Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Students' Perspectives on Significant and Ideal Learning Experiences -A Challenge for the Professional Development of University Teachers

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Students' Perspectives on Significant and Ideal Learning Experiences -A Challenge for the Professional Development of University Teachers

Article excerpt

Abstract

The paper presents a study of students' significant and ideal learning experiences as triggers of university teachers' professional development. Students' feedback and teachers' own reflection on their teaching act as important triggers for quality shifts in their teaching and professional development.

The results of empirical research, during which we used a questionnaire with predominantly open-ended questions, will be presented. We were interested in the degree of students' satisfaction with the quality of education and what conceptions about teacher's and student's role they had formed during their studies. Of the many research questions, this paper only deals with analysis of learning experiences which had a particular impact on students, and their notion of an ideal study environment. In this manner we attempted to reflect on the quality of studying and, based on significant learning situations, gain insight into the influence a teacher's teaching may have on their students' professional and personal development. Thus the question arises of how much university teachers are prepared for in-depth reflection on their own practices, to what degree they are ready to take into account feedback they receive from students and whether they are prepared to abandon their customary teaching practices.

Keywords: higher education, learning experience, reflection, student's role, teacher's role

1. Effective University Teaching and Learning

Effective higher education teaching is an "elusive" concept that is very hard to define precisely as its meaning needs to be constantly rediscovered within a changed and changing context (Devlin & Samarawickrema, 2010). Within its broader meaning it is thoroughly understood as teaching that is oriented to and focused on students and their learning.

Nightingale and O'Neil (1994) emphasize that we have to maintain focus on creating conditions leading to quality learning as this assures the highest degree of quality education. Trigwell (2008) also stresses that the crucial feature of quality teaching is facilitating the learning. Prosser, Trigwell and Taylor (1994 as cited in Trigwell, 2008) with phenomenographic approach identified five qualitatively different ways in which science teachers experienced their teaching. As two most extreme once they defined: "information transmission/teacher-focused approach" and "conceptual change/student-focused approach" (p. 34). In empirical studies it has been confirmed many times that conceptual change/student-focused approaches are more likely to lead to students adopting deeper approaches to learning, because of that they can be considered higher quality approaches to teaching (e.g. Radovan & Makovec, 2015; Trigwell, 2008). According to Trigwell (2008):

"In adopting this approach, teachers encourage self-directed learning, take time to discuss problems with students, assess to encourage conceptual change and encourage debate." (p. 39)

In the context of this approach we are more focused on, what are the students perceiving and doing, than on what the teacher does and what the contents of teaching are. Trigwell (2008) also emphasized: "The scholarship of teaching is about inquiry that has, as the main focus, the facilitation and improvement of student learning" (p. 39). The teacher's fundamental role is thus to provide conditions for students' learning. This assumes that teachers cannot understand their role only from the point of view of teaching as the transmission of knowledge.

This is the perspective needed for reflecting and regarding students as partners in the educational process.

Devlin and Samarawickrema (2010, p. 122) emphasise that a shared understanding of effective teaching is important to ensure the quality of university teaching and learning, but "this understanding must incorporate the skills and practices of effective teachers and the ways in which teaching should be practiced within multiple, overlapping contexts. …

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