Category Archives: Professional Competencies

Experiences from Assessment of Teaching Skills at the University Level

In Sweden there has been a stronger focus on teaching skills at the university level during the last 10-15 years. One of the changes is the introduction of courses in teaching and learning in PhD education at most universities, and another is a career path including a title connected to salary raise for Excellent teacher. A large majority of the universities have also added “teaching skills” as a part of the requirements when employing university senior lecturers, and it is a part of the promotion to Associate Professor and full Professor.

Since 2010 I work with assessment of teaching skills for employments or promotion at the university level. I have done a few hundred assessments by now, and worked for around eight different universities. When employing a senior lecturer, for example, there is often team of 2-3 external exerts who do assessments for a committee in charge of the employment process. Sometimes they have asked me to do the assessment of teaching skills, and then the other two experts to do an assessment of both teaching skills and research excellence. Often the other experts then write a couple of pages describing and evaluating the research contribution from different perspectives, and then by the end add two sentences on teaching describing the teaching experiences of the applicant. A typical assessment in this context looks something like this:

The applicant has taught four courses at the university level (2010-2016), and supervised 5 bachelor students and 3 master students.

My assessments are usually around 2-3 pages only looking at the teaching skills in relation to the criteria made up by this specific university (there are no universal criteria in Sweden for teaching skills), and the criteria specified text in the advertisement for the position.

Q &A related to Assessment of Teaching skills

Isn’t it very subjective to do these kinds of assessments?

  • Well, not more than the assessment of scientific skills. Often the criteria used for assessment of teaching skills are much more elaborated and transparent than the ones used for scientific skills. So sometimes the assessment of scientific skills is really based on hidden norms and expectations, and that is really subjective.

The assessment is only based on what people claim they do, not reality what they have done.

  • The assessment is based on the text, but claims made need to be supported by the material provided in the portfolio such as course descriptions, development work done and letters of recommendation. Sometimes the assessment is also made through a test lecture and an interview.

Is teaching skills really valued as much as research skills when employing senior lecturers?

  • My experience is that sometimes it is, but often not. 🙁

The Future of Health Care: Student eHealth Project Kick off with the County Council in Uppsala

Now we have had a kick off day for this year’s project course in the IT in Society Class at Uppsala University. This is a collaborative class with students from thee different universities: Uppsala University, Gannon University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.  Their project course is based on a student-centric learning philosophy, and open ended group work. Previous years the students have worked on various topics that are related to eHealth systems. 

We are constantly working on improving the course and the learning experience, and we have published some papers on the collaboration in the area of Computer Science Education.
This year 20 Uppsala University students will collaborate with 12 Americans on the topic:

Health systems in the future and possibilities with digitalization- Integrating systems

During the kick off day, there were a large number of people presenting their perspective of this years’ project. Annemieke Åhlenius who is the head of IT at the hospital was first and presented the Uppsala County Council’s . Some of the challenges that Annemieke and the county council face are in relation to:

  • co-ordination and interoperability
  • usable to whom?
  • integrity
  • prioritisation

This was an interesting presentation with some of the ideas similar as in this YouTube film, ending with “We need your help!” and some topics that the County Council would like the students to work on are:

  • Best in breed or best in sweet? (Standard systems or uniquely designed software)
  • For whom are we documenting in the Electronic Medical Records (EMR)?
  • How to archive one EMR instead of several professional-based ERM:s in one system?

Åke Nilsson who is a senior advisor at the County Council, was the second presenter, and he presented the national services that we have in Sweden. The most striking part of his presentation was the dependency map that he showed that clearly illustrated the complexities of eHealth. He also mentioned “the double work” that is a result of all these dependencies. People add the same information in many different systems.

Gustaf Hedström works with computer based decision support and Birgitta Wallgren who nowadays works with IT,  also did a very motivating presentation for the students. Gustaf presented how the work as a health care professional has changed, and the history of Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Birgitta Wallgren describes that health care professionals want to work with patients, and they do not want to do the documentation. She presents the problem of documentation during surgery where one person documents what happens. Today they have many systems where they need to document, and there is very little integration between the systems.

Gustaf Hedström continued by describing the complexity of being a health care professional and being up to date, and that 1.244.252 papers were published in the Life Science area. Today it takes about 17 years for research in these papers to be implemented in the health care systems, according to Gustaf Hedström. And this is of course too long!

He also continued describing the health care system in the US, and had a fantastic quote from a physician that he had met:

There is no way I can summarize the health care system in the US, it is chaos

I am really looking forward to this years’ project, and for sure will blog about it some more.

Action Research on Blending and Flipping the Classrom, a study by Ville Isomöttönen

In a seminar with the UpCERG research group Ville Isomöttönen  presented a paper on the use of Action Research in changing a classroom setting from a more classical seminar (passive) based course to a course based on blended learning and flipped classroom ideas. This is basically when you use e-learning in teaching and aim at using the seminars for discussing matieral that the students have studied outside of the seminar room. The pedagogic aim was to practice active learning with many practice sessions, online learning and review sessions.

Ville Isomöttönen described that they had a very optimistic start of the project with many pedagogic ideas for improvement.

Some of the things they found in the study was:

  • Students prefer informal communication. It is difficult to drive a self study course through asking students to pose driving questions.
  • Student pass rates went down after this change, but the number of students increased. Many students logg into the system and tried it out and experimented.
  • Students constantly say that they really enjoyed the freedom and self-paced and flexible sized studying, but that it is nothing for them and they don’t want it in the future.
  • Students need to practice “freedom in learning”, and they often have a mindset where they believe that there is a best way of doing something. “Which is the best way to do this?”

During the presentation we also discussed the many choices that we need to do as action researchers. What kind of participation are we aiming at in our projects? Who do we include when designing the change we want to do, and in what way? In how many action research projects are the students invited to participate in the changes made, and what would happen when they are? What are the different roles that we take as researchers in our projects? I take on different roles such as coach, seminar leader, meeting participant, interviewer, notes taker, meeting leader. All these roles include different levels of listening, talking and discussing.

We also had a very interesting discussion about Action Research in areas, or in projects where interia is so strong that you almost know from the start that this goal will not be reached. My opinion is that we cannot stop doing action research on the big and challenging problems such as “cancer care”, or ” gender in the a Swedish school system” or “usable ICT in organisations” because it is difficult. We need to work to change things in small steps. Grit and perseverance in research are crucial! 🙂

The full paper is published soon and is called: Isomöttönen & Tirronen (2016, ToAppear). Flipping and Blending: An Action Research Project on Improving Functional Programming Course. ACM Transactions on Computing Education.

 

Robots Instead of Health Care Professionals??

I listened to the introductory key note from the conference Human Centred Software Engineering by the very inspiring Danica Kragic on social robotics.

Clearly robots such as avatars of humans will influence work very much in the future. One of the areas of application is health care. Danica Kragic mentioned health care services such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and research has indicated that this might be a possible future avenue. Physicians would collaborate with robots in their work, and part of the work would be replaced by robots such as some part of the therapy.

Hmm. One can wonder what the reactions from physicians would be if we start doing research on replacing them with robots or machines? And how would the patients react to robots? Perhaps not as negative as one could think?

One can also wonder how the professional competence of health care professionals can be transfered to robots?  Is this possible?

BTW: If you haven’t listened to Danica Kragic’s Sommar, I highly recommend it (in Swedish only, though) ?

Paper in Special Issue on PhD Student Supervision

PhD supervision is a complex phenomenon that is addressed in a special issue on PhD supervision in Tidskriften Utbildning och lärande. I have read the special issue, and it is well worth the time. 🙂

Ulrike Schaas and I have collaborated around one of the papers in the journal. The title of the paper is “Peer reflection on inclusive supervision – a study circle as a space for collegial learning”

The paper presents a new form of learning opportunities for PhD supervisors where peer learning is a central concept. Ulrike Schaas has written about the pedagogic underpinnings of the study circle, and presents the facilitator’s perspective whereas I participated in the study circle and present the learner’s perspective.

For further details, read the paper!

 

Developing Inclusive PhD Supervision Skills Through Collegial Learning

Now our journal paper on development of inclusive supervision skills through collegial learning is published.  It will appear in a special issue on PhD supervision in the journal “Utbildning och Lärande / Education and Learning”, ISSN 2001-4554. Some of the ideas in the paper are:

  • PhD supervision plays an important role when promoting gender equality in academia.
  • It is important to create a good work environment for PhD students.
  • Collegial learning can be one way of improving your supervision skills.
  • More opportunities for progression of supervision skills are needed

 

The paper also gives some ideas on how to arrange learning opportunities for PhD supervisors.