bioCEED news

Norway and bioCEED featured in the next version of “A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in HE”

Vigdis has been asked to provide a case study on how bioCEED have contributed to develop frameworks for ‘reward and recognition’ for teaching and learning in Higher Education I Norway. The case study will be featured in the 5th edition of the classic “A Handbook for Teaching and Learning in HE” edited by Stephanie Marshall and colleagues. Our case study will be featured alongside selected case studies from other countries across the globe in a chapter on ‘making your way as a new academic’, with an emphasis on developing teaching and learning expertise and being part of a community of practice. Familiar topics indeed! Stephanie writes that she’s keen to situate T&L in a global context, looking at examples of best practice globally, and we are of course extremely proud that she has chosen to feature us!  


Here’s a sneak-peak at a draft version of our case study:

Reward and recognition for educational effort and excellence – a case study from Norway


University professors are required to fill, and often struggle to balance, two very different academic roles: they are simultaneously researchers and they are educators. Governments and higher education institutions alike have high ambitions for both of these academic roles; they expect their professors to build effective and productive research groups that excel academically and move science forward[1], and they expect high-quality educations that stimulate academic and personal growth in the students and deliver attractive candidates to the job market[2],[3]. While the vision of ‘research-based education’ remains strong, based on the idea that students benefit from being taught by the top scientists in their field, there is also an increasing drive towards professionalization and accountability on both fronts, resulting in a growing divide between the research and educational universe. This divide can be illustrated by the tendency for nations and higher education institutions alike to have separate policies, strategies, goals, and action plans for research and educational excellence1-3.

As a consequence, research and education activities are increasingly competing for the professor’s time and efforts. This was confirmed in the 2015 bioCEED survey[4], where >2500 biology students, teachers, administrators from across the Norwegian universities, along with biologists in the workforce, were asked a broad range of questions about teaching, learning, and working in biology. The biology faculty consistently reported that despite well-communicated higher-level strategies and goals for educational excellence, the reward and recognition they do receive, in the currencies that count at the University, are overwhelmingly on the research side. Professors who succeed in research get grants, publications, citations, public recognition, pay-rises, more support and research staff, larger labs, prestigious prizes, opportunities to travel and collaborate with others. Professors who succeed in teaching get … a pat on the back, and often increased teaching responsibilities.

The realization of this built-in imbalance between the stated goals and the realized reward and recognition for research and teaching inspired bioCEED[5], a Norwegian Centre for Excellence in Education, in working to change the culture – how we think, talk, act and interact – around higher education and educational quality in Norway. Our approach was multi-pronged:

  • Locally, we started by inserting what we perceived as a missing ‘glamour factor’ into education; providing opportunities for recharging the educational batteries through departmental retreats, educational guests, visits or sabbaticals, funding and personnel for educational development projects, and more generally just building a scholarly discourse among the faculty around teaching and learning.
  • At the department level, we ensured that such educational development activities were seen as part of the everyday teaching time and duties of the staff, and that this was clearly and explicitly communicated by the leadership.
  • At the institutional level, we participated in developing an action plan for educational quality at the University of Bergen, “We learn[6], focusing on (i) quality and relevance in all education programs (ii) building a collegial learning culture, involving students as well as teaching and supporting staff, (iii) educational leadership that recognizes, rewards and supports educational efforts and excellence, and (iv) good systems and infrastructure.
  • Nationally, we engaged with other universities and the Ministry of Knowledge to make the case for merit systems for educational excellence, to enable and promote reward and recognition – not for dissemination skills or popularity, which are what is typically what educational prizes recognize – but rather for lasting, systematic, scholarly, and collegial work to improve educational quality. Such merit systems became mandated in the 2015 white paper “A culture for quality”3, and was implemented at UiB in 2016[7].

Our experience in working through these different channels and levels towards better reward and recognition for educational efforts and excellence is that educational quality is a surprisingly important, even emotional, topic across the University. Professors and other teaching and supporting staff feel, variously, pride in their successes as educators, pain and loss in their perceived failures, loneliness in searching for solutions to their challenges, satisfaction in collaborative development of educational quality, and frustration and anger over lack of reward and recognition for their efforts. The students see good teachers as allies and mentors, but fear that the system will fail them if they are not fortunate to encounter such teachers. University leadership have high ambitions for the educations their institutions offer, and are surprised by the frustrations of teachers and students alike. Placed in the intercept between these different stakeholders groups, we are realizing that what is most urgently needed is better communication. Both within and especially across different organizational levels and groups of stakeholders. But such communication needs to be more than just words, specifically; we should implement systems and regulations that build trust and collaboration towards the common goal, not just passive rule-based quality assurance as a control against abuse. Fortunately, the receipt for tackling this challenge is one that is starting to sound familiar: We all need to talk, and we need to listen, to one another. Then we need to act; building a better scaffolding of institutional and national structures, processes and systems to support educational quality.







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