Why are We Here?

The mission of Higher Education is increasingly unclear, at least to me!

Pedagogies are evolving, and student learning approaches are perhaps not what they were 30 years ago. We need to get a better grip on the overall mission of higher education and the reason why we are all (academics and students) participating in this system.

I have held several talks recently on change and the role of subject education research "ämnesdidaktik" on the development of models for learning and teaching in higher education. Perhaps the most important insight is that we may well be forcing students down a path they do not wish to follow.

And there are terrible consequences to the movement towards student-centric and student-active learning in the context of modern tertiary education. The impacts are several, but for me the most interesting are

For the first time, EVER, we propose to actually assess all learning outcomes.Students are expected to actively engage with our "overstuffed curric…

Calls to abandon the lecture

Should higher education abandon the lecture? Prominent proponents of active and student-centric learning at University have called upon university leadership to act to ban the lecture.
The argument is that we now know that there are better teaching and learning approaches, and that it is ethically indefensible to continue to educate drawing on the more traditional lecture based model.
There is indeed convincing research that supports the claim that active learning in a student-centric environment can increase pass rates and help mid-range students to achieve better academic results. This conclusion is drawn based on research that demonstrates that there is a statistically significant improvement in the grades of that segment of the student cohort in large class settings. 
However, the situation is a very complex one. It has not been demonstrated that the reported improvements are achievable when students are exposed to a completely student centred active curriculum. There are several…

Does Campus Education Have a Future?

Campus based education is under increasing pressure financially and structurally.  These pressures have been recently exacerbated in Australia by the release of a strategic report by Ernst and Young [1] which roughly speaking  predicts the demise of traditional model universities in Australia within the next decade or so. Reading between the lines is an underlying assumption that traditional classroom instruction offers few benefits over watching sophisticated online content. Internet universities are becoming more common, as the cost of higher education is increasingly criticized in the USA and abroad.  Burdened with the high cost of maintaining physical infrastructure, buildings, laboratories, sports grounds and the like, how can traditional campus universities compete with their online counterparts?
To meet this challenge it seems imperative  that traditional universities adapt, by changing their education to better utilise their costly physical assets. I think this means that Uni…

Tertiary Education Quality

What Responsibility Should Academics Take in Shaping the Tertiary Education Experience?
 As I have observed previously, Pears 2010, the view that education is a type of service, or product, and that students are customers, poses serious challenges for all stakeholders in the tertiary education sector. Not least for those charged with "delivering" this service (education).

 I was struck by a comment I heard recently, where the possibility that one might get lower course evaluation results was proffered  as a reason to avoid teaching and learning approaches that might be unfamiliar or challenging for students. The remark was made in relation to the suggestion that student teams should be allocated by teaching staff, rather than allowing students to choose with whom they wish to work,  in order to avoid reinforcing the tendency toward student project cliques.

 This raises a very interesting question for higher education. Should fear of a backlash in the form of poorer student …

Open Access Journals : limiting publication to the rich academic

As a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Computer Society I have been following the open access debate, both within the IEEE and in other contexts with some considerable interest. An aspect of the debate that is often overshadowed by the discussion of free and open access to published work is the shift in the funding model which underlies the proposals being made by major players like the IET In essence the open access publishing models being proposed shift publisher income from institutional subscriptions, where libraries pay a hefty fee to allow their members access to published content to page fees for publication, which will are to be payed by the author prior to the final publication of an accepted manuscript. Per article publication charges in the open access debate lie currently in the range of 1500 to 3000 US dollars. How many of us can afford these charges with our current model of research funding? Open access academic publication has serious implications for how…

CeTUSS/IEEE Workshop on Professional Competencies (Uppsala, Sweden)

The workshop program and presentations are available from

Christina Dörge, Universität Oldenburg

Discussed the inplications of the terminology used to describe competence and competencies. A discussion arose about the differnece between skills and technical ability/competence and the ability to think about how to use the skill and to reason in a way that is recognised by other professionals as being relevant and valuable. In discussing this there was a discussion also about the goals of education in terms of skilling versus personal development. The role of education was also discussed from an historical and cultural perspective, define terms in the context of the historical and cultural framework that we are trying to interpret. Christina defined several types of competency that are intersting to consider and together combine to generate an action enabling competency. Two interesting ideas are Methodologica…

Pedagogical Prizes Uppsala University 2010

The event was sadly rather poorly attended, eight people and six speakers, plus Pro-rektor Kerstin Salén.

The videos of the speaches are available on the web.

Gunnel Cederlöf

Presentation on the history of development of knowledge and the challenges of internationalisation in our education. Interesting view of the benefits and challenges of cultural diversity for education in our times.
Worth going to the web and listening to.

Jakob Johansson

Talked about goals and the learning map and pathways that are established in a course.
The model presented is drawn from Stanford, USA and appears to be closely connected to and inspired by Biggs work on Constructive Alignment.

Ingrid Arnesjö

DiaNa, Dialog för Naturvetare: Diolog for Natural Scientists.
The model is driven by a competency based approach to learning and developing skills and knowledge. Inspiration from the educational model of Alverno College in the USA. However, the Alverno model also seems to have its roots in theory propounded in…