Looking back at the first two years of research at Örebro University, part 3: teaching in higher education
This is the last one of my research posts in my blog series about the first half of my assistant professorship at Örebro University. This post focuses on pedagogical research and the earlier ones were about my research on eHealth services for patients and accessible digital collaborative learning environments, respectively. My next blog post will focus on publications from the last two years.
I have always been interested in conducting research based on my own teaching experiences – it forces me to reflect thoroughly on how I conduct my teaching, and it also enables me to make theoretically grounded improvements to my teaching. I have mainly conducted pedagogical research within three different areas during my time at Örebro University:
- Scientific writing in higher education
- Virtual teams in interaction design
- The effects of the Covid-19 on teaching
Scientific writing in higher education
Before I started to work at Örebro University, I led a communication course for first year computer science students at the Royal Institute of Technology for several years. One of the main aims of the course was to improve the students’ writing skills especially when it comes to scientific writing. The dedicated communication course was meant to prepare the students for upcoming writing tasks and especially the bachelor and master thesis reports. The main reason for developing the course in the first place was that the quality of the students’ writing was generally low and the students were never really taught how to write scientifically sound reports and essays. Giving a communication course in the beginning of the study program is not the only solution to this kind of problem, it is also possible to incorporate writing instruction and increasingly complex tasks in already existing courses. This solution, also commonly called Writing Across the Curriculum, was implemented at my current department at Örebro University just before I started working here. After realizing that we had two different solutions to a very similar problem – we need to find means of helping our students to be better writers – I started up a new research collaboration with my colleagues Kai Wistrand, Annika Andersson and Mathias Hatakka who were very much involved in the WAC initiative at Örebro University. We used constructive alignment and curriculum theory to compare our two different cases (dedicated course and WAC) and developed a set of guidelines that other universities can get inspiration from. I will link to the resulting conference paper in my next blog post, which collects all publications that I have worked on during these last two years.
During spring 2021, I continued working with Kai in this area. We are now conducting a literature review where we, among other things, look deeper into theoretical concepts related to scientific writing (like e.g. critical thinking and lifelong learning) and models for pedagogical development in the area. It is super interesting to delve into this area and I have already learned a lot. Empirical material from e.g. interviews and texts will also be collected further on. One of the main aims of this research is to increase our understanding of what factors that contribute to high proficiency in scientific writing in higher education. The work will of course lead to scientific publications in the area, but hopefully also to concrete pedagogical development initiatives. I will of course write more about this interesting research when we have reached further in the process.
Virtual teams in interaction design
Yet another pedagogical research initiative was initiated during spring 2021. This time the research is mainly based on experiences from a course in interaction design that I have held online the last two spring terms. The course’s examiner Ann-Sofie Hellberg and I are investigating, among other things, how virtual teams can be used to successfully implement online versions of project based courses in which communication and collaboration in student groups are key components. We are currently analyzing a large sample of scientific articles that were gathered during an initial literature review. The material will be used as a theoretical ground for future publications in the area. I will get back to this when we have some clear results.
The idea to start studying virtual teams in depth actually came from a popular science book chapter that Ann-Sofie and I wrote last year. The book chapter was partly based on results from a survey that we handed out to students that took the 2020 version of the interaction design course, and we used the concept of virtual teams as a theoretical base when discussing own experiences from the course and the results from the survey. I will write more about the survey and the book chapter later on.
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on teaching
During spring 2020 I took the lead on a department-wide initiative to study the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on our teaching at all levels. We collected several proposals for possible research angles regarding for example examinations and online seminars. Some articles, and even book chapters, have already been written and published and soon work will commence on journal articles looking back at the whole period of distance education from different angles. I’m really looking forward to our continued work in this area!