S3-ALT2-3 - Looking from the inside: Peer-exploration of teaching and learning experiences and attitudes among faculty at a technical university

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Björn Kjellgren1 , Magnus Andersson1, Hans Havtun1, Viggo Kann1
1 KTH Royal Institute of Technology

This full paper presentation starts with the understanding that in the present-day audit society, in which most academics also find themselves, assessment and probing are usually done from positions of higher authority, and not always with quality improvement as the main driving force. In the context of teaching and learning in higher education, this can result in pedagogical evaluations that seem to take uncalled-for interest in areas of little concern to teachers, potentially omitting areas of greater interest to them. In contrast, this paper describes the process and outcomes of a grass-roots initiative to assess the experiences and attitudes toward teaching and learning at the university among peers. 

In 2014, a university-financed project was launched at KTH Royal Institute of Technology to engage more teachers in the university’s educational development work. The university initially selected 24 self-nominated teachers who were given relatively free reins to work on educational development projects. This project was one of them.

The assessment took the form of a survey targeting all teaching – or potentially teaching – faculty at the university, carried out first in 2016 and then repeated in 2019. The first survey was sent out to 2,204 respondents, and the second to 2,534 respondents, with response rates of 20% and 17% respectively. This paper will describe the process of designing these surveys, looking at what was asked about and what was not asked about, as well as the process of getting internal approval for sending them out to a survey-fatigued faculty. The paper also reports on the results in terms of both some key findings and in terms of the effect of the survey work itself on different stakeholders and potential agents of change at the university. Most importantly, however, this paper will discuss the conditions and prerequisites for grass-roots initiatives such as this to succeed, based on the literature and on the experiences gained through the survey work. Grounded in this discussion, we will suggest strategies to help teachers at other universities successfully repeat this or similar endeavours.