Looking back on the Teaching Careers Conference

On 20 March 2014, the VSNU and EUR organised a conference on teaching careers. The goal of this conference was to share ideas about how teaching and teaching careers are viewed and valued as part of academics' professional lives. With the aid of 140 participants and 18 speakers, we were able to share good practices and initiate an in-depth discussion about the role and facets of academic careers. Below is an overview of the conference programme.

Morning sessions
During six morning sessions, good practices were exchanged on three different topics:
a)    Content and organisation of the advanced teaching qualification (SKO), the educational leadership course and permanent education.
b)    The importance of establishing learning communities amongst lecturers at the same university.
c)    The role of HR policy and the HR cycle in stimulating and valuing high-quality teaching at universities.


In the afternoon, discussions were conducted by Prof. Simone Buitendijk, Prof. Huib Pols and Prof. Bert van der Zwaan. Some key observations included:
a)    Teaching is on an equal level to research: it is not subordinate to it. The universities must perform both core tasks at the very highest level.
b)    Recognition and valuation of teaching activities must be systematically developed. For example, develop career paths and appoint teaching fellows and mentors for lecturers.
c)    Encourage knowledge sharing by means of learning/teaching communities, for example through peer review for new (but also experienced) lecturers.
d)    In addition to teaching itself, education development and innovation are also important factors. Evidence-based education innovation is of crucial importance.
e)    Good leadership by the right education managers is also of great importance. Ways to encourage this include taking the educational leadership course and coaching education directors.
f)    The quality of lecturing can be significantly improved if the teaching format is suited to the lecturer's own passions and skills.
g)    Furthermore, lecturer teams could take more responsibility for study activities/periods. This teamwork can boost the quality and coherence of course components, benefiting the entire team.

VSNU chairman Karl Dittrich concluded the conference by asking the participants to contribute to a hypothetical manifesto entitled 'Education in Transition'. How can the valuation of high-quality education and good lecturing practices be further encouraged within research universities? Proposals made by the participants included: the better measurement of lecturer quality via methods such as peer review, the (better) facilitation of knowledge sharing amongst lecturers, the formation of teaching communities in which enthusiasm for lecturing is encouraged and shared, the promotion of personal contact with students, the creation of a safe learning environment, and the appointment of skilled education managers with vision.