An Integrated Model Supporting a Scholarly Development of Teaching in Higher Education

  • Thomas Olsson, Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

    Torgny Roxå, Faculty of Engineering, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

    In this paper we present and analyse a model for pedagogical competence (Olsson et al., 2010), integrating theory and practice. The model involves four essential aspects - pedagogical practice or actual teaching activities related to student learning; observation of teaching and student learning; theory or theoretical knowledge of teaching and student learning; and planning as a means for improved pedagogical practice. We argue for teachers’ observations of teaching and student learning, together with reflected theoretical reasoning, to be especially important factors to promote a scholarly development in higher education.

    Our arguments are related to the theory of cognitive dissonance developed by Festinger (1957). In the case of teaching and learning an important dissonance may be between a teacher’s knowledge about teaching and learning and the actual teaching practice and its outcomes. Festinger (1957) argues that the tension between conflicting cognitions, the dissonance, is a driving force for change since people want to reduce or eliminate dissonance and achieve consonance. We support the view put forward by Sinatra and Pintrich (2003) that the teacher should to a large extent govern the process leading to development. Consequently we argue for teachers’ own observations of teaching and learning activities to be the single most important factor to disclose dissonance and promote a scholarly development.

    Reflection is an essential characteristic of SoTL and integrated in all parts of our model. Mezirow (1991) discusses increasingly complex ways of reflection: content reflection, process reflection and premise reflection. Process and premise reflection increase the possibilities for teachers to transform their conceptual structures to become more complex. We argue that to reflect beyond content reflection it is necessary to go outside the pedagogical practice and include observation, theory and planning.

    We also build on Argyris and Schõn (1974) and their concepts of theories-in-use and espoused theories together with single-loop learning and double-loop learning. These concepts have significant consequences for teaching and learning, and they are especially fruitful in connection with cognitive dissonance and a scholarly development. Often theoretical knowledge of teaching and learning corresponds to espoused theories, and the teaching practice, the actual teaching activities, are more or less based on personal theories-in-use. If we want to promote SoTL we have to find ways to bring theory and practice together and we argue that high quality observations of teaching and student learning together with reflected theoretical reasoning have a strong developmental potential.

    A very important feature in double-loop learning is the ability to draw conclusions from data, something consistent with the use of observations as exposed in our model. Teachers that teach without observing teaching and student learning, and without reflecting with the use of pedagogical theory, are likely to learn only through single-loop learning. Teachers that demonstrate pedagogical competence are much more likely to produce double-loop learning.

    We also build our arguments on a large amount of empirical data including teaching portfolios written by teachers from different subjects, faculties and universities in Sweden, together with teachers’ scholarly papers from local campus conferences.