Author:
Sven Paulus

Doctoral defence: Triinu Soomere "Doctoral students’ perspectives on learning about teaching in the higher education context"

On 18 th of June at 13.00 Triinu Soomere will defend her doctoral thesis "Doctoral students’ perspectives on learning about teaching in the higher education context".

Supervisors:

Associate Professor Mari Karm (PhD, University of Tartu)

Associate Professor Torgny Roxå (PhD, Lund University, Sweden)

Opponent:

Professor Mari Murtonen (PhD, University of Turku, Finland)

Summary

Learning to teach during doctoral studies may seem secondary to obtaining knowledge and skills for research. At the same time, many doctoral students continue their career in academic spheres where teaching is one of their duties or in non-academic domains as consultants or adult educators where the ability to explain complex domain-specific information to non-specialists requires skills akin to teaching. Policy documents both on the European Union and Estonian level have called for university teaching to be learning-centred. Previous research indicates that PhD students do not feel prepared for teaching, there is a lack of systematic preparation for teaching and PhD students’ conceptions of teaching range from learning-centred to teacher-centred ones. The current doctoral thesis aims to find out PhD students’ perspectives on how different ways of learning shape their learning about teaching in higher education.

Empirical data were collected from 25 PhD students from four Estonian universities in the form of semi-structured interviews. The results of the study demonstrated that, according to the participating PhD students, completion of a pedagogical course which emphasised the value of teaching and focused on the learning-centred approach was significant in supporting conversations that facilitated learning about teaching. Additionally, learning about teaching from informal conversations was reported to be connected to reflection. There was, moreover, a theme of missing conversations and a lack of conversations about teaching with supervisors. Furthermore, the results showed that the more the norms of the teaching culture are accepted, the easier it is to be accepted by the community. Acceptance by the university community may facilitate or hinder learning about teaching. Lastly, the results suggested that transformative learning shapes learning about teaching in higher education by experiencing dissatisfaction in own teaching and critical reflection about teaching. Context may be supportive or unsupportive of transformative learning towards learning-centredness, the transformation, once started on a deep level, continues according to the reports of participants. Based on the results, several suggestions were made for formal and informal learning about teaching for PhD students, PhD supervisors’ role in learning about teaching and the university career model.

LocationUniversity of Tartu, Institute of Education, room B148 (Jakobi 5, Tartu)

The defense can be watched on Zoom.

Event category: Defence

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