The chair of the high-level group – former President of Ireland Mary McAleese – pointed out that teaching staff in higher education will have to submerge to training themselves. Whether assistant or professor, there is no escape.
One of the recommendations puts it that in 2020 all staff teaching in higher education institutions should have certified pedagogical training. “Continuous professional education as teachers should become a requirement for teachers in the higher education sector.”
In its report, the high-level group moreover advised the EU to support the establishment of a European Academy for Teaching and Learning led by stakeholders.
Taught how to teach
The group, which was set up by Commissioner Vassiliou last September, has consulted widely with stakeholders as part of its work. It found that many higher education institutes place insufficient emphasis on teaching in comparison with research, even though both are core missions of higher education.
Commissioner Vassiliou “This needs rebalancing. The role of teaching in defining academic merit needs a stronger emphasis and recognition, especially in career terms,” said the Commissioner. “I very much welcome the proposal that all teachers in higher education should be taught how to teach.”
The high-level group gave the following recommendations:
Public authorities responsible for higher education should ensure the existence of a sustainable, well-funded framework to support higher education institutions’ efforts to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
Every institution should develop and implement a strategy for the support and on-going improvement of the quality of teaching and learning, devoting the necessary level of human and financial resources to the task, and integrating this priority in its overall mission, giving teaching due parity with research.
Higher education institutions should encourage, welcome, and take account of student feed-back which could detect problems in the teaching and learning environment early on and lead to faster, more effective improvements.
All staff teaching in higher education institutions in 2020 should have received certified pedagogical training. Continuous professional education as teachers should become a requirement for teachers in the higher education sector.
Academic staff entrance, progression and promotion decisions should take account of an assessment of teaching competence alongside other factors.
Heads of institutions and institutional leaders should recognise and reward (e.g. through fellowships or awards) higher education teachers who make a significant contribution to improving the quality of teaching and learning, whether through their practice, or through their research into teaching and learning.
Curricula should be developed and monitored through dialogue and partnerships among teaching staff, students, graduates and labour market actors, drawing on new methods of teaching and learning, so that students acquire relevant skills that enhance their employability.
Student performance in learning activities should be assessed against clear and agreed learning outcomes, developed in partnership by all faculty members involved in their delivery.
Higher education institutions and national policy-makers in partnership with students should establish counselling, guidance, mentoring and tracking systems to support students into higher education, and on their way to graduation and beyond.
Higher education institutions should introduce and promote cross-, trans- and inter-disciplinary approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, helping students develop their breadth of understanding and entrepreneurial and innovative mindsets.
Higher education institutions – facilitated by public administrations and the EU – should support their teachers so they develop the skills for online and other forms of teaching and learning opened up by the digital era, and should exploit the opportunities presented by technology to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
Higher education institutions should develop and implement holistic internationalisation strategies as an integral part of their overall mission and functions. Increased mobility of students and staff, international dimension of curricula, international experience of faculty, with a sufficient command of English and a second foreign language and intercultural competences, transnational delivery of courses and degrees, and international alliances should become indispensable components of higher education in Europe and beyond.
The European Union should support the implementation of these recommendations, in particular through promoting:
- innovative teaching and learning methodologies and pedagogical approaches;
- guidance, counselling and coaching methods;
- improved programme design, taking account of the latest research on human learning;
- the professionalization and development of teachers, trainers and staff;
- mobility and exchanges of academic staff for long term teaching assignments; and
- systematic and regular data collection on issues affecting the quality of teaching and learning.
The European Union should support the establishment of a European Academy for Teaching and Learning led by stakeholders, and inspired by the good practices reflected in this report.
Researchers supported by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions and who are intending a career in academia should be given the opportunity to gain professional teaching qualifications and be supported in teaching activities alongside their research.
Member States, in partnership with the regions, are encouraged to prioritise, in their Partnership Agreements under the Structural Funds, initiatives to support the development of pedagogical skills, the design and implementation programmes relevant to social and labour market needs, and the strengthening of partnerships between higher education, business and the research sector.
The story continues…
The high level group will now begin work on the second part of its mission, focused on how to maximise the impact of new methods of delivering quality higher education, such as massive open online courses (‘MOOCs’), which enable people to access higher education from their homes. Partners in 11 countries recently launched the first pan-European MOOCs with the support of the European Commission (IP/13/349). The high-level group’s next report is due to be published in June 2014.
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