Opinions on higher education pedagogy

A great position paper has been published by a group of young scholars: “On the Future of Teaching at Universities in Germany” (PDF).

1. It deals severly with central institutions of higher-education pedagogy (and, along the way, with empirical education research). The criticism is not very detailed (perhaps for politeness reasons) but you can easily guess what’s the problem.

“The idea that mandatory certificates of higher-education pedagogy could produce relief, is illusory.” (p. 13)

Perhaps these further training events are too formal? And probably too far removed from practice?

“central institutions of higher-education pedagogy residing at university level […] are able to offer general courses addressing basic issues of teaching, its planning, and its presentation. Usually, though, such further training events do neither respect the discipline-specific framework requirements nor the differing experience levels of the participants: a PhD student in Materials Science needs different assistance than a professor of Philosophy. Classes that remain abstract hardly get through to the instructors and cannot allow for the transfer to practice.” (p. 15)

From my perspective at the interface between technical support of e-learning and the instructors, it is very plausible that such domain unspecific support cannot help them to passionately model and demonstrate their topic.

Moreover, if not even such different scholarly cultures as sciences and humanities, are covered separately, how could the diverse individual thinking styles and cognitive preferences be accommodated?

2. The bulk of the paper pleads for “bridging of research and teaching”, and for “less subject matter in fewer formal lectures”. I like it and quote even more:

“Students should rather learn less subject matter in fewer formal lectures. […] Fundamentals knowledge can well be conveyed via lectures; […] for everything else, alternatives need to be examined, new forms are to be found. Only that way, academic teaching can continue to primarily educate abilities such as orientation and critical reflection.”

The ability of orientation is here obviously distinguished from the knowledge needed for orientation. Both are IMO equally important. But while the latter could be trained by rote memorizing, the former needs more sophisticated, infomal forms of teaching, which indeed thrive best in an environment close to research.

(Found via e-Denkarium. All translations are mine and unprofessional.)

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