Educational development work at the higher education institutions
The government has assigned the National Agency for Higher Education the task of monitoring and analysing the effects of the educational development work undertaken at the higher education institutions, and in particular training in the methodology of higher education, taking into account the new measures adopted nationally and locally between 2000 and 2005. The National Agency was also asked to make a survey of the measures to which the higher education institutions had assigned priority.
The measures that have been adopted nationally, for instance in the form of funding for methodological training and educational renewal, have yielded results. At a national level SUHF (the Association of Swedish Higher Education) has recommended objectives for training programmes that would lead to qualifications in educational methodology for higher education, including determination that they should be at least ten weeks in length. Many higher education institutions have either adopted these objectives already or are about to do so. Since 2002 the majority of institutions have also reorganised their teacher training activities. One reason is probably the increased responsibilities in this area that were then included in the Higher Education Ordinance. Some of the measures adopted by the Council for Higher Education have resulted in greater interest in teaching and to the development of knowledge in the area of higher education methodology.
Few institutions undertake any systematic monitoring or evaluation of their educational development procedures or teacher training activities. Some institutions, however, are in the process of developing monitoring and evaluation systems. Few have come to any conclusions about the effects of educational development work. One possible trend is, however, that methodology training and teaching skills are now valued more highly in relation to research. Another is increased contacts between subjects and the encouragement of multidisciplinary solutions. The higher education institutions also consider that teacher training has enhanced awareness and led to greater interest in methodological issues. The National Agency sees this as an important step forwards in the development of the area, but more systematic monitoring could offer the institutions much-needed opportunities to reflect on these activities. The results of evaluations could also provide a basis for strategies and guidelines at the higher education institutions and at a national level. The government should consider requiring monitoring of this kind, for instance every three years in connection with the annual reporting procedure.
During the period 2000-2005 the higher education institutions have mainly given priority to the development of training that would offer qualifications in teaching in higher education. In the next few years priority will primarily be given to development work linked to the Bologna process. Other areas of priority include the further development of training courses that offer qualifications and also procedures for recording and appraising qualifications in teaching.
One issue that has required attention for some time has been the comparative evaluation of teaching and academic qualifications. Procedures do exist to enable the presentation of qualifications so that their quality can be assessed. On the other hand, development work is still needed when it comes to how they are evaluated. There should be some advantage in acquiring teaching qualifications. Here it may be interesting to create career routes in teaching. There are examples of endeavours in this direction.
Our material suggests that no great priority is given to research into the field of methodology for higher education. This means that those working with educational development have to rely mainly on research results that come from other countries. Giving higher priority to research into higher education methodology in Sweden would also signal the importance of this area.
Analysis of the educational development work of the higher education institutions shows that a great deal is taking place, but the progress made at the different institutions varies. Circumstances such as the size of the institution, the resources available and what priority these concerns are given within an institution influence this. Since the summer the higher education institutions have become involved in intensive activity to develop programmes to fit in with the intentions of the Bologna process. This has taken a great deal of time and resources and will continue to do so. The government needs to find ways of supporting this development in the next few years.