valid for someone that happens to enjoy teaching, or thinks that it is a vocation they wish to pursue.  For someone to be told to teach, because they aren't good enough to do research .... sorry, but that's not going to gain any favors from those affected.

    You may think that there's personal satisfaction in teaching, but you'll never hear that from someone that hates it.  So, the question really needs to be considered from the perspective of how many college professors got those positions because they wanted to teach versus do research.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    Teaching is less work. Teachers at universities hate to hear that, just like some obscure marketing type at a 5,000 person company needs to think their work is vital to the entire company functioning - it is why teachers get less respect among scientists. Research is harder.  But if you want to have a great life and be happy, be a tenured teacher at a small college, as long as you don't care about going to conferences and having prestige.
    The recommandations read like a thinly veiled attempt to create a massive number of jobs for sociologists and educational researchers. Who else is going to "define professional standards for higher education", "measure teaching effectiveness and provide constructive feedback for academics", "establish the institutional support base for educational development" and "establish a European forum"?

    Where I live one thing is clear: the influence of sociologists and educational researchers on education has been largely detrimental to the quality of teaching. They f!cked up mathematics in secondary schools (12-18 yr.) to the point that students don't even know anymore what a proper mathematical proof is. Now they would like to f!ck up "tertiary education" too, I suppose.

    Hank
    I agree. Though "create the role of 'teacher researcher'" cracked me up. It's a job works program for faux science humanities people who want to feel important.
    UvaE
     the influence of sociologists and educational researchers on education has been largely detrimental to the quality of teaching. They f!cked up mathematics in secondary schools (12-18 yr.) to the point that students don't even know anymore what a proper mathematical proof is. Now they would like to f!ck up "tertiary education" too, I suppose.
    I agree that the influence of pedagogical researchers has been negative on high school math and science education. But what I described above already takes place in some universities without necessarily messing things up. There are academics who realize their research is just mopping up loose ends, and they willingly take on more teaching duties. And the conscientious ones look for ways to make their presentations clearer and their exams fairer without necessarily " lowering the bar". Meanwhile those innovative researchers focus on what they do best. 

    MikeCrow
    May I suggest based on experience (as little as it is) that your teacher should be understandable by their students. While they might have been excellent teachers, most of the people in those classes could barely understand them.
    Never is a long time.
    Hank
    Let's note some positive stuff too. Teachers sometimes have a lot more patience than I could have.

    As an example, this teacher who helps an after-school class for failing high school students that had to brainstorm living organisms:

    Gerhard Adam
    Leaving teachers to learn from trial and error is a waste of time, effort and university resources.
    Wrong.  If one could actually train someone to be a good teacher [not merely suggest approaches to it], then that would suggest a specific methodology that could be deployed.  If that were the case, we could actually have better computer software to do the training.  The best teachers are adaptable to the circumstances and situation.  That cannot be taught.  That comes from having a deep understanding of the topic, and continuously exploring ways to make their presentation understandable and more intuitive to the student.

    The "one size fits all" approach doesn't work, and it makes even less sense to have people setting standards and assessing teachers that aren't already rated as excellent teachers to begin with.  In other words, a "teacher-researcher" would already have to be a well-established, acknowledge teacher to have anything useful to say.  Without that, we'd have a bunch of mediocre amateurs attempting to tell teachers what works.
    Mundus vult decipi