Lotta Antman

  • Rewarding excellent teaching - in theory and practice. Characterising the gap

    Lotta Antman at Learning Lund, Lund University
    Thomas Olsson at Lund Institute of Technology
    Pernille Hammar Andersson at Lund Institute of Technology
    Shirley Booth at Learning Lund, Lund University

    Research paper

    Themes: staff development strategies

    The Pedagogical Academy is a model for rewarding excellent teaching, developed at the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University (LTH). Teachers wishing to enter submit a pedagogical portfolio for assessment and successful applicants are awarded the title Excellent Teaching Practice [1, 2]. The Pedagogical Academy was developed to afford status to pedagogical development and to bring about a paradigm shift at LTH, to change the focal point from teaching to learning in order to meet the challenges of diversity and inclusivity that face higher education today [3].

    In this process, individual teachers are rewarded for their contributions to the joint scholarly venture of improving student learning and for their knowledge claims which are evidence-based, documented and made public in pedagogical portfolios [4]. By developing a pool of situated knowledge of how teachers teach and students learn in different subjects, courses, learning environments and years of study, LTH can foster teachers who are not only knowledgeable about learning but who are also competent learners themselves [5, 6, 7, 8].

    We set out to study the phenomenon of rewarding excellent teaching, as it was conceptualised and implemented: within the formulated aims and criteria, in the submitted pedagogical portfolios and in their assessment, in the assessors’ interviews with each applicant, and in the grading procedure. The specific question we set out to answer here is: What constitutes excellent teaching, in theory and practice, as expressed in this process?

    We used a phenomenographic approach to capture the phenomenon in all its complexity, and chose to approach it from several different angles – by triangulating the analyses of documents, video-recorded observations and interviews [9]. Studied documents included pedagogical portfolios, letters of recommendation by department heads, reviewers’ reports on each pedagogical portfolio, and the judgement protocol. Video-recordings were made of the interviews that the group of assessors had with each applicant, and of their internal discussions, both before and after each interview. In-depth interviews were made with strategically chosen participants, individuals we by now knew represented different ways of experiencing the process and who had different perspectives on learning. The results and implications of the study will be analysed and discussed in the light of Habermas’ critical theory [10, 11].

    Preliminary results show that there is a discrepancy between the theory and practice of rewarding excellent teaching. The gap between theory and practice is characterised and recommendations to bridge it will be presented.

    • There are certain discrepancies between the specific aims developed for the Pedagogical Academy and the criteria used to evaluate entrance to it.
    • Implementing the shift from teaching to learning is easier in theory than in practice, even for policy makers.
    • Policy documents make no reference to developing content and curriculum, nor to subject didactics.
    • The whole process is designed to be qualitative in character but the actual evaluation of applicants resembles a quantitative “examination”.
    • Issues of power, social status and tradition seem to influence the process in a somewhat unreflected way.

    A challenge for the success of the Pedagogical Academy is that diversity in excellence and scholarship among teachers is valued and rewarded, and that a sense of inclusivity is fostered.


    1. Hammar Andersson, P., Olsson, T., Almqvist, M., Zetterqvist, L., Axelsson, A., Olsson, G. ,Roxå, T. (2003). The Pedagogical Academy – a Way to Encourage and Reward Scholarly Teaching. In Rust, C. (Ed.), Improving Student Learning: Theory and Practice – 10 years on, The Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development.
    2. Antman, L., Booth, S., Hammar Andersson, P., Olsson, T. (2004). The Pedagogical Academy – Qualitative Research on the Process of Rewarding Scholarly Teaching. Submitted to SEFI 2004 Annual Congress. The Golden Opportunity for Engineering Education?, Valencia, September 2004.
    3. Barr, R., B. & Tagg J. (1995). From Teaching to Learning – A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education. Change (Nov/Dec) 13-25.
    4. Boyer, E., L (1990). Scholarship Reconsidered. Priorities of the Professoriate. New Jersey: The Carnegie Foundation.
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    7. Trigwell, K. (2001). Judging University Teaching. International Journal for Academic Development, 6(1).
    8. Prosser, M. & Trigwell K. (1999). Understanding Learning and Teaching. The Experience in Higher Education. The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press.
    9. Marton, F. & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and Awareness. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    10. Habermas, J. (1984-87). The Theory of Communicative Action (volumes I and II), London: Heinemann.
    11. Habermas, J. (1999). On the Pragmatics of Communication. Cambridge: Polity Press.