Higher education institutions use versatile teaching methods, but pedagogical leadership, curriculum development and the utilisation of feedback need to be improved

Release Higher education

According to the results of the evaluation of higher education pedagogy, the strengths of teaching and guidance at Finnish higher education institutions are that a variety of pedagogical methods are used in teaching and guidance and that the assessment practices support learning. Another strength is that the teaching cultures of higher education institutions support pedagogical development and cooperation between teachers. Students feel that they are treated equally and with respect. Teaching and training in higher education needs to be improved by involving representatives from the working life more closely in curriculum development. In addition, the systematic utilisation of feedback in pedagogical development should be strengthened and, especially in universities, the working life perspectives of education should be taken into account.

The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) evaluated the state and renewal of higher education pedagogy in 2022–2023. The key objective of evaluation was to form an overall picture of the current state and future prospects of higher education pedagogy at the national level. The evaluation is based on the Vision for Higher Education and Research in 2030 project and higher education pedagogy competence development projects funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Teaching is one of the most important factors influencing student learning, competence, and expertise development, after the personal characteristics of the student. Therefore, it was important to evaluate higher education pedagogy and its current state at Finnish higher education institutions. The evaluation provided an overall picture of the strengths and areas for development of higher education pedagogy in Finland. The evaluation covered all Finnish higher education institutions.

Higher education institutions use versatile teaching methods

Diverse teaching and guidance methods are the strengths of Finnish higher education pedagogy. According to students and teachers, teachers discuss the objectives of the course and the criteria for assessing competence at the beginning of the course. Teaching content is based on research, and emphasises several different areas, such as presenting factual information, group work, combining theory and practice and development of thinking. Diverse teaching methods promote students’ ability to apply knowledge. Students’ learning is assessed by using a variety of assessment methods, but the use of self-assessment and peer assessment is limited. Students also called for more feedback on their learning from teachers.

In addition to teaching, the methods of collecting feedback on teaching and education also varied. However, the utilisation of feedback at different higher education institutions needs to be improved, as it is not systematically implemented. Higher education institutions should therefore strengthen the use of feedback data as a basis for pedagogical development and curriculum development. Higher education institutions should establish clear procedures for collecting and analysing feedback, identifying areas for improvement, and making use of it. The pedagogical leaders in higher education institutions and their units and degree programmes have a key role to play here.

Curriculum processes need to be developed to be more inclusive

The starting point for curriculum work and development is the kind of student expertise that the higher education institution is aiming for. The higher education institution’s strategic goals, teachers’ expertise and initiatives and students’ needs should be considered in the curriculum work. Curriculum work should be developed to ensure that curriculum planning in the future pays particular attention to the inclusiveness of the process and to ensuring that the curricula are in line with strategic goals. The process should also be better managed than currently.

Curriculum processes should also be developed in a such way that, especially in universities, working life representatives should be more closely involved in curriculum work and the development of higher education.

“The development of higher education curricula should be inclusive and based on research, evaluation, and foresight data. Curriculum renewal should be based on practices that allow for flexible changes. Curriculum renewal should not be too frequent and overburdening for staff. In research-based pedagogical development, it is essential to keep the broad holistic objectives and the direction clear,” emphasises Professor Auli Toom from the University of Helsinki, chair of the evaluation team.

Effective ways to support the well-being of teachers and students should be developed

Higher education students feel that their studies are meaningful and that their study skills good. As a rule, students feel that they are treated equally and with respect and that the study atmosphere is good. However, higher education institutions need to improve the provision of social support to students: the majority of students feel that the social support they receive is inadequate. Based on the evaluation results, higher education institutions should also develop student well-being through a stronger and more versatile approach than at present.

Teachers’ perception of insufficient working time for teaching development is also a serious problem, linked to their perceived well-being, pedagogical competence, and career change considerations. Higher education institutions should support teachers’ well-being at work more comprehensively than at present through pedagogical management, resources, and other arrangements. Teachers should be encouraged to engage in co-teaching and to work more closely together. Mentoring and other support forms should be developed to support the development of teachers’ pedagogical competence.

Closing seminar

The results of the evaluation of the state and renewal of higher education pedagogy will be published on Thursday, 17 August 2023 in a joint final seminar with the evaluation of Government’s key projects for higher education 2017–2022.

Inquiries and requests for interviews

Chair of the Evaluation Team Auli Toom, tel. +358 50 415 4852, auli.toom@helsinki.fi

Evaluation report

Evaluation of the state and renewal of higher education pedagogy (in Finnish), Finnish Education Evaluation Centre, publications 22:2023.