University of Agder

Team Members: Simon Goodchild, Astrid Birgette Eggen, Kai Steffen Østensen, Helen Vedal, Kristian B. Bakken, Lillian Egelandsaa
Supporters: Kris Knorr, Rafaella Shammas

Project Description

The University of Agder (UiA) is situated on two campuses in the south of Norway: Kristiansand and Grimstad, 45 km apart. Altogether there are about 13000 students following a wide range of bachelor, masters and PhD programmes. The University hosts one of Norway’s eight centres of excellence in education, MatRIC, Centre for Research, Innovation and Coordination of Mathematics Teaching. With the University’s top management, MatRIC is leading this proposal to participate in the ‘Change Institute’. The team comprises an Assistant Vice Chancellor (also Chair of MatRIC’s Board), leaders of the Student Organization of Agder (STA) and MatRIC leadership. The ‘Change Institute’ comes at a beneficial moment in the development of the University, and MatRIC’s position to contribute to substantive change. UiA has recently launched a strategic plan for 2016-2020 with three overarching themes: Learning and education for the future; Global mindset, and Engagement and innovation in society. MatRIC contributes to each of these, principally the first, promoting mathematics education characterised by research and development and student engagement. STA is an organization for all students at UiA. STA’s main purpose is to protect and promote students´ academic, social, economic and welfare related interests. STA is the official student consultative body within UiA, and has been deeply involved in the development of the University strategy contibuting to each of the three themes outlined above. MatRIC was awarded Centre of Excellence in Education status at the end of 2013 based on evidence of excellence in mathematics teaching and learning, and a proposal based on goals to promote excellence in teaching mathematics throughout Norwegian HE institutions. The Centre of Excellence programme is led by the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education, with the purpose of recognizing and promoting excellence in education in Norwegian HE institutions. Central pillars in the programme are student engagement and research and development based education.

Intended aims/outcome
MatRIC promotes and finances student engagement in several ways, for example: Students and professors are engaged in the mathematics support centres that MatRIC initiated on both campuses. MatRIC is working to enhance the quality, status and attractiveness of student assistant teaching positions. Further, MatRIC is financing student led projects developing on-line resources for teaching and learning. MatRIC has student advisory boards on both campuses with a mandate to inform and advise MatRIC leadership about opportunities for improvement and innovation. The foregoing examples, except for the student led projects, have been initiated and are sustained by MatRIC leaders, our aims through participation in the ‘Change Institute’ are:

  • To draw the student body into closer partnership in leadership and decision making.
  • To establish coherence of actions through concerted effort in academic partnership combining students, professors and university leaders in course and programme development and implementation.
  • To be a proving ground for productive academic partnership between students and teachers, and an exemplar of good and effective educational practice.

Fit with the ‘Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching’ Theme
We offer a current example to illuminate the outcomes we seek from participation in the ‘Change Institute’. Teachers of the mathematics course serving programmes in economics have long been concerned with students’ performance. The course is marked by high failure and drop-out, poor progression and disappointing grade profiles. Course teachers have tried several approaches to address these issues. Now, MatRIC is working to:

  • Bring together mathematics teachers from both campuses; mathematics for engineering teachers on one campus have developed substantial experience in the use of modern and emergent technologies to enhance teaching and learning. These experienced teachers can provide information and support for development.
  • Promote recruitment, education, deployment and support of student teaching assistants. Radical changes to the course delivery and structure must be informed and supported by students. MatRIC is promoting their engagement in the development process from the outset.

Anticipated Benefits from Participating in the Institute
Engagement of students on university boards, from top management to course level is well-established. Students included at these management levels have a voice and a vote. Further, students have a voice in course and programme evaluation. However, the inclusion of students as partners in the implementation of teaching, learning and assessment, or the design of the curriculum and adoption of teaching approaches is limited. Likewise, we seek greater inclusion of students in research, which is important since teaching and educational programmes must be research based. Our hope is that through the Change Institute we will be both challenged and informed about ways to include students in genuine academic partnership in the pursuit of excellence in education.

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