The National Forum for Educational Leadership in Biology is a network and meeting place established in 2016. It is meant as an arena for discussion and exchange of ideas across the different biology departments at Norwegian Universities – with a focus on the work of Heads of Education or those with this responsibility. bioCEED has initiated and run the Forum in close collaboration with Biofagrådet. The annual Forum meeting is run back to back with the spring meeting of Biofagrådet. Last year’s meeting was at NMBU and discussed the pros and cons of dedicated Heads of Education, as well as their mandate and possibilities.
Our second meeting just took place in Bergen. The topic was a hot one; systems for promoting excellent education and in particular merit-systems referred to as Excellent Teaching Practitioner (ETP). There has been considerable interest in such systems over the last years. A fundamental aim is to take actions so that the teaching and education part of faculty positions are valued and seen to a similar extent that the research component currently is. Many would argue that most of the incentives, and therefore the efforts of most staff, are in the direction of excellent research rather than teaching.
Øystein Varpe (UNIS and bioCEED) coordinates the Forum and introduced the day, including background from the recent white paper on educational quality. The government gives pedagogical merit-systems substantial coverage and requires that the institutions have a merit-system in place within two years. Vigdis Vandvik (UiB and leader of bioCEED) then gave an insightful presentation on why bioCEED has actively promoted the implementation of an ETP program at UiB. It is an integral part of bioCEED’s work on a teacher culture based on a SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) approach and active collegial exchange and sharing. Later members from each university gave brief summaries on how they view the situation for ETP-like systems at their home ground. Finally, and in addition to active discussions throughout, the participants met three of the ETP applicants in Bergen. The candidates’ motivation, ambitions and experiences from the application process were most interesting to learn from.
“I have always strived to become a better teacher and to develop my teaching, but it was unclear to me where I should be going. Now I know what better is”, says an ETP applicant who has participated in collegial activities, workshops and a teaching course and is now taking these experiences further, including into the ETP application process.