Research Based Development

The Teachers’ Academy’s establishment was a response to the observation and experience that the status and appreciation of teaching at universities was not equal with research. Even if one purpose of the Academy is to reward excellent teachers, it aims also to enhance the quality of teaching and learning across the whole University community. The Academy’s theoretical foundation rests on the scholarship of teaching.

The initiative to establish the Teachers’ Academy emerged during the rector’s negotiations on campuses and the preparation of the strategic planning for 2013–2016 in spring 2011. Based on this initiative, the Academic Affairs Council of the University established a committee to examine international models and studies on award systems and their effects. The idea of a new reward system got a positive feedback from the university community and the Teachers’ Academy was established in 2012. 

By founding the Teachers’ Academy, the leaders of the University wished to convey that teaching is a valuable core element of academic work, and that similarly to scholarship in research, teaching can also be learned, developed purposefully and disseminated in a collegial manner.

The Teachers’ Academy aims to

  • promote the quality of teaching and improve its status in the academic community
  • improve the quality of learning and learning results among students
  • be an important  step in an excellent teacher's career
  • improve the status of teaching qualifications and create more comparable documentation
  • provide a multidisciplinary community for teachers, that provides collegial support in the development of teaching and learning and promotes good practices at the University

The Academy’s theoretical foundation rests on the scholarship of teaching, in which teaching is both a key part of academic work as a whole and an area in which university instructors can develop in a target-oriented manner and achieve a high academic level in the same way as in research. It aims to improve teaching and learning development at the University by awarding excellent teaching. In other words, the Teachers' Academy aims not only to award individual excellent teachers but to enhance the quality of teaching and learning across the academic community.

Scholarship of teaching entails

  • excellent teaching
  • collegial collaboration with other teachers
  • a resulting increase in the quality of teaching across the University. [1]

What is scholarship

The theoretical basis of the awarding system for excellent teaching is the concept of "scholarship of teaching" introduced by Boyer in 1990. He presented a model in which academic scholarship entails four interlinked areas:

  • scholarship of discovery
  • scholarship of integration
  • scholarship of application
  • scholarship of teaching.

Teaching is understood as a key component of academic work. Research and teaching are not opposite concepts, and scholarship is an integral part of all academic work. What is central is that Boyer highlighted university teaching as an activity where teachers can develop professionally in a goal-oriented manner and reach high scholarly standards.[2]

Researchers of university pedagogy have developed definitions for the scholarship of teaching and have discussed its meaning. There is a fairly wide consensus on its core elements and characteristics. Scholarly teachers are excellent teachers and experts in their field; they share their knowledge and distribute knowledge of teaching and learning in their field in peer-reviewable ways. Excellent teaching is based on the teacher actively supporting students' learning. [3]

The scholarship model for university instructors gave rise to the idea of evaluating the scholarship of teaching. Trigwell, Martin, Benjamin and Prosser drafted a model for the scholarship of teaching and its evaluation based on theories and research in teaching and learning. According to the model, scholarly teachers strive to understand teaching by using literature on teaching and learning, studying their own teaching, reflecting on their teaching in systematic and goal-oriented ways, taking into consideration the student's point of view, as well as by presenting their ideas and practices to their peers through discussions or publications. [4]

Effectiveness of award system
Several researchers who have compared different award systems emphasise that in order to be effective, award systems must affect the research culture among the researchers and teachers. It must render phenomena related to university teaching and learning into interesting research topics. It should also enable the awarding of academics who have invested significantly in enhancing their teaching quality and have earned a considerable amount of merit in the process. The award systems of several universities focus on excellent teachers, but their real aim is to affect and enhance the prevalent teaching culture. [5]

Prior research literature contains some evidence that award systems primarily support and motivate individual awarded teachers, rather than the university community as a whole. Therefore, subsequent award systems have striven to also take into consideration the communal point of view in the award process. [6] When assessing quality and quality assurance at universities, research-based teaching development and award systems are considered as two of its core constituents.[7]

Footnotes and references
1) Jfr Olsson & Roxå, 2008.
2) Boyer, 1990.
3) Biggs, 1996; 1999. Boyer, 1990. Elton, 1998. Kreber, 2002. Prosser & Trigwell, 1999. Ramsden, 1992. Shulman, 1998.
4) Trigwell et al., 2000. Se även Olsson & Roxå, 2008.
5) Olsson & Roxå, 2008. Thibault et al., 2003. Chism & Szabo, 1997. McNaught & Anwyl, 1993. Menges, 1996. Warren & Plumb, 1999. Cambridge, 2001.
6) Chism & Szabo, 1997. McNaught & Anwyl, 1993.
7) E.g. Huusko, 2009.

The Academy and its impact will also be assessed in a new research project. The project is coordinated by the Centre for University Teaching and Learning (HYPE). This project aims to produce information on the new award system for teachers and its effects on the academic community. The results will also be used for developing the award system.