Kjell Askeland Report


PART 2. ABOUT THE PROJECT



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PART 2.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Faith is an excitement and an enthusiasm: it is a condition of intellectual magnificence to which we must cling as to a treasure, and not squander in the small coin of empty words, or in exact and priggish argument.
George Sand

INTRODUCTION


Life is personal.

This is personal.


For many of those who were involved in the EuroFaculty Project at Immanuel Kant State University of Russia, Kaliningrad, the project has been part of their lives.1 They have invested, not only time and effort, but also their personality during many, many years. In some cases, the project has also been significant in the lives of their families, both practically and as a theme in private discussions at home.
It is impossible to establish and to run a project like this without knowledge, belief and devotion. Projects like this need people with both brain and heart.
The people who have invested in this project need a feedback telling that their efforts have not been in vain, and that their efforts have not been wasted.

The people, who have proposed or supported the transfer of resources to the project, need feedback telling that the investments were reasonable, in the light of the results that were obtained.

These two groups of ’participants’ have had their needs met in the outcome of the project, reaching a conclusion that it was a success.

Since life goes on, new ’investors’ are now needed to enter into new projects. Every person who is invited to join wants to know if he or she is wasting her or his time and effort. The investor who is asked for financial support wants to know if all measures have been taken to make sure that the use of investments are well planned.

These groups of people, who invest heart, brain and resources, need not only to know if the EuroFaculty Project in Kaliningrad was a success, but also some sort of answer to the question, ’WHY?’ ’Why was the EuroFaculty Project successful?’

The deeper meaning of this question rests upon human rationality. In order to learn from practice, we have to analyse practice, and know what factors are relevant or important for success? If we know the answer to this question, we do not run the same risk of wasting resources as when we start new projects from scratch. We need systematic experience from earlier projects. People and organisations working with similar projects in the future need to learn from experience. Experience is the best teacher, but sometimes a very expensive one. We can save costs if we use experience gained in one project in the design, implementation and way of doing things in later projects.

Against that background it was decided to start a special designed project with the task of identifying ’the factors behind the success of the EuroFaculty Project at Immanuel Kant State University of Russia in Kaliningrad’.

The task of this report is to utilise the experience from the EuroFaculty Project in Kaliningrad both to gain knowledge and inspiration for further efforts in future educational development projects.

The project is named the ’EuroFaculty Kaliningrad Project’. It was initiated and launched by some people and performed by other people. Since it became a success, it is natural to give credit to all ’participants’ who made this possible, even to those within the administrative/political system who gave support to it. Against that background it is natural to make use of an extended concept of the project. In this report, the extended EuroFaculty Kaliningrad Project is called the ’EUROFACULTY Project’.

Why?
Charlie Chaplin had a rich life, and many things made a deep impression upon him. Once he saw a tombstone in Southern France at the grave of a 14 years old girl. One word was written on the stone: Pourquoi? Why?
The EUROFACULTY Project lasted for 7 years and some people say that it was brought to a successful conclusion in 2007. In fact it is not dead. It is still alive, albeit in different forms, in different hearts and brains and through the obtained results. That is the one side of it. The other side says that the EUROFACULTY Project was only the beginning of a never-ending development process at Immanuel Kant State University of Russia, Kaliningrad. (IKSUR).
On 2 October 2007 the CBSS Committee of Senior Officials agreed to use a part of the unused funds of the EUROFACULTY Project to fund a research project. ‘Research into factors important for the successful restructuring of the Law and Business Economics studies at the Immanuel Kant State University of Russia (IKSUR) by the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) , ‘EuroFaculty Kaliningrad Project’.

Under the auspices of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, CBBS, this closer analysis of the EUROFACULTY Project was started, in the form of the ‘EUROFAN Analysis Project’. (EUROFaculty ANalysis Project.)

The challenge to analyse the EUROFACULTY Project was very inviting because it reflects the need to combine both empirical and innovative approaches. This was, as I understood, a desire from both the designers and the formal authority of the project, the Council of the Baltic Sea States. It was explicit that they were not interested in a narrow ’academic’ report, written for a ’pure’ scientific community. What was needed was a report that could be read and used for practical purposes by people responsible for making administrative and political decisions for ongoing projects or projects being planned in future. Above all, there was a need to support and inspire participants in these future projects, and to demonstrate the value of pedagogical considerations.

As I, after some preliminary discussions, received the official question to take the job, I accepted it. The EUROFAN Project started on the 1 June 2008.

Since then I have been living with the EUROFACULTY Project 25 hours a day.


On style.
Traditional academic style makes a difference between report and record. In the report, the ideal is objectivity. This means among other things that the hypothesis, the work and the results should be independent of the person who has done the research. As a consequence, research and report should be as impersonal as possible. In the record, most formidably expressed in the Nobel lectures held after the award of the prize, the laureate is expected to give a personal description, including the difficulties and mistakes that were made in the research process.

This opens the gate to discover a trick. If a scientist wants to be seen in the light of a (sometimes) undeserved objectivity, the impersonal form may hide the subjective side of the work done. It seems much more scientific and works like a vaccine against critics to use expressions like ’it was discovered’, ‘it was reported that’ or ’the findings were’. If the scientist says that ’I discovered’, or ’I have seen some reports’ or ’I have found’, or ’I believe that I have found ....’, then the subjective side is made explicit.

Finding evidence, reliability and validity, or exploring?

This report is based upon the reading of written material, interviews and discussions with participants in the EUROFACULTY Project. During this work some of the ‘factors behind success’ were openly named and described, but mostly they had to be dug out from the bottom of the material. Like a detective I had to recognise a clue given through the use of a special word or expression during a discussion. Sometimes even weaker clues were given, like a hesitation or a certain body language, indicating the reality that was hidden behind what was said.

Sometimes, or actually very often during this work, it was impossible to test or to verify information. The ’solution’ in such cases is to reflect, asking; is it possible that this or that happened, and can this possibly be seen as a ’factor’ influencing the outcome of the project?’ This may sound strange and not acceptable from the standpoint of some sciences, like physics. In another science, like history, where things happen only once, and often without existing witnesses or other sources, such speculations may be more easily accepted.

The point in the context of this work is that there is no need for me to give any impression of greater objectivity than justified. To put it in a more personal way: I have no need to impress the reader, giving myself more credit for objectivity than I deserve.

Therefore it is not difficult to confess that many passages in this report are based on very weak foundations, and should have been described as hypotheses more than ’findings’ or ’facts’. Accordingly, the reader should think for her/himself, judging if my reasons and reflections support my assumptions or not.

I could have tried to dig deeper into many cases where there was only one weak source for an assumption, but that would have been at the cost of leaving other areas totally uncovered. The result, as demonstrated in this report, is a compromise. Many aspects that could have been explored, are weakly covered, or not at all, and none of the themes are treated comprehensively.

This research project has the character of one person who has been confronted with an immense heap of documents and many different people who have played just as many different roles in the EUROFACULTY Project at different times in different countries. Every ’participant’ as I call them, has made their contribution in a way that reflects their task, background and their context. In some ways, I have become a participant too.

None of us can say for sure what the causes behind success were. We may guess, and I am not sure that I have made the best guesses. My sole advantage is that I am an educationalist with some experience from educational development. I hope this will help.


In order not to lend any heavier weight to this report than it deserves, I have decided to be honest. Therefore I write in the first person. For the sake of variation in the text I use different expressions like ‘I believe that...’, or ’It seems as if....’.

On this report.

Since the task of the EUROFAN Project was to analyse the EUROFACULTY Project, focus has been upon principles and structures. It was not intended as a means for recommending medals to individual people, nor was I expected to find out what things went wrong, due to whom.

Except for a very few cases, no names are given. People have spoken freely and openheartedly with me because they knew my need for truth and correct information.

I have tried to avoid closer analyses of single events or conflicts, because I had not the task, the wish, the information, nor the competence to be a judge, expressing verdicts.

From the outset, it was intended to avoid any evaluation of the EUROFACULTY Project since I was convinced that this had already been done and reported. As it turned out that this was not the case, it was necessary to discuss and obtain acceptance for a change in direction of the EUROFAN Project. Therefore, the report includes some elements of evaluation. Without this, it would not have been possible to perform any analysis at all, leaving the reader with rather meagre results. Above all, the necessity to include some evaluative elements was considered as a prerequisite for giving recommendations for future projects and to those who want to use the EUROFACULTY Project as a model example for development of higher education in Russia. Therefore, the report got a much stronger focus on pedagogical considerations than initially planned. Whether this was a correct decision or not can only be judged by the answer to the questions: Is this presentation of ‘new pedagogics’ useful for the reader in her or his work? Does it inspire to further interest?

Due to this, the report is very different from what I expected, and indeed (I believe) from what the commissioners expected. The difference between the expected and actual produced report is most striking in the passages devoted to some pedagogical considerations and analyses. This is, of course, a reflection of the wish to propose a useful and inspiring tool for both planners and participants in future development or specific projects.

It is necessary to say what the reader may discover. There is a certain bias in the report. I may have been a little bit too positive. This stems from the fact that I started to like the project. This created a wish to act like a sunflower, counting the bright hours and not the dark ones. This bias also stems from a full-hearted wish for a good educational system in Russia. I have seen some of the problems. Encouragement is needed and also considered to be a good pedagogical strategy.

During the reading of the material describing the EUROFACULTY Project, I started to feel sympathy, not only for the fundamental ideas behind the project, but also for the people working within it. During the reading, the words had become people and places.


An educational model and the evaluation of it should never neglect the importance of this, ‘I LIKE IT!’ This positive feeling is important for the participants in order to bring the model to become a success and for the evaluator to discover this. One should bear in mind what Jack London said:

The ultimate word is I LIKE. It lies beneath philosophy, and is twined about the heart of life. When philosophy has maundered ponderously for a month, telling the individual what he must do, the individual says, in an instant, ‘I LIKE,’ and does something else, and philosophy goes glimmering. It is I LIKE that makes the drunkard drink and the martyr wear a hair shirt; that makes one man a reveller and another man an anchorite; that makes one man pursue fame, another gold, another love, and another God. Philosophy is very often a man's way of explaining his own I LIKE.

From ’The Cruise of the Snark’

Educational development work can never succeed if there is no enthusiasm and faith. On the other hand there has to be knowledge and reflection. Knowledge of education and educational development work is found in pedagogics. Since it would be an impossible task for one person in a short project to present even a small part of all relevant pedagogical research in one report, I have given priority to the three most important dimensions; pedagogical enthusiasm, faith and reflection.


The report is written in English. On some occasions I have indicated (what I believe) is a relevant pedagogical word in German.

The quotations are in some cases made out of memory, and some of the translations are ’home made’ from about 5 different languages. I hope this is no problem, since the intention of this report is to be explorative and to illustrate a pedagogical approach, and not to perform a systematic analysis of all details included. Most of the special ideas and approaches are my own and reflect reading, experience, research and discussions with many people in different countries through many years. The reason why I dared to write the report as I have is that I have experience from similar development projects, and that the way of reasoning was so well accepted by the participants of the EUROFACULTY Project.

The report is more lengthy than planned or expected, and besides the reasons indicated, I have no other excuse than the words of Blaise Pascal: ’I have done this longer only because I did not have time to make it shorter.’

To the reader:

In the mid 70’s I worked as project leader at the central authority for higher education (UKÄ/UHÄ) in Sweden with the task of introducing project organised learning in higher education. For some years I visited many universities where I gave lectures and held seminars or courses on project orientation. From earlier experience I knew that it is very important to meet university faculty members where they are at home; in their own subject. Since my ’teaching’ aimed at reaching so to say all subjects, I had a very demanding job. I tried, to the best of my ability, to illustrate project orientation using different examples within physics, social work, theology, economics, law, psychology, history ....... even for a group of teachers on a course for ’seaming of hats and blouses’. Seminars, courses and lectures were given in a very friendly and encouraging atmosphere. Sometimes my students, - professors and lecturers, burst out in laughter. I did not always understand why. In the end, I was told that they liked my contribution to their understanding of pedagogics, but they said: ’some of your examples from our science were wrong, outdated or misunderstood, but we understand what you mean’. These critical remarks were always delivered with a smile. They understood that no educationalist is able to be competent in all subjects where he or she is asked to contribute.

I ask the reader of this report for the same understanding and forgiveness. Where I try to illustrate pedagogical analysis with bad examples, demonstrating my lack of proper knowledge, please excuse me and try to understand what I mean.

As already mentioned, this report is not intended to be a treatise, written for the academic world. It aims at inspiring planners, decision makers and participants in educational development.

ON CAUSES. SOME CONSIDERATIONS

I must seek to derive everything from causes ... If I should believe that everything stems from purpose, and then I must admit that I myself could imagine purposes that rested upon a chimera, and that would lead me to pass by the causes. That would be bad for the investigation. In philosophy we must, first of all, derive everything from causes, that is the proper way for philosophy and human mind.

Immanuel Kant


Lectures on Metaphysics.

This quotation brings us to the very core of this investigation. First of all it states that seeking causes behind everything is a task worthy of human beings and human intellect. Secondly, Kant also says that we may seek to explain things by seeking their purpose.

This is exactly what can and should be said about development work in school and education. In order to understand innovative processes in education, we must try to find the forces behind them, what we may call their causes, and the interests of the participants, what we may call purposes. To this we must add that educational development work is a never-ending activity. We shall never reach a status where we may rest in the belief that we have found the perfect and not improvable pedagogical model. Those will be the final words in this report, by Kant, of course.

The most and best we may hope for is that the EUROFACULTY Project is a link between something ’before’ and ’after’, leading the participants to some improvement. On the other hand, we must admit that those who use this string in order to reach to ’the other side’ must be prepared not to find the promised land. Instead, they will probably find a chimera, disappearing in the wild forest that we call ’the educational system’.
Then, what is a chimera? It is a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory and impossible to achieve.
It is my ambition to lead the reader from Kant and back to Kant, seeking and enlightening the ideal or the chimera that inspired and formed the ‘EUROFACULTY Project’.
Causal attribution.

What to seek, the cause ‘in itself’ or the cause ‘that I want to see’? At first glance, the commission for the EUROFAN Project seems quite simple and straightforward; describe a phenomenon and find the causes that set the results.

Everybody who has made investigations into educational projects will know that it is never like that. Some analysts are not interested in ’the thing itself’, so they escape into analysing ’the thing for the participants themselves’. This is, usually, a much simpler task, and consists in asking people what they think and feel. In this case, it would have been possible to interview people who in different capacities took part in the Kaliningrad-project, and ask: ”What is, in your opinion, the causes behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project?” Then I could have registered the answers and written a report on ‘Participants belief on the causes behind success of the EUROFACULTY Project’. I tried this approach, and found it valuable, because some of the answers demonstrated high insight in what had happened and the reasons behind. On the other hand, I felt that there was a striking difference between my pedagogical frame of reference and all the other frames of reference implicit in both written material and oral testimony on the EUROFACULTY Project. It did not take long time to discover that my best contribution would be to strengthen the pedagogical input to the task of ‘modernising’ education in Russia. Therefore I had to find a balance between seeking knowledge from the participants and knowledge from pedagogical development. The aim was to combine specific information from the EUROFACULTY Project and general pedagogics. The price is of course that I lack much knowledge that I could have obtained if I had spent my time interviewing participants. I felt that it should not be my primary task to describe how participants thought of the EUROFACULTY Project, but how it could be analysed and understood in the light of an outsider’s use of pedagogics.

*
What is a ‘cause’?

In order to find ’the thing itself’ (Das Ding an sich), one should start with the question, ’what do we mean when we talk about ’causes’?


Without digging too deep into the problem of what could and should be meant by the concept ’cause’, it seems necessary to make a few remarks.

We may take our point of departure in saying that there exists a world that is governed by causal law, and that cause and effect are not categories constructed by our minds.

On the other hand, we must admit that we do not know the world. We construct it, and when we perceive it, we do this according to the way we have learned to perceive the world. Accordingly, it is also true to say that cause and effect does not always exist in the real world, but are our constructions.

Since we do not live alone, but share our perception of the world with others, we live under a cultural pressure to see the world according to our group, language and traditions. This may be called ’style of thought’ (Fleck) or ‘paradigm’ (Kuhn).

In educational science it is known that we should be careful when we talk about cause and effect, simply because we see what we want to see. This is called ’causal attribution’. The simple illustration is the teacher who says that the pupil is ’lazy’ when he or she fails, but that the pupil ‘had a good teacher’ where success can be ’observed’.

The concept of causal attribution is a useful reminder that there is often (some say ’always’) a subjective element in explanations saying that there exists a cause-effect relationship between two phenomena. This means that we have to convince other people when we say that we have found a causality relation. In scientific research, we know this problem where statistic correlation is established. Some people may take a correlation as proof for causality, while other asks for stronger evidence. This amounts to asking for an acceptable understanding of a process, linking the two phenomena to each other. To mention a modern example: There is a connection between the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and rise in world temperature, but whether this is a causal connection or not is subject to discussion as long as the causal chain is not known.

Concerning the subjective elements of finding causes for success of the EUROFACULTY Project, we should ask for information about each individual who says that the project was a success. We should know their ’style of thought’ and their interests, in order to judge the value or what they say.

We do not know much about these interests. We can only speculate.

The EUROFACULTY Project has consumed not only much time, but also attention from many people. I have had the opportunity to look into their cards, and I have some competence in judging how these cards have been played. There is nothing wrong in saying that, beyond any doubt, these people have not been lazy, that they have been hard working and professional in their decisions. This does not imply that I agree or disagree with their priorities and decisions. That is not the point. I simply say that it is completely normal for a person who has placed a lot of energy, time and effort in a project to have a wish to hear that this has not been wasted, and that it was worth it, in other words to hear that the result was a success.

The EUROFACULTY Project also consumed money. This did not come from the moon, but (to use a modern, often bad expression) from ‘the taxpayers’ in some countries. This transfer was not a result of a computers calculation. It was decided upon by living people with their wish to get credit for their dispositions.


Now, as has been said earlier, it is outside the scope and task of the EUROFAN project to evaluate the EUROFACULTY Project, including answering the question whether it was a success or not. I have to take the declaration at face value.

Cause and effect, or what?

In order to pick flowers, you have to bow your face to the ground, asking a much humbler question: ’what was or became the important factors contributing to the good results of the EUROFACULTY Project?

Sometimes, it is not proper to ask for causes in the strict ’cause and effect’-relationship. It may be more correct to ask for ’conditions’. Here, one may find on the one hand that there are conditions that help, improve or accelerate the results, or conversely conditions that work in the opposite direction. Some of the ’positive conditions’ may be necessary, the Latin expression being ’conditio sine qua non’, meaning a ’condition without which the results would not have been obtained or reached’.

In physics, it is important to explain phenomena as the result of causes. If you, in an experiment, find a cause, you can repeat the experiment. In case you are not quite sure, you can repeat the experiment as many time as you like or can afford. Still better, you can describe the experiment, so that other scientists can repeat it. If the scientific community agrees, you may claim to have discovered the cause behind the phenomenon.

In the science of history, this is virtually impossible. If you feel that you have found the cause behind a war, you cannot make an experiment and start the same war again. Even if you thought of doing so, you know that you start another war, not the same. This makes all experiments in history invalid in the search for causes. All explanations within the science of history have the character of being hypothetical. The only thing you may do is to give reasons to believe that your explanation is more or less correct.

In educational science, the situation is the same. Here, the scientists find themselves facing the old problem whether it is possible to descend into a river more that once. If you try to do it a second time, it is another river, because it always changes.

It may be important for the reader of this report to have this ‘soft’ interpretation of the concept of ‘cause’ in mind.


The challenge, - to understand or to know.
Ilya Ehrenburg once said that; ’the soldier knows the war, but does not understand it. The historian understands the war, but does not know it’.

The educationalist that approaches an educational experiment after it has been completed can be compared with a social anthropologist who has been dropped into a ’wild’ society, consisting of different tribes, chiefs, tools, economies et cetera. Besides this, there is a very specific language, or a ’linguistic community’ that has to be understood. Just think of this: As I first heard about the EUROFACULTY Project in Kaliningrad, I had a normal concept of a university faculty in my mind, expecting to find a faculty of law, a faculty of medicine and so on, and even a ’Faculty of Euro’ mainly focusing upon the introduction of the Euro monetary unit in different countries!

How to meet the challenge?
One of the problems facing all scientific work is that it is impossible to know and to understand everything. This is what Ilya Ehrenburg is saying about the historian and the soldier in the above citation. The problem is that neither the soldier nor the historian has total knowledge. Both must rely on glimpses, the soldier from different scenes where he or she took part or directly observed, and the historian from what he or she has read or been told. For both, their knowledge is fragmented. Still, they may claim that they have valid understanding and knowledge that permits them to say something about ’the war’. How dare they?

The educationalist that tries to say something about a specific school, an educational experiment or a development process is in the same situation. He or she does not know in toto their research object. What they have is only this: glimpses. Nothing more.


These glimpses of reality are, at best, some examples, telling something about a part of reality.
Reading different documents from the EUROFACULTY Project may be considered to be acquiring glimpses of the reality as the participants perceived some ’situations’. Admitting that, one may find some comfort in reading Wittgenstein who says that the rules that we can establish from different examples (Beispiele) only go as far as our examples. In this case, the glimpses must be seen as a tool for understanding some ’reality’. What happened, and why?
Of course it is not solely the number of examples that may convince people. Much depends upon the reasons that support every statement concerning what the examples are in fact examples of. This way of thinking is reflected in the text of this report.

In Wittgenstein’s work, he says that the examples are examples of something. For our purpose, we may consider the examples that we find not to be random, but representations of the EUROFACULTY Project. Further, they are interconnected, by the real ’thing’ or ’process’. In our minds, we face the task of binding them together. We have the possibility to see (or believe to see) das ’Ding an sich’ so far as we are able to see analogies between the examples. It is important to say this in order to avoid over-interpretations of the content of this report. Analogies are, in the words of Kant, the crutches of our mind. They may be useful, but represent no guarantee. Sometimes they break.

Thus, the reading of this report should be done with both Wittgenstein and Kant in mind.


Was the EUROFACULTY Project a success?

As already indicated, it was decided not to focus solely upon opinions about the EUROFACULTY Project. On the other hand, it was useful to ask people what they thought.

There was no disagreement that the project had been a success. Nobody considered it to have been a failure. Of course I tried to discover if any explanations for this success could be found. In some of the discussions my partners said that it evidently had been a success because the EUROFACULTY Project had succeeded in changing many things. Asking people to be more specific, I got answers like this:

The ’Bologna transformation’.

Reduction of time spent on lectures.

Improvement of the quality of lectures. (Overhead and equipment, more active ’performance’ by the teacher than just dictating texts etc).

Production of material.

Improvement of libraries.

Increased opportunities for the use of Internet and computers.

Transformation of curricula.


The problem is that these indicators of success represent descriptions and not causes or explanations. As an example: ‘The curriculum change took place because it was decided to do so.’ Another example: ‘The EUROFACULTY Project was successful because the university got resources to improve its quality’.
After some discussions with some of the participants, there was agreement that these answers did not contribute to a deeper insight in the causes behind the success.

In some cases, some information was found, that seemed to be valuable: ‘Lectures improved, because written material was produced. Accordingly, the teachers did not have to dictate during lessons.’

The basic assumption being that the dictation during lessons was not done because the teachers wanted to do so, but because there was no written material available. This sounds reasonable, and much more positive than saying that there were some ‘old fashioned teachers’ that stuck to outmoded traditions.

The problem was however, that there was no material to support the basic assumption that (all) teachers wanted to abandon the dictating and therefore were eager to improve their lecture as soon as this became possible.

Some information was given, indicating that there had been some evaluation of the improvements in the quality of lecturing. Unannounced visits by observers had been made. These observations confirmed the impression of improvement. Unfortunately, it was not possible to find or to get access to the (supposedly existing) protocols. This does not mean that the observations had not been made. They may have been made, but not documented, or the protocols have disappeared after the EUROFACULTY Project was finished.
Why was pedagogical expertise not brought into the EUROFACULTY Project?

As an educationalist, I expected that the EUROFACULTY had been evaluated, and that my point of departure would be some evaluation reports made by competent pedagogues. To my surprise, this was not possible since no pedagogical evaluation had been done. It was understandable that this would have been difficult during the turmoil of the first phase of the EUROFACULTY Project. Now, one may ask, why did the project leadership not change the focus of the later analysis of the project from the more ’administrative’ towards a more pedagogical approach after the green light for the second phase had been given and the project proceeded into a calmer and more stable development? The answer is, probably, that there was no calm and stable development. As can be read from documents, e-mail and supplemented by many interviews, the project has exercised a tremendous working pressure upon the participants. There was no room for deeper considerations. There seems to have been no ’situation’ where and when the question was on the agenda: ’Do we need the pedagogues?’

I have asked this question on some occasions, but have got only few and rather vague answers. One answer was precise: ’If we had asked for pedagogical assistance or a pedagogical evaluation, it would have cost money, without any guarantee that we would get anything useful in return. We would have run the risk of being invited to finance a long term academic research project ending up only in a scholarly article to be published in an international journal of pedagogics some years after the EUROFACULTY Project had finished.’

Can pedagogues be of any use?

The message is received. I may understand and accept this explanation because I have had the opportunity to get an insight into the workload placed upon the leadership and the participants of the EUROFACULTY Project. Still, I cannot resist the temptation to say this: If one wants to build a power plant, nobody would dream of doing this without engineers. If you want to build a hospital, nobody would give you the recourses to do so if you told that you planned to do it without involving medical personnel. Why is it then that we leave experiments and educational reforms to politicians and administrators and not to the experts in pedagogics? The answer is, partly, that pedagogues do not give proper credit to each other for taking part in or making pedagogical innovations. It seems to be much safer if you want to follow an academic career to describe and analyse the educational experiments made by non-pedagogues. Therefore it may be difficult to get qualified pedagogues to do practical jobs in development work.

It is true that too much pedagogical effort is invested in interpreting the world, and too little in changing it. This criticism is most sharply formulated by the German educationalist Klafki. His demand is that pedagogics has a responsibility to ’act’. He calls this the ’pragmatic responsibility’ of pedagogics. This means that all needs in both education and in society may find allies in the world of pedagogical science. In my view, there is a responsibility for everyone who is involved in educational experiments or development work to seek and ask for pedagogical assistance or guidance, above all to ask for help in evaluating both process and outcome of the different attempts to improve the pedagogical everyday life in school and in higher education.

As mentioned elsewhere in this report, it may be of crucial importance for all countries to compete in a global world where investments are made in the educational system. These investments are not only a question of money, but also about input to reach a high degree of pedagogical quality. This can only be achieved if pedagogics finds a balance between theoretical/empirical efforts and ’pragmatic’/practical work.

This message goes in two directions. Pedagogues must be willing to work in practical development projects, even if this does not give proper credit in the academic hierarchy. It gives other rewards. On the other hand, people working in practical educational development projects must ask for pedagogical advice and assistance. It may be rewarding.

As indicated, there was no guarantee that the leaders of the EUROFACULTY Project would have found competent pedagogues who were willing to go into the EUROFACULTY Project in order to give useful advice and feed back, but an attempt should have been made.
Recommendation:

The recommendation for future projects along the line of the EUROFACULTY Project is that one should seek qualifications where they might be found. In educational development and experiments, the first place to seek is in pedagogics.


THE REFERENCE GROUP

It was planned to set up a reference group for the EUROFAN project. The group consisted of


Børge Klemmensen, Senior lecturer, Roskilde University

Mads Meinert, Trust fund Coordinator, Nordic Council of Ministers

and Professor. Dr. Rolf Schulmeister, Universität Hamburg
These extremely competent people, with a combined deep insight in the EUROFACULTY Project and both theoretical pedagogics and educational development work were intended to act as supporters and advisers to the EUROFAN Project. Since all of them are very busy people, living and working in many countries, the work in the project was strongly supported by the also very competent and friendly Bjarke W. Bøtcher, Senior Adviser at the CBSS Secretariat in Stockholm.

It took some time before the reference group could meet. In the meantime, I had contacts with them on an individual basis.

During my work I had to consider the interests behind the EUROFAN Project.

As far as I understood, the EUROFACULTY Project was part of a schedule aiming at making Europe both a better place and more competitive. Therefore, the intention of finding the causes behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project was not only to look back, but also to look forward. The task is, as I understand it, to learn from the EUROFACULTY Project in order to improve future cooperation in education in all three parts of Europe, Central Europe (where Kaliningrad is situated) and the parts east and west of this geographical centre. Accordingly, the most important thing is this:



  1. To learn from the EUROFACULTY Project in order to reach recommendations for future educational development work in Central and Eastern Europe.

  2. To see the experience from the EUROFACULTY Project not as the results of a finished project, but as a point of departure for future development work at IKSUR.

Against this background I continued my work in the EUROFAN Project until the first meeting with the Reference group.

The meeting with the reference group took place in Copenhagen on the 17 November 2007. During that meeting I proposed to extend the commission of the EUROFAN Project in the direction of some necessary educational evaluation and to strengthen the focus upon giving recommendations for future work on the basis of experience from the EUROFACULTY Project. In this way it was considered to be a good chance of getting a reasonable return from the investment in the EUROFAN Project.
There was agreement on this.
During the contacts in the form of interviews/ discussions with participants I was convinced that this was a correct decision.

INTERVIEWS AND DISCUSSIONS WITH PARTICIPANTS.

An interview is one of the most interesting tools in many sciences. However, interviews are time consuming. What method of interviewing you choose depends on the task and resources.

Interviews may be standardized, or they may be more open. In this project, I decided to use open interviews. I also decided that I preferred a model mainly based on ‘discussions’. The reason for this is that you simply cannot expect to get good, reflected answers if you ask the question; ’What were the factors behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project?’ I tried it, but got answers like: ’How do you know that it was a success?’ or; ’I have heard that it was declared to be a success, but I have not seen the evaluation and the documentation for this.’

This was clearly a blind alley. I had to use a much more humble strategy, and decided to abandon the ’interview approach’. I started discussions, and then everything went much better. In fact, most people exploded with joy and friendliness. Perhaps they had expected to be spending a tedious hour structured as a row of already decided, fixed questions. Instead, people went into the discussions with eagerness and honesty.

The time span of these discussions was from 1 hour at the shortest, up to a whole day in some cases.

I have had discussions with participants in the EUROFACULTY Project in 10 different places in 5 different countries.

The people I met, were students, teachers, professors, other university staff and civil servants. Some of them worked in universities, others in different ministries and organisations. Mostly, I only met them once. Some I met on several occasions.


In some cases the discussions were videotaped. For different reasons, I sometimes decided not to ask for permission to use my video camera.

In the cases where the discussions were videotaped I explained that I wanted, according to my ability, to be an interesting discussion partner. This would be much easier if I could use a video camera instead of taking notes during the session.


Most of the discussions took place between two people, my discussion partner and myself. In other cases, we sat in a rather crowded room.

In some cases, it was necessary to use an interpreter. Then, due to the purpose of the videotaping, the camera was focused on the interpreter and not on the person speaking.


In all cases, I sought to finish the discussion by asking the participants if I had wasted their time. Of course I am biased, but I had a feeling that they spoke the truth when they expressed the view that it had been interesting to discuss pedagogical matters related to the EUROFACULTY Project.
Some of the discussions developed into real arguments, but never with any touch of unfriendliness.
Promises:

I promised that no person should be quoted. Further, I promised not to tell the names of my discussion partners, or the institutions at which they worked, or what functions they have. The videotapes were their property, and I promised to send them to the participants after the project was finished.

Result: I believe that I got honest, relevant information from my discussion partners.

I ended up with about 20 hours of videotapes and about 10 hours of discussions that were not video taped.

The material was most useful, not only because it gave important information, but also because the discussions fully illuminated how the EUROFACULTY Project was built upon the work of devoted people who considered the project to be an important part of their life for so many years. My initial words in this report: ‘Life is personal. This is personal’ represent a condensed impression from these discussions.
Here I found one of the important factors behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project:

One of the important factors behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project was that it grasped not only the brains of the participants, but also that the project became an important part of their personal life.

On the difference between interviews and discussions.

In the toolbox of social science, the interview is an analogy of the experiment in natural science. It may be seen as a task for the social scientist to make this analogy as good as possible. One consideration is to ensure that interviews are as similar as possible, both in performance and in the process of analysis. Therefore, one seeks to make sure that, as far as possible, ’the same interview’ is made with different people. To achieve this, the interviews have to be planned and the interviewers trained. The aim should be to minimize differences in the interview ’situations’, and so on.

The value of the interview depends also upon validity: that the questions asked and the answers given are related to what the research seeks to find out. The questions may be the same, with no variation from one interview situation to another, but normally, the answers have to be coded and fitted into some categories. Therefore it is necessary to ensure intra-coder reliability, making sure that the coder places the same answer in the same category at different times. If the coding includes more than one coder, the inter-coder reliability must be ensured, so that different coders place the same answer in the same category.

This description may help to illustrate just how seriously interviews are treated within social science.
In the EUROFACULTY Project, an interview could have been like this:

Q: Do you feel that you had the necessary qualification for doing the job you were expected to do in this project?

A: Of course, I am a well-known professor in my subject.
If I had carried out interviews with 3 of the, say, 30 teachers who were involved in the teaching of this subject, I could have reached a conclusion, saying that: ’Out of 30 teachers, 3 were interviewed. All three expressed the conviction that they had the necessary qualifications for being participants in the project.”

This would probably not be too wrong, but it would not have helped much.

The discussion approach.

K: (me) You say that you consider yourself to be competent for doing your job in the project?

P: (participant) Yes, I am a well-known professor in my subject.

K: What was, by the way, your job in the project?

P: Well, it was to teach my subject.

K: Who says that this was your job?

P: You ask a rather peculiar question. If I am invited to take part in an international task like the EUROFACULTY Project, of course it is to teach within my area of competence.

K: Are you so sure about that? Was it not a task also to raise the standard of teaching? As I have read the indicated objectives of the project, this was important.

P: Yes, I know that.

K: Are you an expert in teaching your subject?

P: Yes, I have always heard that I am a good teacher.

K: But have you had any education in teaching your subject?

P: No, there was some talk about pedagogical competence when I got my job, but that was more or less automatically granted.

K: Could not the teachers at IKSUR say the same?

P: Sure, if you know your subject, you also know how to teach.

K: You mean that the objective to improve the pedagogical quality at that other university was not necessary, because one may, like in your case, suppose that the teachers already had that competence.

P: Now it is getting interesting!

K: Have you read any books or periodicals on how to teach in your subject?

P: Are there books or periodicals on that topic?

K: Sure!


P: But I want to defend myself. The issue was considered in the project. Some of the teachers at the university visited my university, and I think they got an impression on how to lecture on our subject.

K: Do you think that ‘impression’ is a good way to learn a subject? Is it not necessary for somebody to teach, for somebody to learn? Can a student learn by impressions alone? Is reading not necessary in order to learn?

P: Of course reading is necessary in all subjects.

K: Except in pedagogics?

P: Probably not. But I must mention that there were some lectures on how to teach, as part of the project, and probably there was some literature on pedagogics.

K: If that is correct, can one not say that the teachers at IKSUR are better qualified than you are, concerning pedagogics, since they are educated in pedagogics, what you are not? If we suppose that the EUROFACULTY Project was sufficient for bringing the teachers at IKSUR up to ‘international standards’, as the intention was, they have got a better and perhaps more modern education in the teaching of your subject than you have.

P: These are really interesting questions. I never thought in that direction. It seems as if pedagogics may be useful.

The result of this discussion would of course be very different from that which could have been obtained through the interview-approach. This description is constructed, but based upon real experience, in order to illustrate how and why I have written this report as I have. The discussions gave me some hints and ideas of the internal realities in the project that I would never have uncovered through either the written material or through interviews. Still better, they gave me valuable clues for formulating proposals for future projects. The final advantage may be that the discussions, combined with the material, gave me more ideas that I had hoped for, hence the unexpected volume of this report.

As indicated elsewhere, the insight that is described here should have been the result of a thorough pedagogical evaluation of the EUROFACULTY Project. This was not the intended task of the EUROFAN Project, but the job had to be done. One of the solutions was the described ’discussion approach’. This approach does not prove anything. The ’findings’ may be false or irrelevant, but I hope that my descriptions and analysis may be useful as ideas for future use.





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