NATED track 4: Higher Education and Professional Learning
Track 4 is aimed at strengthening the knowledge basis and enhancing the theoretical, methodological, and empirical understanding of the dynamics of higher education and its ways of fostering academic and professional development.
The move towards the knowledge society and the incorporated concept of a knowledge- based economy has transformed higher education institutions (HEIs) and their educational practices in several ways.
Higher education is embedded in national and international policy arenas which emphasize the importance of institutional adaptations to the knowledge society’s needs and consequently pose new expectations for educational programmes and activities. At the same time, the knowledge networks that higher education is part of have become increasingly complex.
The general emphasis given to science in society brings about an increased knowledge orientation in professional programmes as well, and brings with it a focus not only on science-based knowledge as such, but also on the investigative processes through which knowledge is produced and validated. Therefore, a main task for higher education today is to develop the students’ capacity for understanding, developing and making use of knowledge in relevant ways, in different contexts and types of expert work.
The research activities in track 4 focus on how these challenges are handled at various levels in the higher education system and how societal, political and epistemic processes together influence the work and learning of academics and students.
More specifically, the projects in this track focus on:
- Policy processes, reforms and governance arrangements with respect to higher education in national and international contexts;
- The constitutive role of expert cultures in higher education and their implications for academic and professional development;
- Student learning and development of expertise in profession-oriented programmes.
Research on teacher education and ways through which to develop expertise in this profession are at high stake in society, and the track assume special responsibility for research in this area. While projects targeting teacher education programmes and activities are clearly relevant, this research area might also include projects focusing on the education-work relationship and the continuous professional development of teachers. However, projects on professional education and learning are not restricted to the teaching profession, but also include other domains such as law, engineering, and the health professions.
Joint PhD courses and workshops for all students affiliated with this track focus on theories, core concepts and perspectives of the institutional dynamics at all levels in higher education, as well as on research on knowledge practices and learning in expert cultures. While all students are introduced to core concepts and perspectives in institutional theory and approaches to expert cultures and practices, in-depth courses on methodology are held separately for students working within the two strands of research. This include training in document analysis, interviews and other data from an institutional perspective in the first case, and training in ethnographic and observational research methods as approaches to studying knowledge practices and learning in the latter case. Moreover, in the track seminars, a particular focus is on comparative approaches, as this allows for discussions across systems, institutions and areas of expertise.