Kjell Askeland Report


STUDENTS GOING ABROAD, PERIGESIS OR QUALIFICATION?



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STUDENTS GOING ABROAD, PERIGESIS OR QUALIFICATION?
Wenn jemand eine Reise tut,

So kann er was verzählen.

D'rum nahm ich meinen Stock und Hut

Und tät das Reisen wählen.

The Greeks had a word for people who travelled with no other purpose that ’to look around’, (perigesis) a concept that might suit much of modern tourism, as described by Knut Hamsun.

What the Greeks hailed, was the reflective knowledge-seeking traveller who sought the inner quality behind the appearance of phenomena.

In the EUROFACULTY Project, many measures were taken and many ’tools’ used in order to achieve the goals, but in the planning process there were no attempt to use the student or the student organisation as an active part of the program.

Against that background, it was astonishing to find that sending some students from Kaliningrad abroad became a part of the program for one of the two parallel projects, namely law.

This ’sending students abroad as part of an educational reform’ is referred to as ’student mobility’, perhaps expressing thinking in line with for example, the intentions behind the Erasmus programme. The expression ’student mobility’ seems to be a bit misleading, because neither the intention nor the declared objective was to give the opportunity for some individual students to become ’mobile’ in order to pursue their own academic career. The intention seems rather to have been that it should be a ’tool’ for and within the EUROFACULTY Project. That makes a difference. One should therefore primarily not ask whether these individual students had some personal benefit from being a visiting student at another university, but rather if and how this sending abroad students may be considered to be ’a factor of success’ for the EUROFACULTY Project.

Unfortunately, there was no educational research carried out in order to gather information about this. The interesting thing would have been to find out if these students performed a ’perigesis’ or if they by visiting these foreign universities were helped to develop a deeper insight that might have been used to improve the reform work in Kaliningrad. As far as I could observe, no systematic effort was made to ’educate’ these students to do their part of the reform work. What could have been done was to prepare the students to become more qualified ’observers’ before they went abroad. As far as can be seen there was no plan or system for ensuring that their experience was reported in any systematic way to those who did not go abroad.

Information and experience seem to have been brought back, but in a personal and informative way. As an outside observer of what happened some time ago, I have the feeling that both personal and financial resources could have been better utilised if both ’preparation’ and ’reporting’ had been done in a more systematic way. I did not get any information about the use of research in this area.

Student participation in the planning and running of the EUROFACULTY Project.

The issue that is touched upon here brings another topic to the surface, namely the participation of the students. Of course, they were part of the project, but there is no evidence indicating that they took part in the planning of the project or in the ongoing processes.

In this context, it should be remembered that the educational/pedagogical reforms of 69- 70-ties was a united movement, including the diffusion of ideas between student movements (sometimes in cooperation with educational ministries and other planning agencies) in many different countries. One may go so far as to say that without the students participation in educational reforms, there would have perhaps been no ’group focus’, no stress upon ’active learning’, or ’change of lecturing’. It is these issues that constitute the main objective for the EUROFACULTY Project. Without ’student exchange’ Roskilde would probably not have been so worthwhile visiting.

I tried to put the question to some of the participants concerning if and how the students organisations in Kaliningrad were active in the project, but I got no informative answer. Therefore, I have the impression that the students were not considered to be a resource for the EUROFACULTY Project.

Student exchange and the project plan.

It was outside the scope of the EUROFAN Project to investigate the background of the student exchange program, how it came into being and developed. As far as can be seen, this part of the project was not intended from the beginning. There was an argument about the introduction of student exchange. Since it was not planned, it had to be seen as a supplement to the project. The discussion seems to have been whether this supplement could be accepted or not.

Strictly, that question belongs to the topic of the organisation of the EUROFACULTY Project, but since it is also a part of the student exchange program, I shall make some comments on it here.

It has not been possible to dig especially deep into the circumstances that led to incorporating this part of the reform programme in law, or to explain why it was not introduced in the same way in the economics part. Of course, it is outside the task and scope of the EUROFAN project to judge whether such an extension or change of plans was acceptable or not. This must be seen as something that is within the framework of contracts between project leadership and the participants of the EUROFACULTY Project. However, there is the question of whether the project plan should be considered to be a detail-regulating plan or a framework plan. Information concerning the problem indicates that it was a framework plan. The project leadership did not see them as running the project. They understood the settings as a framework regulated project. Within these frameworks, the participants in the two consortia could and should run the project more or less on their own. This is in accordance both with academic freedom, modern planning and the need to run the project not ’from above’, but as a cooperative joint undertaking by equal partners.
Student exchange, a factor behind success.

Saying enough about the aspect of ’legitimacy’ for this supplement to the project, in hindsight it must be added that all information indicates that this ’civil disobedience’ was a positive factor for the success of the law project. The question then immediately rises why it was not adopted and accelerated for the economics project as well. Putting this question to the leadership of the economics project, they said that they would have liked to, but did not dare because it was not planned or foreseen.


*

Even if the process or the impact upon the EUROFACULTY Project is not documented or analysed, there should be no doubt that it played a positive role. Everyone who has met and discussed things with these students must have got an impression of the enthusiasm they developed. This enthusiasm must have had an impact upon the overall positive feeling ’at home’.

A personal glimpse:

Sitting together with Professor Rauschning in his home in the vicinity of Göttingen for a whole day discussing with him, I lamented on several occasions that the success of the EUROFACULTY Project has not been documented or verified. To this, he answered that he had impressive evidence of its success, whereupon he invited me to another table. Here we spent some time in looking through his photo-album, showing pictures of students and teachers from Kaliningrad. They were indeed very revealing and impressive! No propaganda film could have demonstrated in a more convincing way that there was a feeling of success among these people. I said that my own impression of the success of the project had been strengthened, but it would have been better if these pictures had been illustrations to a pedagogical report. We both agreed.

It may be interesting to note that the report on the Tartu-Riga-Vilnius EuroFaculty Projects 1993-2005 uses this ’illuminative evaluation through pictures of happy people’ in much the same way as professor Rauschning did. It is an extra push for everyone who is more or less convinced already.

Conclusion and recommendations:

The student exchange program was introduced as an initiative from the consortium in the law project. The acceptance of this by the main leadership of the EUROFACULTY Project must be interpreted as a sign of strong leadership. In turn, my information indicates that it was a good idea and that it must be considered to be a factor behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project.

The student exchange program should be a part of future EUROFACULTY Projects.

This should be seen as an integral part of the project, and as a ’tool’ for improving the innovative force of the project.

The students who go abroad should be trained to be ’observers’ and ’reporters’ in order to generate enthusiasm, interest and the level of knowledge in all participants within the EUROFACULTY Project.

It should also be part of a process aiming at getting the students into an active role, not just as active individual students, but also as responsible cooperative partners in the leadership of the projects, both in their planning and running.
The more or less subjective view that may be expressed is, that, based upon the experience from the EUROFACULTY Project, it is recommended that the ’sending of students abroad’ should be included as an integral part of future ’EuroFaculty’ projects.

ON ORGANISATION.

Main considerations on organisation.

The organisation of the EUROFACULTY Project gives the impression that it was not a result of amateur or theoretical thinking, but was build upon experience from harsh reality. This experience had to be delicate, considering the very specific challenges implied in multi-national participation between many different partners. Everyone who knows the difficulties involved in ’foreign aid’-projects knows (or should know) the difference between ’donating projects’ and ’cooperative projects’. New research into foreign aid seems to confirm the importance of mutual respect, and to encourage the ’receivers’ not only to receive, but also to design. The purpose of this is two-sided. On the one hand there is the issue of psychology, stressing that aid should never have any element of humiliation for the receivers. Quite the opposite, - in order to make maximum use of the resources, the competence of the receivers should play an important role, both in the decision on what to do with them and how to do it.

In the EUROFACULTY Project, this element seems to have been present during the whole process. The message has been; ’do not tell the Russians what to do or how to do it, - rely instead upon their interest and competence’.

Of course it is not that simple. In all educational development work, even in a local community, the designers know that their plans or dreams will be twisted and changed by the participants. If you cannot accept that, please leave reality and go back to your books and theoretical work.

Educational development work is very different from laboratory research under strictly determined conditions, and includes a balance between autonomy and discipline. This is the guiding principle behind success.
Reading the papers and discussing with the participants of the EUROFACULTY Project gives the impression that beyond any reasonable doubt this issue was one of the core considerations throughout the whole project. Autonomy was ensured through delegation of responsibilities, and discipline was maintained through the reporting system. Besides this, there was a continuous message from the project leadership that, if assistance was needed, it would normally be forthcoming, from big issues till the solution of minor problems. On the other hand, the project leadership did not hesitate to bring out the big knives if a job was not done or done in the wrong way, or not done on time. The biggest ’knife’ was the signal that the whole project or part of it could be stopped.

The specific instances when this occurred are too well described in the annual reports that is seems unnecessary to go into detail. Besides, it cannot be the task of the EUROFAN project to act as a judge, giving verdicts concerning who was right and who was wrong in these specific cases.

As I have said above, the design and planning of the EUROFACULTY Project indicates that it was done by very capable people and with experience from other projects. The main sources of experience, explicitly given in the papers and confirmed in discussions, are the TEMPUS program and the previous EUROFACULTY Projects in the Baltic States.

An example: The experience from the Baltic EuroFaculty Projects at the main universities in Estonia. Latvia and Lithuania was that it was not a good solution to build and run EuroFaculty units separated from the ’normal’ units. Instead, it was decided that in the EUROFACULTY Project in Kaliningrad the ’EuroFaculty’ objectives and strategies should be cultivated as parts of the already established faculties of economics and law. Several reasons may help us decide that this was a good decision. First of all, the members of faculty who were reluctant or even against the EuroFaculty ideas and the project as a whole did not have to do anything special in order not to take part in it. The EuroFaculty came about through a series of small steps and thus it was accepted as a process rather then one single and final decision. It was argued that the EuroFaculty developed a new ‘culture’ that probably, in the long run, would exercise a positive influence on the sceptics making them more likely in time to cooperate within it.

The splitting into a traditional and a EuroFaculty model that was avoided in Kaliningrad had also another advantage; there was no question what to do in order to ’unite’ the two different faculties at the ending of the project.

It seems as if the organisational model that was adopted, both minimized the conflict potential and, when there were conflicts, it served its purpose by solving them in a way that did not jeopardize future cooperation. The main element that contributed to this seemed to be the ’framework’ model of organisation. This alternative to a detailed and top ruled organisation, gave the lower levels autonomy to make decisions within given frameworks. As long as the reports informed the project leadership that things were going on in an expected and planned way there was no reason to intervene or to abandon the autonomy. Both this organisational way of thinking, and the adopted model ensured the main control of the project and the equality between the partners. This opinion was expressed during some discussions I held with the participants. I sometimes raised the question of how to seek financial support for further cooperation with Russia, and what could hinder this being granted. One of the participants said that ‘bad press’ about misuse of EU money affected people’s attitude to EU more negatively than did general speeches arguing along political lines. Therefore strong leadership of the EUROFACULTY Project should be considered to be an advantage.

Focus upon some aspects of organisation.

There seem to have been some weaknesses in the organisation. These should be mentioned, because they could have a bearing upon future projects.


Need for a unifying forum of participants.

From the view of the participants the EUROFACULTY Project it seems to have been more fragmented than necessary. There were so many things happening at the same time, within different places and in different parts of the organisation. Some of the participants felt that a very limited number among the leadership had a total overview of the project and its different activities. I cannot verify this. The important thing however is that this feeling was expressed.

One important factor behind the success of educational projects is, in my experience, the ’we-feeling’ that develops among the participants. I have never felt the importance of this more intense than in Roskilde during the time the university was under attack from both the press and parts of the political establishment. These attacks that mostly rested upon misunderstandings, contributed to the improvement of the inner codes of ’we-feeling’ at the university. This ’we-feeling’ had developed and was fostered during the intense internal debate on new teaching and learning methods that characterised ’the Roskilde model.

It may be considered to have been a weakness of the EUROFACULTY Project that there was no unifying forum where all the participants could meet. As this would have been impossible for them to meet physically, it could (perhaps) have been possible to establish and run a cheaply written ’project news’ for distribution. This would have given not only factual information on the development of the project, but could also have informed the rest of the university what the objectives and fundamental pedagogical ideas were all about.

Quality in the reporting system.

Reading the documentation from the project, one may get the feeling that there was too little concern about the quality within the reporting system. As an example, some of the differences between the two sub-projects that were mentioned cannot be interpreted as real differences. In not all but in some cases, they can just as well be seen as differences in the routines of reporting. I have found no indication of activities that aimed at ensuring, or at least improving, the reliability and validity within the reporting system. Since so much of both project leadership and evaluation rested upon different types of reports, this could represent a potential for improvement in later projects.

Having said this, I must express the feeling, partly strengthened in discussions, that there are no indications of people having made or delivered too positive reports. On the contrary, there have been some indications that there were results (or successes) that were not reported due to weakness in the reporting routines.
Consortia.

The general opinion was that the system with ’consortia’ seemed to have worked very well. Since my personal contacts with many participants were not performed as strict interviews but as open discussions sometimes including disagreements there is good reason to believe that my partners were honest, telling the truth in how they felt. Against that background, it was interesting to hear all the expressions of mutual respect and the like as the participants talked about the co-operators in the two consortia. The only problem encountered here was in the actual establishment of the consortia.

There seems to have been no unwillingness to join the consortium. The problem was of a different kind.

Parts of the academic world are made up of individual specialists. This is a result of the demand for teaching within a broad curriculum. If a curriculum within a subject is supposed to include a special topic, the institute may only be able to afford to have one person to teach this topic. If he or she wants to have contacts with other specialists in the same topic, they are working at another institution. This does not mean that there is no contact with colleagues at the same institution. What I am saying is that specialisation can lead to an element of loneliness, stemming from so few daily contacts within the speciality. This may be part of the explanation why it is sometimes difficult to get an institution to commit itself to a joint cooperative task with other institutions.

There was no explanation given to explain the difficulties in establishing the consortia, and why some of the candidate institutions did not continue the initially expressed interest as partners, but the element mentioned above may have played a role.

In a few cases, my discussion partners expressed the view that cooperation in research is easy to establish, but that they ’had no idea how to organise a project development consortium’. This indicates a certain weakness in the project organisation that deserves consideration in future projects.

This problem touches upon a related problem that is outside the framework of the EUROFAN Project. A message from Kaliningrad expressed regrets that some of the other universities who had been candidates for cooperation within the consortia did not join. It was to be hoped that this would not make it difficult for establishing future contacts and cooperation with these universities. Message hereby delivered.


Leadership personality in the EUROFACULTY Project.
From the top leadership of the EUROFACULTY Project I got full access to all documents, including e-mail, letters and personal written remarks appertaining to the documentation text written by authorities and other people. The documents included letters from ministries in many countries, e-mails concerning hotel and travel bookings for visitors, and of course internal papers (including drafts) for the EUROFACULTY Project itself.

One of the most impressive things was to get an insight into how seriously documents were treated from both inside and outside the organisation of the EUROFACULTY Project. The way to discover this is simply to read through the same documents as they have read, and look for signs of this seriousness. These signs consist of notes on the content written in the margins or as parts of the text being underlined. The density, frequency and content of the notes must be taken as valid and reliable information for every analyst who asks questions like: Were the leaders of the EUROFACULTY Project taking their task seriously?


Here it must be said that as an academic, who has spent the major part of his life in academic institutions, I have developed the normal attitude towards ’the leaders’ of higher education in all countries. I have known so many of them, and read so many documents, that I have now adopted the rather common attitude among the soldiers on the battlegrounds of everyday life in the academic institutions which says that ’the bureaucrats up there’ are nice people, but they are not seriously interested in us or in our work. It is not so easy to convince an academic like me that this might be wrong.
I was convinced, and the more I read, the more impressed I became.

The material, as described above, gives substantial support to the conclusion that one of the most important factors behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project was that its top leaders can and must be described as follows:

They were experienced people, more devoted to the task in hand than to their own interests.
They were more devoted to their task than one may have expected, spending much more time and energy on it than is usually the case for ‘bureaucrats’.
Of course, when one experiences thing like this, it is important to keep cool, telling yourself that ’this cannot be true’.

The scientific answer to this is to check the information and the impression. This has been done, to the best of my ability. The conclusion is confirmed.


In one of the discussions, where ’the factors behind success’ was being discussed, a participant said that the unique group of people making up the leadership of the EUROFACULTY Project should be included as one of these success factors. I therefore asked if this participant could recommend this leadership to lead future EUROFACULTY Projects. This was confirmed.
Of course, it is impossible to ask for the same leadership again. Besides, even if it should be possible, this would be no guarantee for success.
On the necessity of both brain and heart.

In organisations, there may be two types of CC-people, the Core Commanding people or the Core Caretaking people. In the EUROFACULTY Project, there are no candidates for the first title, but some who deserve the title Core Caretaking people; I hereby name them the CC-people.

I am not going to mention their names. This is not because I am not sure that they deserve the title, As a matter of fact, after reading mails and documents and after having interviewed and discussed with many people, I am certain that they deserve a medal. That is not the problem. The problem is that there are other people who also deserve medals, and I have not mentioned them. So my list of names would be incomplete and therefore not fair to these others.

In military campaigns and on battlefields, there are rules and information systems regulating the decisions of bestowing medals on individuals, ensuring the right person receives the right medal. In educational battlefields, we have no such medal for ’Distinguished Service’ or for ’Extraordinary Courage’. Yet these qualities can be found here too. People do their deeds, not because they crave medals, but because they have a primary motivation to do their jobs as well as they possibly can.

The job he or she does is as indicated in the (hidden) title. CC is the one of being Core Caretaking person. It is clear for everyone who has had the opportunity to observe the structure, the everyday life and development of the EUROFACULTY Project that the success very much depended upon the CC-people. Some of them have been in central position, but we also find CC-people in the wings.

I would like to give names of the people who deserve the title of CC-people, but since I do not know all possible candidates, I bestow no medals.

I know that there are theories of leadership saying that people work best in organisations that are permeated by Core Caretaking people. At the same time the other type of the CC function must be present. The Core Caretaking people must also, when necessary be Core Commanding people.

This was also found in the EUROFACULTY Project. I have become aware of people who have really made enormous efforts to encourage and comfort and thus bringing the project forward. It has also been very clear that they have done this within certain limits. Where and when they have seen that caretaking alone does not work, they have been willing to use every measure from warnings and harsh medicine to drive the project forwards according to the plans and intentions. In no case does there seem to have been be misuse of this. The strategy has always been; care and help first, but if results are not been produced, within time and scope, there will be negative consequences, including stopping the project or parts of it.


Since I have had the opportunity to make a close investigation into another analogous project, the planning, founding and development of Roskilde University Centre, I am able (at least to some extent) to compare. Roskilde University Centre, RUC, was launched and designed by Core Caretaking people. They were present, both at the university, and within the central planning authorities. (The Planning Council for Higher Education in Denmark). When the university started, the Core Commanding political leadership of the Ministry for Education took over, with negative consequences for RUC.

RUC survived, but there was a risk that the transition from Core Caretaking to Core Command without Caretaking had brought the university down.

The two examples, RUC and the Kaliningrad projects, serve to illustrate that one should never take the presence and use of both Core Caretaking and Core Command for granted in educational projects.

The important thing is to say that there are reasons to consider that the Core Caretaking combined (when necessary) with Core Command was one of the important factors behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project. This success would (in my opinion, shared with other people) not have taken place if Caretaking and Command had not both been present and used in the project.
Care as a part of ’habitus’ and the ’culture’ or ’codes’ of an institution.

This should be emphasised in the planning process by people in leading positions. If the leaders of a development project do not show their commitment to Caretaking, it will be more difficult for other people to appreciate the value of this, and thus the mutual help so necessary in order to survive during the innovation process, will not work as well.

An example from another university:

I have had a very competent university professor sitting in my office, with tears in his eyes, telling me how difficult it is to change teaching habits. He said: It is so simple, if you are qualified, to master the auditorium, giving an impeccable lecture before listening students. Now I am expected to counsel them and answer their questions. It is so terrible to look at a student, telling him or her that I do not know the answers to the questions they ask. I am not used to it, and its hits at my personal self-esteem. I want to quit and find a more traditional university.”

He got Care, stayed, and after some time enjoyed this new way of being a good teacher.

Being a passionate reader, I always read books outside my profession. One of the subjects that I find interesting is history, and I have discovered similarities and differences between pedagogics and the history of warfare. One important difference is that in the descriptions of military battles and campaigns, the personality of the officers is often seen to be of great importance. This also applies to the supreme commanders. A good officer is the one who possesses both Core Commanding and Core Caretaking competence.

In ‘educational battlefields’ these dimensions are seldom mentioned, even in big decisive projects. Therefore, it was with great pleasure that I found that not only I but also other participants had observed and noticed this as an important factor in the EUROFACULTY Project.

Decision structure.

The organisation of the EUROFACULTY Project must be seen in two different perspectives.

On the one hand, we have the structure of the organisation. This reflects the needs of the planners and the objectives to be reached and ends up with an organisational plan for distributing and administering decision competences. Here, competence should be interpreted as the right and duty to make decisions. This competence may either be in the hands of a single person or of a group.

On the other hand, a good organisation is no guarantee for good results. This depends on the capacity of the members of the organisation; a capacity may be seen as a psychological dimension, saying something about individual differences in decision making. These differences reflect such factors as the ability to make quick decisions, to seek information before making a decision, to seek advice, to sort information and advice etc. It also reflects the ability to make intuitive, quick decisions where and when there is no time to wait or reflect.

It is impossible to make a deep analysis of the decision structure of the EUROFACULTY Project, and this has not been expected in the limited scope of the EUROFAN project, but a few observations and remarks may be made.

Firstly, it must be said that the organisational aspects of the EUROFACULTY Projects have been central, not only in the everyday life of the project, but also in the different reports that have been made.

Secondly, it seems clear that the interplay between decision qualification and decision competence has been an important factor behind the success of the EUROFACULTY Project. This may be illustrated by two examples:




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