10. February 2022 | Magazine:

Let’s talk: Shaping culture and change in studying and teaching Teaching strategies - rules, incentive systems and free spaces

Studies and teaching at universities are in a constant state of change. But how can this change be successfully managed at a university? How can strategies be successfully transferred into practice? Four experienced guests explored this question at the invitation of the Executive Board and the Project House in the digital “Let’s talk: teaching strategies – shaping culture and change in studying and teaching”. The organiser of the event, Anika Düring from the Innovation in Higher Education Development team of the Project House, reported on the discussion and ideas on topics such as the change in teaching and studying due to digitalisation and the Covid 19 pandemic, the role of the different university groups in change processes as well as cultural changes in teaching, the importance of free spaces for the further development of teaching, success factors for strategy processes and the measurability of successful strategy implementation.

Visiting the digital podium were Professor Sylvia Heuchemer, Vice President for Studies and Teaching at the TH Köln University of Applied Sciences, Lavinia Ionica, Programme Manager at the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany, Professor Frank Ziegele, Head of the „Higher Education and Research Management“ programme at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and Managing Director of the CHE Centre for Higher Education, and Franziska Iglisch, a student member of TU Braunschweig Senate. The event was moderated by Dr. Angela Borgwardt.

Effects of digitalisation – a paradigm shift for teaching?

After its boost from the Covid 19 pandemic, digitalisation could lead to a paradigm shift from student-centred teaching since Bologna to an ecosystem-centred approach to teaching, i.e. dynamic, break-free online and face-to-face teaching, according to Professor Sylvia Heuchemer. The boundaries between physical and digital spaces would blur, resulting in more individualised and diverse teaching and learning. Universities would now have to ask themselves where studies and teaching are heading and what added value teaching in presence can still offer. Professor Frank Ziegele added that the high importance of the campus as a learning and social space has become obvious in the pandemic and should definitely be taken into account when considering the proportion of blended learning and presence. The effects of new teaching strategies will also have a direct influence on the design of learning spaces. Franziska Iglisch reminded us that students are also in new learning spaces for the first time, they have to find new learning paths for themselves and also need freedom and support for this. Furthermore, learning spaces at the university should be designed in such a way that they take individual learning paths into account.

Communication and appreciation as a basic condition

The experts on the digital podium agreed on one thing: appreciative cooperation, scientificity and systematic and regular communication between all those involved, the teachers, the students, the administration, the science managers and the university management are a basic prerequisite for the further development of teaching. In order to give teaching a reputation on a par with research, it is the task of the university management to anchor a corresponding culture, says Professor Frank Ziegele. In addition, it is an important task of the university management to provide spaces for testing innovations in teaching and for the exchange of experiences.

Very important for the free spaces of teaching are the factors of money, time, freedom from bureaucracy and support structures, for example in the production of teaching videos. To ensure that too much freedom at universities does not lead to disorientation, it is also necessary to find a path between free spaces and prescribed standards.

Lavinia Ionica from the Hochschulforum Digitalisierung (Higher Education Forum on Digitisation) emphasised the importance of qualifying teachers for the new teaching-learning environment. Learning on the job, case-based learning, support structures in the university and networks are important elements of this further qualification. In order to further develop teaching, it is necessary for teachers to analyse and constantly reflect on their own teaching in addition to a clear orientation. Professor Heuchemer has a tip for a helpful, accompanying approach: using the method of “scholarship of teaching and learning”, the scientific engagement of university teachers in the subject sciences with their own teaching and/or student learning. For teaching in general, it is important to define a common graduate profile and the competences that students should have acquired at the end of a learning process, the so-called learning outcomes, at module level. However, it should be left to the university teachers, within their own subject culture, to choose the right forms of examination for determining the learning outcomes.

The experts see success factors for the successful implementation of teaching strategies in networks, exchange and a basic appreciation for teaching, which is also lived out through leadership behaviour and a moderating, participative leadership style. University leaders should provide a framework of rules, incentive systems and free spaces. In addition to standardisation, the talk guests agree that there should also be a tolerance for deviation for successful teaching activities away from the strategy.