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DR. ZITA BAUŽIENĖ, DR DALIA PERKUMIENĖ, ALDONA VOSYLIŪTĖ: THE TEACHER’S ROLE IN THE STUDENT-CENTRED STUDIES: LITHUANIAN CASE

natisni E-pošta

Abstract

Experiences as well as challenges of moving to student-centred learning are analyzed in this study.

After carrying analysis of the Bologna Process (Lietuvos Respublikos Švietimo ir Mokslo ministerija, 2010) documents and scientific literature as well as applying logical induction method, the essential criteria for assessing a teacher's role in the student-centred learning situation were identified. The research findings revealed the importance of the teacher's role in striving for quality in higher education; the shift in teaching and learning paradigm is time consuming but opens opportunities for the teacher to change his/her work style as well as to develop professionally.

Key words: teacher's role, student-centred studies, study outcomes, credit.

Introduction

Student-centred studies are not a novelty in current education system. A national credit in the volume of 40 hours of student's weekly workload was used in Lithuania in the past. With the change in higher education trends caused by the agreement to create the single European Higher Education Area, the gradual shift from the traditional study content based on the constructivist theories represented by Dewey and Vygotsky to student-centred learning was observed. The documents of the Bologna process (London Communicate, 2007; Leuven Communicate, 2009; Budapest-Vienna Communicate, 2010; Bucharest Communicate, 2012) which state that the European higher education has to be based on the study outcomes and European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (hereinafter ECTS) revealed the essence and importance of the student-centred learning. The concept of the study credit is defined in the Law of the Science and Studies of the Republic of Lithuania (2014): the unit for assessing the volume of the study subject which is used for measuring study outcomes and a student's workload. When discussing the issues of the study quality and implementation of the Bologna documents, it is very important to emphasise the subjective factor – a teacher – professionalism and personality of whom contribute to better understanding of the life and professional activities and help strengthen motivation of the learners.
The aim of this article is to identify the teacher's role in the context of student-centred studies.
Objectives:
• to discuss the background for student-centred studies;
• to carry out analysis of documents and scientific literature in order to identify criteria for the assessment of the teacher's role in the context of the student-centred studies.
Methods: Analysis of the documents and scientific literature was carried out applying logical induction method. It allowed identification of the typical characteristics the systematization and classification of which led to formulation of criteria for assessing teacher's roles in the context of the student-centred studies.

 

Trends in Higher Education


The springing source of the Bologna Process is the Sorbonne Declaration signed in 1998 by the Ministers of Education of France, the UK and Germany. The essential principles guiding the creation of the Single European Education Area are described in this document. The focus of these principles lies on the clarity of the study programs at the international level, accreditation of the qualifications, students and the teachers' mobility within the European area as well as integration into European labour market and agreed approach towards the degree system, including bachelor's as well as post-graduate studies at the master's or doctoral levels (Bolonijos procesas, 2015). In 1999 in Bologna, the Ministers of Education from the 29 countries signed the Bologna Declaration European Higher Education Area (EHEA) which highlights the main aims in creation of EHEA till the year 2010 and introduces the main principles of compatibility, comparability, competitiveness and attractiveness. The Prague Communicate (2001) highlights the life-long learning principle and emphasises the importance of the measures for increasing the attractiveness of the European Education Area. The main aims of the Berlin Communicate (2003) are the quality assurance at the institutional, national and European levels, introduction of the two level study cycle system to guarantee accreditation of both different study levels and study periods. Aspects of how to improve acquisition of higher education, eliminate obstacles in the mobility of individuals, implement quality assurance measures and guidelines (ENQA), introduce flexible study forms and foster accreditation of the prior learning are foreseen in the Bergen Communicate (2005). The following aims are formulated in London Communicate (2007) – European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education; till 2010 to finish development of national qualification frameworks linked to the qualification framework of EHEA; develop national strategies and action plans for dealing with the social aspects of higher education; to approve EHEA global scale development strategy. The main aims highlighted in the Leven and New Leuven Communicate (2009) emphasise the increase of the numbers of students and more active representation of marginalised groups; more than 20 % of the study time has to be spent in other country; life-long learning and employability are important tasks of higher education; the study programmes are reorganised to shift on the student-centred learning. Budapest – Vienna Communicate (2010) informs about the opening of the Common European Education Area. The importance of higher education in sustainable development of the economy and creation of employment places when overcoming the outcomes of the economic crisis is highlighted in the Bucharest Communicate (2012); it is agreed to cooperate when providing a quality higher education for all interested in it at the same time improving employability and encouraging academic mobility. It is also important to pay attention to the emphasis put on the development of the student-centred learning focused on the study outcomes in which the student becomes an active participant of the study process based on innovative teaching and learning methods.
Implementation of the ECTS in Lithuania was based on the Tuning methodology prepared by Deust (Spain) and Groningen (Netherlands) universities; this methodology was applied not only by European countries but by the Latin America, Georgia, Russia, Australia, and the USA. The methodology is based on agreements, topical networks, principles of trust and willingness to develop. It was expected that implementation of the ECTS would foster students' mobility and accreditation of certificates and qualifications. The main aim of this project is creation of the tool for common understanding and identification of the common points which would make comparability of the education systems possible but at the same time would protect individuality of the different countries (Peiliakauskaitė, Varanauskas, 2011).
At present time, a special attention is being paid to the quality of studies in Lithuania: projects are carried out, surveys are committed and their results disseminated at the conferences or through publications of scientific articles.

 

The Concept of Student-Centred Studies

Higher education is an essential and integral part of the lifelong learning process. Application of the individualized modular study system allows people of different age to study in Lithuanian universities. A flexible and adequate system for the approval of the education acquired in other universities, prior learning, and professional experience are in place. Partial and continuing studies are foreseen for synthesizing/uniting interdisciplinary and experiential knowledge as well as creating innovative practical decisions. Higher education institutions operate as the lifelong learning centres making a huge impact on the development of the society, economy and culture (Mosta, 2015).
In traditional education system the essential elements of the study program were knowledge and teaching process. ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) is a mean to develop, describe and execute study programs as well as award competences of higher education. ECTS is a student-centred credit accumulation and transfer system based on clear study outcomes and learning process. It aims at making the planning process of qualifications and learning units, execution of teaching and learning, assessment, accreditation and validation of the outcomes as well as students mobility easier. ECTS is a student-centred system because it helps an education institution focus on the learner's needs and expectations which are not seen as essential elements in traditional teacher-oriented system. These are student-centred studies. A student's contribution into teaching will be reflected in what he/she will take out. This new system provides more freedom for the teachers as well (Šumskaitė, 2014, 97).
The study process is characterised by widely applied interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach and active individualized learning methods. Experiential learning culture bridging theoretical studies with practical activities and real life projects of the public and private sector is common. A significant part of studies is organized in virtual learning communities. A person with the university education is able to synthesize competences from several different areas, create new knowledge, study independently and teach others in multicultural environments (Mosta, 2015, 5).
The student-centred studies are characterized by changes in the study program and schedule, content of the subjects and interactivity. Education system is focused on the learners' but not other players of the study process (teachers, administrators) needs. In the study process, the teacher performs the role of the supporter which means that the focus is put on the student; students take responsibility for the study process; the teacher creates study situations for the students' active participation (Tamelis, 2014).
The implementation of the student-centred paradigm is directly linked to systemic changes at all levels of the study content: recommended, written, taught, checked, supportive and hidden. The change at written study content level is identified by the reformulation of the study programmes based on the logics of the study outcomes; at the teaching level it is described by active study methods as well as more attention paid to the independent studies; at the evaluation level of the study content – the assessment is based on the achievement level of the study outcomes; the supportive level guarantees the creation of the environment in the higher education institutions needed for the achievement of the foreseen study outcomes; whilst implementing student-centred studies at the supportive level big attention is paid to the development of the student support system. The change at the hidden level is focused on the development of the values, believes and attitudes and because of that is the slowest one (Sajienė, Tamulienė, 2012, 103).
Student-centred learning puts students' interests first, acknowledging student voice as central to the learning experience. In a student-centred classroom, students choose what they will learn, how they will learn, and how they will assess their own learning (Hannafin & Hannafin, 2010). This is in contrast to traditional education, also dubbed "teacher-centred learning", which situates the teacher as the primarily "active" role while students take a more "passive", receptive role. In a teacher-centred classroom, teachers choose what the students will learn, how the students will learn, and how the students will be assessed on their learning. In contrast, student-centred learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their own learning and with their own pace of learning (Johnson, 2013, 19).
Student-centred learning means inverting the traditional teacher-centred understanding of the learning process and putting students at the centre of the learning process. In the teacher-centred classroom, teachers are the primary source for knowledge. On the other hand, in student-centred classrooms, active learning is strongly encouraged. Armstrong (2012, 2) claimed that "traditional education ignores or suppresses learner responsibility".
Usage of the term "student-centred learning" may also simply refer to educational mindsets or instructional methods that recognize individual differences in learners (Student-Centered Learning, 2015). In this sense, student-centred learning emphasizes each student's interests, abilities, and learning styles, placing the teacher as a facilitator of learning for individuals rather than for the class as a whole.
There dominates the opinion that students are a separate society group with the individual needs and problems. Of course, there are common students uniting problems, but we have to understand that the students' community is the reflection of the society: they have different experience, believes, attitudes, wishes, they face different problems and are interested in different things. One of the main student-centred study principles is the understanding that students are different and because of that their needs and expectations are different as well. It is very important to remember that every single person has had unique experiences, different upbringing, is interested in various things and because of that their world outlook is not identical. Very often people approach the same things in a different way, plan their future differently. Even when studying the same subject or module, students tend to see different perspectives. The same as in the science where very often it is impossible to find one right answer, the students have their own opinion, support one or other author, are willing to study more carefully one specific chosen scientific field area. It is crucial to remember the importance of the methodological support because of all other things students have individual learning styles. For some students it is easier to acquire written information; others prefer visual aids; some require audio or sensory information. Some students choose to study individually; others prefer small group discussions and etc. It means that a teacher meets a lot of difficulties when trying to transfer his/her message in an effective and clear way. Advantages of information technologies cannot be forgotten as well. Seeking to create effective learning implementation situations "in any place at any time", it is necessary to 'untie' part of the information from the teacher and provide a student with the possibility to acquire it in other ways, i.e., in the form of audio lectures or e-books (Peilakauskaitė, Varanauskas, 2011, 15).
In summary, student-centred teaching requires particular personal attitudes from the facilitator and at least a certain degree of openness from the side of the curriculum as well as the students. Social skills and techniques such as moderation help make group processes more transparent, converge faster and hence improve student satisfaction.

 

Teacher's Role in the Student-centred Studies: Experience of the Lithuanian Researchers

The following Lithuanian researchers have analysed the role of the teacher in the context of the student-centred studies: Šumskaitė, 2014; Tamelis, 2014; Sajienė, 2012, Ruškus 2007; Kardelis and ect, 2008;. Tūtlys, 2010; Pukelis, 2011; Pileičikienė, 2011 and ect.
The research Students' Approach towards the Improvements in the Higher Education System was carried out in Lithuania in 2008 (Galkutė, 2015). 992 respondents (60 % of the academic university students and 40 % of the applied university students) participated in it. The research findings revealed that the key players in creating study quality improvement conditions are teachers. The following requirements for them were identified:
• ability to construct a study process oriented towards development of the students' competences;
• create conditions for students' personal development;
• apply appropriate methods for the assessment of the study results (from the students' point of view, formative assessment is very important);
• pay special attention to the development of the students' creativity.
Development of information and communication technologies introduced possibility to acquire education in a distant way where independent and group teaching and learning activities as well as the communication and cooperation of the teachers and learners and delivery of the teaching and learning materials takes place online and may be specified by the differences in time and location. In 2012 (Šorienė, 2015) a research Distant Learning: the Way to Expand Learning Opportunities was carried out. Its results revealed challenges educators have to deal with: quality assurance and development of the valid system for assessment and assurance of the distant learning quality. However, organisation, preparation of the teaching and learning materials and delivery of distant learning activities results in the workload of the teachers, tutors of the practical trainings and administrative staff.
When introducing research Factors Influencing Studies of the Persons with the Special Needs in Higher Education Institutions, J. Ruškus and others (2007) draw attention to the fact that the presence of the students with special needs in higher education institutions encourages the change in both the teachers' and students' values and attitudes and at the same time initiates reflection and real changes focused on individualization of studies. As a result, both administration and teachers are forced to look for individualized study forms. Such changes may be a starting point for new individualized approach towards methodology of preparation of the study programs and organization of the study process. However, specific knowledge and skills are required from the teacher in such situation.
In 2008, the results of the survey The Approach of the Lecturers of the Lithuanian Higher University Education Institutions towards Psychosocial Academic Work Conditions were presented by G. J. Rastauskienė and others (2008, 80 – 92). This research was focused on the analysis of the lecturers' opinion about being the part of academic community as well as expression and evidence of the psychological conditions of it. On the basis of the research findings, it is possible to state that the lecturers of the Lithuanian higher education institutions are positive when assessing opportunities for pedagogical and scientific activities as well as interpersonal relationships and as the result are happy to be the part of this academic community. The research findings revealed the fact that the positive emotional expression (being proud about the organization) of the teaching staff of the higher university education institutions is directly linked to the changes in the field of higher education as well as the teacher's pedagogical and scientific work experience. Solution of the higher education problems is directly linked to the psychosocial factors that influence the teacher's performance. They are important for the teacher's scientific activities, study quality and relationship of the higher science with the society. The expression of the factor of performance opportunities is determined by the science field a teacher represents; expression of emotional safety is reflected in the change of the higher education, duration of the teacher's scientific work experience as well as the represented scientific area. It was clarified, that the teachers with the lower subjective safety level give a higher score when assessing students. When seeking for the improvement of the quality of studies, it is very important to evaluate the subjective emotions of a teacher as a member of the academic community related to the possibility of the implementation of pedagogical and scientific activities. The research findings revealed that younger teachers looking for the result oriented activities experience higher level of safety; the older ones who seek just to approve their status do not feel so safe.
V. Tūtlys (2010) states that one of the most important aims of the ECTS is to contribute to the creation of the EHEA through guaranteeing the independent and effective mobility of the learners within the EU countries. The author revealed the problem related to different interpretation and usage of the ECTS across the EU countries. He pointed out some mismatches of the ECTS application observed in different education institutions within one country or even within departments of one institution. V. Tūtlys (2010) paid attention to the fact that the current demographic trends, the process of ageing society and headhunting of talented people in the international market of human resources can significantly increase the competition among European higher education institutions fighting for the recruitment of the new students and academic staff. These factors, as the author states, encourage to look for the different ways how to increase the accessibility of the studies and emphasise the importance of student-centred studies as well as flexible study methods; in all study fields, the emphasis is put on the study outcomes, employability, increase of the students mobility, improvement of the study quality and internationalization of studies. When shifting to the student-centred studies, Lithuania as well as most European countries has to deal with the teacher workload related difficulties. This process looks for more creative approach towards and application of innovative teaching methods. It is noticed that the main problems are related to teacher motivation when reviewing and evaluating programmes.
K. Pukelis (2011) emphasised importance of compatibility of study aims with the study outcomes because it is necessary to evaluate the scope of the credits foreseen in the different study cycle study programs. It is stated that quite often "<...a too ambitious study aim and consequently study outcome as well as assessment criteria for its achievement are formulated...> (2011, 67) that does not correspond to the amount of the student's independent work hours planned in the program. Attention is paid to the fact that when developing study programs, it is necessary to decide which hours – academic or astronomic – will be used for measuring student's independent work time. The concept of 'a typical student' (it includes student's abilities, skills and other personal qualities) is also highlighted because it is very important when estimating the independent study workload which is needed for the achievement of the foreseen study results. It is necessary to point out the diversity of the preparation level and personal characteristics of the new entrants. The author pays attention to the fact that the development and renewal of the study programs is a complicated process that requires didactic knowledge the teachers have to possess; it is based on teamwork of teachers and social stakeholders, involvement of the international partners as well as supporting organisational culture of higher education institution.
N. Pileičikienė (2011) emphasises the importance of the social stakeholders (students, teachers, graduates, employers, etc.) networks participating in the quality assurance of the study programs. In this situation, teachers are responsible for identifying study outcomes of the study programs; they are responsible for considering such study program development aspects as the purpose of higher education, international experience in the field of higher studies, formulation of the study outcomes and the compatibility of the elements and infrastructure of the study program with the study outcomes. It means that the teacher is responsible for all stages of the study quality assurance. Graduates and employers take the part of responsibility. They participate in the identification of the study results but are not responsible for their formulation or compatibility with other study program content or infrastructure related components. Apart from that, employers are responsible for providing appropriate skill development conditions during practical trainings as well as reasoned final assessment of the study results. The active part in the cooperation of the stakeholders should be teachers but they face different problems such as lack of cooperation traditions, shortage of the teachers' competence when identifying employers' functions, insufficient financial resources.
The key roles of the teachers – a scientist and a lecturer who is an information provider – were identified on the basis of the discussion focused on the results of the students' experience (Tijūnėlienė, 2012). The research findings revealed that the main function of the teacher is to strive for career and be an authority for students because it increases students' motivation and interest to study the subject. One of the requirements imposed on the teacher is diverse professional development, i.e. showing interest in recent research findings not only in the area of interest but in other fields as well. The teacher's ability to create such teaching and learning environment that can be characterised by the low level of tension and positive emotions is also very important.
With the shift in the teaching and learning paradigm, the teacher's ability to take care about own professional growth and to create as well as to apply innovative teaching methods needed for the development of the students competences becomes very important. The teachers' opinion about the main abilities needed for being successful in their profession expressed in the scale of 10 points is as follows (Tijūnėlienė, 2012):
• holistic thinking and practice (integration of the different subjects, cultures and the points of view at the same time taking into account local and global perspectives) – 9,26;
• strategic thinking (ability to foresee different future alternatives as well as their implementation possibilities based on the critical analysis and understanding of the past and current situations) – 9,17;
• implementation of changes and innovations (teacher's role, teaching and learning methods, organization of studies and changes in the study system) – 8,95.
When summing up experience of Lithuanian researchers, the following critical aspects can be identified: a certain level of the didactic knowledge has to be demonstrated by teachers when shifting to the SCL; teacher – stakeholder teamwork and involvement of the international partners as well as appropriate organisational culture are needed to support this transformation process; during the study process, the teacher's roles are realised through organisation of the teaching and learning process, preparation of the teaching and learning materials, provision of distant learning possibilities, participation in scientific activities. It results in the increased workload of the teacher. The teacher's professional performance is also conditioned by psycho sociological aspects which are important both for the teacher's scientific activities as well as study quality and the relation between higher education institutions and society.

Conclusions
The EHEA enables a student to become an active participant of the study process and take responsibility for the study outcomes because he/she has a possibility to choose a study program and participate in different mobility programs. However, both at the national and international level there is a need to provide high quality studies available for all who are seeking to acquire higher education.
The shift in the teaching and learning paradigm does not diminish the role of the teacher. The teacher has to participate in international mobility programs, look for innovative teaching and learning methods to organise studies and make a student an active participant of them.
Having analysed experience of the Lithuanian and foreign researchers, it has come clear that a certain level of the didactic knowledge has to be demonstrated by teachers when shifting to the SCL; teacher – stakeholder teamwork and involvement of the international partners as well as appropriate organisational culture are needed to support this transformation process.
Another important aspect (criterion) is the increased workload of the teacher because the teacher's roles are realised through organisation of the teaching and learning process, preparation of the teaching and learning materials, provision of distant learning possibilities, and participation in scientific activities that are time consuming.
One more important criterion to pay attention to is psycho sociological aspects which are important both for the teacher's scientific activities as well as study quality and the relation between higher education institutions and society.
With the shift in teacher's roles, the teacher's ability to take care about personal qualification development, to use and to create and use innovative teaching methods supporting the development of the students' competences becomes very important.

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