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«Tobias JENERT1 (St.Gallen) Implementing Outcome-Oriented Study Programmes at University: The Challenge of Academic Culture Abstract In recent years, ...»

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Zeitschrift für Hochschulentwicklung ZFHE Jg.9 / Nr.2 (März 2014)

Tobias JENERT1 (St.Gallen)

Implementing Outcome-Oriented Study

Programmes at University: The Challenge of

Academic Culture

Abstract

In recent years, the design of study programmes in Higher Education (HE) has

been given considerable attention by HE practitioners and researchers. Today, a

sound body of concepts and experiences on different realisations of Bolognaconforming study programmes is available. The same, however, does not hold true for questions concerning the processes of implementing and further developing programmes. This paper investigates the challenges related with implementation, particularly at universities. A first aim is to understand the specifics of academic culture and their significance for programme implementation and development.

Elaborating on this analysis, a second aim is to outline the role of educational developers in this process, as well as the necessary competencies to perform such a role.

Keywords programme development, disciplinary culture, curriculum development, educational development Studienprogramme an Universitäten Outcome-orientiert gestalten: Herausforderungen akademischer Kulturen Zusammenfassung In den letzten Jahren hat die Gestaltung von Studienprogrammen an Hochschulen verstärkte Aufmerksamkeit erfahren. Mittlerweile ist daher eine Vielzahl von konzeptionellen Beiträgen sowie Praxisberichten zur Planung Bologna-konformer Programme verfügbar. Gleiches gilt jedoch nicht für die Implementation sowie die kontinuierliche Weiterentwicklung von Studienprogrammen. Der Beitrag setzt sich mit Herausforderungen der Implementation, speziell im akademischen Kontext von Universitäten auseinander. Ein erstes Ziel besteht darin, die Besonderheiten akademischer Kulturen und deren Bedeutung für die Implementation und Weiterentwicklung Outcome-orientierter Programme herauszuarbeiten. Ausgehend von dieser Analyse stellt der Beitrag zweitens Rollen, Aufgaben und Kompetenzen der pädagogischen Hochschulentwicklung dar, die notwendig sind, um solche Prozesse erfolgreich zu bewältigen.

E-Mail: tobias.jenert@unisg.ch www.zfhe.at Scientific paper Tobias Jenert ZFHE Jg.9 / Nr.2 (März 2014) S. 1-12 Schlüsselwörter Programmentwicklung, Curriculumentwicklung, diziplinäre Kultur, Fachkultur, pädagogische Hochschulentwicklung 1 From designing curricula to developing study programmes In recent years, the design of study programmes in Higher Education has been given considerable attention both by practitioners and researchers dealing with teaching and learning in Higher Education Institutions (HEI). In the (continental) European context, this expansion of the design focus from courses to larger units of studying such as modules and study programmes is tightly linked to discourses around the implementation of Bologna-conforming study structures in HEI. Therefore, during the last decade, a considerable number of scholarly publications, policy papers and practitioner reports have dealt with questions concerning the definition of learning outcomes (often in the form of competencies), modules, and credit point systems (KELLER, 2006; MARIAN, 2007; SCHAPER, SCHLÖMER, & PAECHTER, 2013; WEBLER, 2005). In combination with research on modularized curricula and curriculum development conducted in the Anglo-American context, this leads to a sound body of concepts and experiences on different structural realisations of Bologna-conforming study programmes (BETTS, & SMITH, 1995;

BURKE, 1995; JENKINS, & WALKER, 1994).

The same, however, does not hold true for questions concerning the processes of implementing and further developing study programmes at HEI. Often, curricular reforms within study programmes remain on the level of structural changes instead of sustainably influencing the teaching and studying practices in a way that supports the attainment of underlying educational goals (BRAHM, & JENERT, 2013;

HUBBAL, & BURT, 2004). To actually yield educational effects, however, normative concepts such as problem orientation or deep-level learning need to become enacted through the faculty’s and the students’ practices of teaching and studying (HU, & KUH, 2002; JENERT, 2011, 2012b; KUH, KINZIE, SCHUH, WHITT et al., 2005). Experiences from the US context show that despite long-established traditions in continuous quality development of study programmes, initiatives often fail to permeate the practices of students and faculty (HARPER, & LATTUCA, 2010).

This paper investigates the challenges for the sustainable implementation and further development of study programmes in HEI in general and at universities in particular. Starting with an analysis of the characteristics of HEI as the organizational frame, a first aim is to understand the specifics of academic culture and what they mean for programme implementation and development. Elaborating on this analysis, a second aim is to outline the role of educational developers in the process

of programme implementation and development, as well as the necessary competencies to perform such a role. Therefore, the article is structured along the following questions:

www.zfhe.at Scientific paper Tobias Jenert ZFHE Jg.9 / Nr.2 (März 2014) S. 1-12 (1) Which challenges for the sustainable implementation and further development of study programmes arise from the organizational characteristics of HEI in general and academic culture in particular?





(2) Which roles should educational developers fulfil in order to support the sustainable implementation and development of study programmes?

The article unfolds around the core argument that the characteristics of academic culture(s) at HEI and at universities in particular need to be carefully considered when implementing study programmes in order to change the teaching and learning culture.

2 Setting the scene: Current concepts for “innovative” teaching and learning in HEI The scholarly discussion on how to shape the future of teaching and learning in Higher Education (HE) can be roughly outlined as a “Shift from Teaching to Learning“ (BARR, & TAGG, 1995). In order to accomplish such a shift, changes on different levels of within HEI are necessary (JENERT, ZELLWEGER, DOMMEN, & GEBHARDT, 2009). Teaching and learning methods on the course level as well as individual faculty’s teaching competencies have been the subject of educational development for decades. In the wake of the Bologna reforms the level of study programmes has been attributed growing attention by educational developers, especially in German speaking countries. Where HE curricula had previously been designed by compiling various “junks” of knowledge provided by the contributing disciplines (and often remain to be so), “shifted” HE programmes set out by defining intended learning outcomes for students. Programmes structures as well as teaching and learning processes are then planned in a way that students are enabled to achieve these aspired outcomes.

Acting as an umbrella term, the “Shift from Teaching to Learning” is connoted with several other concepts guiding the discussion on HE: Learning Outcomes are supposed to go beyond reproducing factual knowledge. Rather, study programmes should aim at developing competencies, i. e. students’ skills and attitudes in addition to knowledge (SCHAPER et al., 2013). To achieve such high-stakes outcomes, teaching needs to become more student-oriented, i. e. use insights about student learning processes in order to support deep-level learning (ENTWISTLE, MCCUNE, & SCHEJA, 2006). Thus, effective programme design should aim for a (constructive) alignment between (high-stakes) learning outcomes as goals, study structures and teaching and learning processes and, ultimately, assessment procedures for determining to which degree the intended outcomes have been achieved (BIGGS, 2003).

So when there are such elaborate concepts for planning study programmes, why is it challenging to implement and manage them in a way that realizes the intended quality of education? The following section will discuss challenges for the sustainable implementation and further development of study programmes that arise from the organizational characteristics of HEI in general and the specifics of academic contexts in particular.

–  –  –

3 Challenges for implementing outcomeoriented study programmes at university

3.1 The hard task of developing study programmes Regarding the scholarly literature on programme design in Higher Education, only a small number of publications tackle the actual implementation, the management, and further development of study programmes. From the few reports available, it becomes evident that especially in university contexts, to influence the actual teaching and learning practices and not just change study structures is extremely challenging. For example, HARPER, & LATTUCA (2010) report that faculty resisted the incorporation of principles of continuous quality improvement which were aimed at improving curricular cohesion. HUBALL et al. (2007 ) discuss the challenge of integrating new learning outcomes into study programmes and, most importantly, get faculty to assume responsibility for achieving those outcomes.

Presenting a case study, BRAHM, & JENERT (2013) show that even when working with a faculty that is strongly committed to their study programme, presenting pedagogical models like a competency framework turned out rather impractical. In the reported case, the idea of transmitting pieces of subject-related knowledge was so prevalent that introducing a competency-based model of intended learning outcomes proved to be extremely challenging. Furthermore, in a comparative study of four university programmes, JENERT (2011) concludes that both students and faculty perceived the progress of the studies as an addition of independent building blocks, i. e. courses with quite a low degree of cohesion and interdependence. Little communication among faculty as well as a low sense of responsibility for contributing to programme-level learning outcomes have been identified as primary causes for these observations.

The next section analyses universities as institutional contexts for implementing outcome-oriented study programmes. A reflection on the characteristics of universities and in particular academics as university teachers will provide a clearer picture of what stands behind the specific challenges for educational developers working on study programmes.

3.2 The academia as a challenging context for implementing outcome oriented study programmes One of the major characteristics of universities as organizations is that their academic members, making up most of the teaching faculty, face an institutional double-bind: As researchers they are part of an academic discipline, each forming one or several scientific communities. For an academic, professional success is closely linked to being recognized in one’s scientific community(-ies), publishing in acknowledged journals or books, attending conferences etc. Thus, an important part of an academic’s career development happens within his/her “academic tribe” (BECHER, & TROWLER, 2001) which in most cases is not immediately connected to the home university. Usually, disciplinary connections stay intact throughout an academic’s professional life while organisational affiliations will change several www.zfhe.at Scientific paper Tobias Jenert ZFHE Jg.9 / Nr.2 (März 2014) S. 1-12 times. For most academics changing organizations is even obligatory in order to get a tenured position. For this reason, academics have been described as being more loyal to their discipline than to their organisation (WEICK, 1976), especially in German-speaking countries where universities do not tend to have strong organizational identities (KRECKEL, 2006; MITTELSTRASS, 1991).

Academic disciplines have been characterised as individual cultures, featuring their specific bodies of knowledge, rules for doing research and – most importantly for HE – typical modalities for teaching (LIEBAU, & HUBER, 1985). The differences between disciplinary cultures can be huge, ranging from differing research practices to conflicting paradigms resulting in radically opposing worldviews. Education at a university has often been regarded as an introduction to an academic discipline (LIEBAU, & HUBER, 1985; MULTRUS, 2005). Scholars have investigated and compared different academic subjects (BARGEL, 1988; LIEBAU, & HUBER,



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