From values and beliefs to teaching practice – a case study of novice tutors
Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet), 2014
The quality of teaching in higher education is not only influenced by teachers’ pedagogical knowledge, but also their personal values and beliefs . The integration of both into an aligned teaching practice, which extends beyond transmission of factual knowledge, is an important step for effective teaching . This integration is often based on experience, but can be facilitated by different types of staff development initiatives . However, a problem arises for non-permanent teaching staff like PhD students and postdoctoral fellows that lack teaching experience, and training. How does this lack affect their teaching practice and what strategies do they use to compensate for it?
In this pilot study, we interviewed four project tutors in the same course to investigate their beliefs, attitudes and teaching practices. All tutors were non-permanent teaching staff with different backgrounds and levels of teaching experience. The interviews allowed us to get detailed information about previous teaching experiences, educational training, and attitudes towards students.
We observed two distinct pairs of tutors. The tutors in the first pair (P1) were active as sports coaches, while the tutors in the second pair (P2) were not involved in sports. Interestingly, the two sports coaches actively verbalized their values and beliefs – like trust, honesty and open communication – and how they strived to integrate them into their teaching practice. They strongly emphasized the importance of providing each student with opportunities for personal and professional development. Furthermore, there was a clear difference in the tutors’ attitudes towards teaching. Tutors in P1 believed that their responsibility as teachers was not limited to offering project related knowledge and help, but extended to assisting students with group dynamics, communication and social aspects, whereas tutors in P2 focused solely on providing project knowledge.
Our observations highlight two different strategies used by tutors to cope with limited amounts of teaching experience. Tutors in P1 had developed the necessary strategies to integrate their values and beliefs with their practice during coaching activities. They were able to transfer this knowledge and apply it in the new teaching context. In this way, they expanded their teaching practice based on their coaching experiences. Tutors in P2, on the other hand, did not see their values and beliefs as part of their teaching practice and limited it to project related knowledge. Thus, the ability to utilize values and beliefs expands the teaching practices, and some of the non-permanent staff can compensate for a lack of teaching experience by drawing on experiences and training gained in other fields.
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