When SFS released the report Agenda pedagogik a month ago, a dormant debate about pedagogy in the university was brought to life. Most attention was given to our demand that all teaching staff should have a pedagogical education. Now we want to respond to the criticism and tell more about the report's starting point.
That's why we're talking about unqualified teachers
Never had we been able to predict that the expression "unqualified teachers" would arouse so many emotions. The truth is, as both we and many others know, that pedagogical education is no longer a requirement to become a university teacher. It was precisely to draw attention to this that we chose to use the term. We believe that many are actually surprised that for a number of years they have not needed any education in pedagogy and didactics to become a teacher at the university. (Is it not strange that the teacher who teaches in primary school must have pedagogical education, but that the person who trained the teacher does not have to have it?) We believe that the requirement for pedagogical education should be reintroduced.
What is already a requirement to become a university teacher is pedagogical skills. Unfortunately, SFS's survey shows that pedagogical skills are not always defined, assessed and rewarded in a legally secure manner. It is an important issue for university teachers to care about, especially if they want to be legitimate experts in higher education and have the trust of students and society.
This is not to say that a ten-week course in pedagogy would make all teachers better educators. But perhaps it would still be a reasonable minimum level, which should then be supplemented with continuous further education. It is of course serious that today's courses in higher education pedagogy do not always have a sufficiently high quality, are not evaluated sufficiently and are not developed. But the solution in that case must be to raise the quality of the courses rather than not taking them. There are also many good examples of courses that work well, for example there are courses that consist of exercises in developing your own teaching and that are directly related to the profession.
Andreas Åkerlund from Uppsala University writes in a blog post that SFS is trying "Delegitimize the academic profession by implying that a large proportion of its members are not formally qualified". In contrast to him, we believe that the reintroduction of a qualification requirement would contribute to raising the status of the educational assignment. In other professions, education leads to higher legitimacy, so we do not understand why it would not also apply to university teachers. Like Andreas Åkerlund, we believe that a strong university teaching profession is part of the solution to the university's quality problems, but that does not prevent us from highlighting the shortcomings that still exist. SFS's report also does not say that the teachers' pedagogical and didactic knowledge would be deficient, only that it is not possible to guarantee that they are good.
SFS is always based on the students' perspective
When we released the report, we were told from several quarters that SFS should focus more on teachers in higher education getting better working conditions, instead of questioning their competence as teachers. From SFS 'side, we are more than happy to contribute to a discussion about working conditions because it is also about creating better conditions for teaching. However, our report shows that the work of higher education institutions to support and encourage pedagogical development is deficient in many places and that it is not certain that better working conditions and more resources would automatically lead to better teaching. In the academic environments where there are better working conditions and plenty of resources, there is still a lack of pedagogy. SFS 'role is to work for the students' best interests and to set the requirements needed for students to receive better educations and better conditions for studying. Our role is thus not, and must never be, to represent the teachers, there are already other actors who do.
We would also like students' perspectives to be taken more seriously in the debate on pedagogy in higher education. It is the students who attend the educations who can best describe how well the teaching works. In order to increase the quality of our educations, the student's learning must be put at the center and students are welcomed as full members of the academy. This applies in the classroom as well as in the debate between principals, teachers and student unions at all levels.
Feel free to read more posts in the debate about pedagogy in higher education:
SFS report Agenda pedagogik
Mats Ericksson, chairman of the Swedish University and College Association (SULF)