"The idea that the teaching career track would be an easy one to become Professor, no, it doesn

"The idea that the teaching career track would be an easy one to become Professor, no, it doesn't work that way"

Best practices Recognition and Rewards: teaching careers at FHML

22-06-2021

A policy for teaching careers? No, that is not a Maastricht University-wide thing. Let alone a track that can be taken with a view to a chair. It is a thing at a faculty level. The Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences developed it many years ago. “The first policy note about teaching careers originates from 2010,” says Mirjam Oude Egbrink, who is professor on Implementation of Educational Innovation. “It is a win-win situation. We offer people who like teaching and who are good at it, an opportunity to make a career in that field. Faculty education also benefits.”

“FHML raising the requirements of the so-called teaching careers,” was a heading in Observant in April 2015. “Anyone who wants to become an assistant professor or professor ‘based on teaching’ will have to show that he or she is an expert in that field even more so than before. The idea that you can become a professor via teaching more easily than through research, needs to be removed,” said Mirjam Oude Egbrink, at the time. She was already scientific director of FHML’s Institute for Education.

It has now been brought up again: the idea that the teaching career track would be a “sidetrack”. “Managers still have such thoughts at times. Something like: ‘My employee is not so successful in research, but I would still like him to become a professor, can that not be arranged through teaching?’ Fortunately, it has become clear for most that it doesn’t work that way. This is supported by our strict requirements.”

Academically up to date

The document contains a long list of criteria. Oude Egbrink, who trained as a biologist and did a PhD in cardiovascular medicine, names a few of them: “You must be intrinsically motivated of course. And also have a PhD. Research is part of it too – we feel that you must continue to be academically up to date. In that research, you will make a complete switch, because you are from a different discipline than didactics.” Training is also part of the requirements: a master’s in the field of education. Moreover, candidates must have fulfilled various ‘roles in teaching’, content-wise as well as at a management level, and have performed at a high level in these.”

The presence of SHE, the Maastricht School of Health Professions Education, in the faculty is very important, says Oude Egbrink. “We can benefit from their knowledge and infrastructure (lectures, debates, network).” Besides that, SHE provides a (parttime) two-year educational master’s. “Every year, the education institute finances part of the study time for two programme places.” Money that comes from the faculty’s own funds. “A track like that involves a lot of expenses. And although I believe that it will certainly pay off, the money has to be there in the first place.” We have planned an evaluation that sets off the expenses against ‘the returns’ of the teaching career track.

Excel

The fact that FHML in Maastricht is taking teaching careers seriously, doesn’t mean that nothing is being done elsewhere or that it is not being thought about. There is a discussion about it within the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN) at the moment, within the framework of Recognition and Appreciation. Professor Petra Hurks, vice dean of education: “We don’t only look at, for example, scientists who excel in education, but especially at those who excel at innovation or those who have a great impact on students.” In addition, we have employees at FPN who “are making a career based on their excellent teaching performance, in the sense of a promotion to associate professor 1 or Lecturer 1”, said Hurks.

There are also plans within FPN for a Section Teaching and Innovation of Learning (STIL), a central place for ideas and advice in the field of teaching. The idea is that all ‘full-time’ lecturers join the new STIL, whether they have a temporary or permanent contract. But they are free to make a choice, they may also remain with their own department. In addition, FPN wants to put even more effort into acquiring education subsidies, such as the Comenius grants from the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research.

 

Recognition and Rewards

What do Dutch universities want with this initiative? What happens at UM?

In November 2019, all Dutch universities and organisations such as the VSNU, KNAW and NWO emphasised the importance of a new way of recognising and appreciating scientists. The advisory memo is called: Room for everyone’s talent. Rianne Letschert, rector of Maastricht University, and the rector of Eindhoven University of Technology are the primary leaders.

Simply put, the new initiative is mostly a cultural change, a different mindset. The rat race in which scientists find themselves must be abolished. Why should everyone be the best in the field of research with all its quote scores and checklists? The one-size-fits-all model is a thing of the past. Personal growth is important. What gives someone pleasure, what is that person good at, what is their most important value for the academy? Teaching? Educational innovation? Is someone a crack in the field of ‘impactful’ research? Can they translate their research for the wider audience and society, politics or the economy? Or are they born leaders? Scientists should be given the freedom to develop themselves in one or more fields, and yes, that combination can change during their careers.

But this entails much more than a cultural change. Universities will have to introduce new rules for recruitment, selection, promotion and development. HR policies will have to be reformed.
Letschert and the deans of the faculties (Recognition and Rewards Committee) are leading the development of the programme within Maastricht University. Four working groups that looked into the themes teaching, research, impact and leadership (patient care is a fifth one for staff in the hospital) last year, have written down their ideas in ‘narratives’. There have been brainstorming sessions about these in all faculties since then.

The so-called implementation phase is to start this summer, says a recent visionary memo. Until December 2022, the existing policies will be adapted step by step – things like the tenure track, UFO profiles (University Job Classification (UFO) system) and HR regulations.

But just how easy or difficult will it be to introduce those changes? How do you bring about a different mindset in everyone’s head? Those in charge will have to develop a feel for individuals’ talents. The rector realises that investing in leadership development is therefore not a superfluous luxury. A taskforce is already dealing with it.

As far as the OBP (administrative and support staff) is concerned: there will also be new career policies for them too.