Scholarship of Teaching and Learning: Chapter 2

Review: Hochschulbildungsforschung: Chapter 2


Rhein, R. (2019) ‘Theorieperspektiven auf hochschulisches Lehren und Lernen’, in
Hochschulbildungsforschung. Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden, pp. 23–40. doi: 10.1007/978-3-658-20309-2_3.

About this Chapter

The author in the next chapter of this book discusses theoretical perspectives for higher education learning and teaching. The author tries to suggest a triptych to scaffold the development of theories for research into learning and teaching in higher education (SoTL).*

The triptych consists of:

Bildungstheoretischer Hochschulforschung (analytische Beobachtungsperspektive)

Philosophie der Hochschulbildung (Interpretative Perspektive)

Theoretische Hochschuldidaktik (analytische Teilnahmeperspektive & analytische Dialogueperspektive)

Rhein, 2019

The three pronged framework suggested for theory development in SoTL asks to take a theoretical perspective (observational perspective) of SoTL, and a interpretative perspective of Didaktik (in the sense of philosophy of higher education), and within the frame of theoretical higher education Didaktik the author suggests two types of analytical perspectives to take: participatory and dialogic perspectives. I will attempt to review how these perspectives are defined and understood.

Observational Perspective

Means to create theories through phenomenological studies, hermeneutic reconstructions, or empirical explanation. The author suggests to develop theories through the creation of models of structural processes, performance indicators, and quality measures.

Participatory Perspective

Here Rhein suggests that actors orient themselves implicitly or explicitly on behavioural principles. When reading more about this perspective, it appears that Rhein suggests to engage in reflexive practice to aid theory development.

Dialogic Perspective

…refers to hermeneutic praxis research but other than the reflexive practice above, this happens through dialog with others such as programme boards, consultations, evaluations. I have to add here that the distinctions between the three perspective remains murky with overlaps that are not discussed. More time could have been spend to explain the terminology used and how that relates to the author’s frame of reference (Interpretationsrahmen). However, the tryptic distinction is not without merit and seeks to establish a framework that enables the development of theoretical perspectives for SoTL.

Wissenschaft = öffentliche Praxis des Vernunftgebrauchs

Rhein, 2019

Further on Rhein makes an interesting proposition to consider learning and teaching in higher education not just as a pedagogical praxis but also as an epistemic one and therefore tasking educational science (Erziehungswissenschaften) to explore how higher education can address the tension between student agency and performativity.** Research into learning and teaching in higher education (SoTL), is a purpose or object in its own right. Rhein argues that this is because teaching students in scientific thinking and academic praxis is not a side-show of research but a distinct disciplinary task for each subject and thus he links back to the Humboldtian ideal mentioned in the previous chapter.

Die Spezifik der Hochschuldidaktik besteht gerade darin, kognitives Lernen in epsitemisches Lernen zu transformieren, also nicht lediglich Kenntnisse zu vermitteln, sondern Erkenntnisse anzuleiten.

Rhein, 2019, p.35

The meaning of the quote above is that the key task for Higher Education Didaktik is to transform cognitive learning into epistemic learning, so not just transfer skills and facts but to guide knowledge creation. We could maybe seek to differentiate between knowing, knowledge, and understanding.

What does SoTL Explore?

The author postulates that higher education educational research (SoTL) explores:

  • The relationships or structures between science (Wissenschaft) as institution,
  • Higher education (as institutions and organisations) but also academic teaching and learning.
  • The learning here (Studium) includes the topography of learning places and learning settings,
  • It includes being a process of a negotiation between science (Wissenschaft) and self purpose (Selfhood).
  • It is a place of discovering sense making resources and behaviour resources as part of the learner’s biography.
  • It explores professional behavioural structures and work placements or work environments.

According to Rhein all these relationships can be understood as a configuration of reference points that have very specific characteristics and can be explored for their inherent logic. I thought this list of focus points of SoTL was interesting, it seems to imply the scholarship perspective of theoretical and reflective practice papers and offers themes that can be explored within and beyond this remit. Effectively SoTL is scholarship, evaluations, and reflective practice and is also much more than this.

Footnotes and Comments

*Apparently when I tried to make sense of this chapter in English I had a bit of a wobbly moment. Note from my notes: I just want to cry with the futile attempt to summarize any of this into meaningful English …

**The author does not use these specific terms but that’s what my understanding was. Mind you translating anything from educational science into English is near to impossible due to lack of English vocabulary, a significant amount of meaning is inevitably and literally lost in translation.

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