Teachers' conceptions of teaching practice

  • Arnold Pears, Information technology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

    Maja ElmgrenDepartment of Chemistry, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden,

    S Andersson, Department of Physics, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden

    The importance of educational quality, and a need to enhance capacity for scholarship in teaching and learning among academics has increased in global importance following the publication of Boyer's book "The priorities of the Professoriate" in 1990\cite{Boyer:1990}.  His description of a fourth scholarship dealing with teaching and inspiring learners to engage in the discipline sparked a worldwide interest in enhancing higher education quality through staff development, and staff involvement in applied education theory across all disciplines.

    In Sweden initiatives led by the Higher Education Department have increased interest by University management in systematic assessment of educational quality. At Uppsala University these initiatives are operationalised by the approval of a university wide educational quality initiative (Pedagogiska Programmet).  As a part of its response to this general plan for further development of educational quality at Uppsala University, the Faculty of Technology and Natural Science established a higher education development and advisory body "TUR" in 2008. An inventory of existing practices and attitudes to education among academic staff was identified as a priority area in the three year action plan for TUR developed in 2009.

    The Approaches to Teaching Inventory\cite{Trigwell:2004} is an instrument developed by Prosser and Trigwell to provide insight into how University teaching staff view teaching and learning activities associated with their role at the University. This paper describes the results of a project which developed and validated a Swedish language version of the ATI. In addition it summarises results collected using the Swedish survey in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Uppsala Univerity, identifying trends in approach and attitude among academics, drawing on Responses from 521 members of academic staff.

    The analysis presents overall indicators derived from the ATI instrument, as well as identifying statistically significant differences. The dependent variables studied include age, gender, participation in courses in higher education theory, and function within the organisation.  We identify a strong student-centric approach across the entire Faculty of Science and Technology, however there is also a strong focus on teaching for assessment which we believe is linked to the recent emphasis on learning outcomes and examination of student-centric learning outcomes associated with implementing the learning outcomes and other educational values of the Bologna system in Sweden.

    The ATI survey conducted during Autumn 2009 and Spring 2010 in the Faculty ofScience and Technology at Uppsala University provides an excellent basis for future assessments of shifts in approach to teaching within the faculty teacing corps.

    While the ATI is not intended to be used directly as a measurement instrument, we have been able to identify some clear trends that provided a point of departure for future pedagogical development work during 2011 and 2012.  In particular, the positive correlation between the faculty courses in didactics and increased conceptual change/student-centric focus omong teaching staff provides strong agruments for continuing these intiatives.

    While it might be argued that only staff who already have a strong interest in teaching and learning take these courses, it is clear that the result is a more aware and well educated teaching cohort. Academic staff who have taken these courses have a wider range of pedagogical tools to apply to their teaching, and a richer pedagogical understanding, both of which contribute significantly to ensuring that Uppsala University delivers education of the highest quality.