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Prof. Dr. Nasser Zabeli [i]

(University of Prishtina, "H. Prishtina)




The advancement of knowledge, discovery, innovation, creativity are the foundations of any civilization. Universities in different forms offer studies at different levels and have a leading role in the development of quality research in the academic, social, economic, technological, etc. fields, i.e. in all spheres of life. Through them, the modernization of higher education itself is aimed at, and with this, the modernization of the entire society, and this undoubtedly generates risks. Today, universities face, among other things, a large massification and diversification of students, and dealing with this is not a simple matter.

In various universities around the world, major changes have been made, either in external structure or in internal structure. University classrooms today are filled with sophisticated technological equipment and tools, and this can be clearly observed even with a routine visit to any university. We are witnessing the fascination with the design of university campuses, university facilities, physical and pedagogical tools that are inside those beautiful walls. But is this enough to say that we have modernized? No! In fact, this is something good, wonderful, and no one can deny such material value, but is it enough? No! The amazingness lies in the values ​​or human resources, in the professionals who operate there, in the leaders, administrators, teachers, students, i.e. in the entire academic staff. Beautifully colored facades, corridors with flower pots, benches and stylish tables are only aesthetic value, while the beauty lies in those who move around, in students, teachers, leaders, administrators and various experts. They are the people who design and offer good programs or not, attractive programs or not, competitive programs or not, programs that offer opportunities for developing skills and competencies for students who will later enter the labor market. For this, we need quality curricula and, above all, quality professionals, teachers who will not only know how to say beautiful words in long lectures and transmit knowledge, but who will know how to develop skills and competencies in students.


Thinking about teaching: What is a student? What does the teacher do? What does the student do?

Teaching in HE is currently moving from a traditional teaching paradigm with the key role of the teacher to a student-centered paradigm. In this regard, teaching is crucial, the way we do it in physical or virtual classrooms. Biggs and Tang (2007), emphasize that effectiveness in teaching is very important from the way we think about it (teaching) and to understand three levels about it (thinking about teaching), giving answers to three questions: What is the student? What does the teacher do?  What does the student do?

At the first level (what is a student) teachers focus mainly on the differences that exist between students and classify them as good, average or weak and this classification occurs on the basis of the assessment of their knowledge placing the responsibility exclusively on them (students). So whether they get the lesson or not is somehow their problem and the teacher's focus is on delivering the content, the goal of the lesson is constant and teachers don't worry about how the students should get the content or what the depth of understanding is. theirs. 

At the second level (what the teacher does), the teacher considers the differences between the students. Teachers at this level, rather than imparting information, focus on understanding concepts using a variety of techniques, while also establishing clear rules and guidelines. Although this method is considered an advancement in teaching, Biggs and Tang (2007), criticized it for the reason that they still consider it as a model where the teacher's role is dominant, even though the teacher is more to blame for the students' lack of achievement.

At the third level (what the student does) the focus is on what the student does and how it relates to the teacher. This level is a sort of improvement or balancing of the limitations derived from levels one and two. At this level, teaching is based on student learning, and the teacher (for failure) does not blame the students, nor does he blame himself. The focus is therefore on the desired learning outcome. In this sense, the teacher designs learning outcomes and research what teaching is needed to achieve those outcomes. The teacher in this case applies various strategies and techniques to facilitate the learning process and to ensure that the assessment of learning is done in the right way. In this way, teaching is not considered a matter of transmission, but of engaging students in active learning by constructing their knowledge in terms of what they already understand.


Theory X and Y - as a paradigm-defining discourse of traditional and contemporary teaching

Based on the above three levels of thinking about teaching, Bigs and Tang (2007), among different theories as part of theoretical conceptualism, describe the so-called theory X and Y. Theory X represents traditional teaching, while theory Y represents contemporary teaching.

Theory X teaching is more instruction-based and structured, standardized examinations become the norm, does not allow for student intervention or is greatly reduced, limits self-directed learning, and is primarily characterized by superficial learning. Teaching is considered transmission where learning is not part of the discussion. This approach belongs to the traditional organization of the lesson, where the lecture is dominant and the teacher usually introduces the topic, explains, gives examples, takes questions, gives answers and closes the lesson. Students listen, take notes. ask questions. Teachers assume that students don't want to learn, don't value learning, or shouldn't be part of any meaningful discussion because they don't know enough about such a thing (topic).

Teaching according to theory Y is based on an interactive process, students are more engaged. The teacher encourages interactions and the whole learning process takes place in a cooperative and more relaxed spirit. Theory Y teachers believe in empowering students and improving their outcomes. They believe in the freedom of students and that when they have this freedom, they do their work better. On this basis of freedom, teachers examine students through different assessments and not only in standardized ones. 

From a simple analysis, theory X and Y are observed to be at opposite poles. From my experience in higher education, we encounter both poles in practice. We also find representatives of theory X who give lectures and run away from the classroom without worrying about the students' learning, but fortunately we also meet representatives of theory Y who are preoccupied with the achievements of students, the way they learn and not the line of work for to achieve the best possible results and to provide approaches that help to develop skills and competencies that students need in practice. It is a special pleasure when a student after ten years meets you and says: Your lessons, your commitment has made me, in front of committees, give the best answers to be accepted at work and that, the experiences from your class more help me to be better in my profession every day. Imagine if one of them meets you and says: I have the highest grade in you, but you never got a job!


The industrial age, the age of knowledge and the age of knowledge

The researcher Ehlers (2020), based on the role of knowledge in different eras, distinguishes three periods: the industrial era in which technology was at the forefront and individuals would be subject to industrial production machines; the knowledge age, made possible through the massive development of the educational system leading to knowledge becoming the main factor for social mobility and today's post-knowledge age, a more comprehensive concept of the individual, self-organized capacity to act, creativity, innovation and competence, a new vision of individuals capable of acting under new, unfamiliar circumstances and capable of solving complex problems. So today we meet the third period of the afternoon and naturally the questions arise:

1. What skills will people need in the future to shape their world and environment as citizens in an increasingly globalized context? What skills do employees need to cope with continuous development and adaptation to new situations in organizations and in working life? 

2. How can organizations help their staff to acquire these skills and what organizational forms and structures are needed to develop the optimal cultural organization?

3. What can higher education institutions do to promote these skills among students? How should studies and teaching be structured and what forms are appropriate in higher education didactics and learning designs? (Ehlers, 2020, p. 4-5).

Natyrally the answers to these questions are not easy. Are they possible to achieve? The answer would be yes, they can be realized referring also to the state of higher education in Kosovo. What is the argument for this positive answer? The argument lies in the infrastructural possibilities, whether of a physical, financial or human resources nature. Now the physical infrastructure, it is not that it is low level. There is a lot of room for improvement, but it is still at a satisfactory level. Let's face it, the campus of higher education universities in Kosovo is not at a low level. The university facilities are solid, the equipment inside as well, even in some faculties are advanced (such as in the Faculty of Education of the University of Pristina). On the other hand, the biggest problems are in the financial part. We usually complain that we don't have enough funding. This is very true, but truer is the fact that, not that there are no financial means, but the way of their destination. So, they are not targeted at the right level, and on the other hand, they are very centralized procedures that stifle the possibility of making changes and quick interventions. They are very bureaucratic procedures that tire, delay and thus suppress the will and desire of managers to make appropriate changes and in an optimal period. This approach must have changed an hour or so ago, otherwise the reform processes will continue for years (as it has been until now). In this regard, a middle ground is needed between extreme centralization and decentralization. This would enable institutions, universities and within them, faculties to act according to the demands of the time, naturally increasing the degree of responsibility and accountability.

In this context, a stable argument (in my opinion) in favor of the possibility (to answer the three issues raised above) is human resources. I think that higher education in Kosovo already has sufficient human resources, there are world-class experts, academics, teachers, researchers who can move the processes forward. All higher education institutions are involved in international projects. In particular, the University of Pristina is a part and carrier of many international projects. There is great mobility of university teachers, study visits of various natures and the experiences gained can easily be applied in our institutions. If those questions were asked fifteen years ago, the argument in favor of human resources would not be valid. But today, yes. The teachers who work in higher education in Kosovo are cadres who have recently dedicated themselves to their professional development, either with studies completed in different countries and much more, by professionals who have finished their studies in the country, but who have invested a lot in their professional, research and scientific development. Therefore, it is painful that our decision-making institutions do not use this capital! It is painful that now in these years we complain about poor results, poor ranking of our universities in the world.


What teaching do students need?

Currently in the years in which we are living, things are changing a lot. Knowledge is no longer an end in itself nor should it be overlooked. The acquisition of knowledge by students is therefore only a small part of what they need. In fact, the possibilities to possess that knowledge are extremely great. They don't need to run around libraries or order a book from another country to get it after a long period of time. Today, information is at their "fingertips", on a small or large screen, and they receive it in a few seconds. They (students) today do not need teachers who deposit information which they may never need. We can think back to our studies when we were students. How much information has been given to us and maybe we never needed it! So why should we continue like that? So, we should stop there and not continue in that way. Students today need more skills and competencies to act in situations they have never encountered before. Therefore, today there is a need for teaching that leads to the development of skills to face in the future completely unknown situations.


From knowledge to competences: Developing the skills of the future

If we agree that knowledge is not enough and does not enter much into the function of students, workers, professionals in the future, then the development of skills to make them competent to be able to find, work and solve problems remains imperative. unknown during their careers. In this sense, universities, faculties, namely the academic staff must create: sufficient spaces for learning; interactive learning environments; building active learning experiences; active learning communities; innovative learning technologies; promoting educational diversity and inclusion; innovative learning technologies; world-class research-based educational experiences; student-centered teaching strategies; decision-making based on evidence; advanced and updated curricula (Imperial College London, nd).

The creation of the above-mentioned prerequisites in the form of paradigms enables the development of skills for the future based on the Triple Helix Model, which supports the interactions between three interrelated elements: universities engaged in basic research, industries that produce commercial goods and governments that regulate markets, which in specific terms means: 

1. Future skills related to the development of the subject, which are related to the development of the skills of the person himself, referred to as individual competencies or related to the development of the subject. 

2. Future skills related to the handling of certain objects, work tasks and problems, as skills related to the object.

3. Future skills related to social, organizational and institutional environment handling, referred to as organization-related skills (Ehlers, 2020).

These three links of skills are skills related to learning literacy, digital literacy, then self-efficacy, self-competence, self-determination, reflection, decision-making, initiative and performance, ambiguity, design thinking, systems competence, innovation, the creation of sense, the competence of the future, the design of cooperation and all these together transformed into transversal competences, into competences that can be successfully transferred to practice, namely the career of students as professionals in the future.


Which universities and teachers can respond to the new demands?

Universities must rely on four pillars and scenarios to respond to the demands and needs of students so that they are able to master their workplace in the future:

  1. Focus on developing future skills.

  2. Offering multidisciplinary programs. 

  3. Personalization of academic learning. 

  4. Lifelong learning (Ehlers, 2020).

These are achieved through: digitalization of higher education; the transformation of society through the university; responding to demographic changes; being flexible in work and education; being an open university; promoting lifelong learning; challenging complexity and ambiguity; removing control and empowering students; assessing informal learning by profiling and modulating curricula. To these elements, or as they are otherwise called seconds of change, we can also add, figuratively speaking, other tones and semitones that primarily relate to those who have the main burden for such a thing and they are: the teachers (Ehlers, 2020).

HEIs, namely universities, need teachers with knowledge of pedagogical content, competent teachers, expert teachers who will be able to face constant changes in their careers (Dijk et al., 2020). Universities need teachers who are professionally prepared, responsible, competent, who are constantly developing professionally, teachers who are researching, creative, reflective, effective, with the characteristics of a great personality, who do their work with passion, people who are devoted to their work, who treat students and other non-conformist people with dignity. but those who face governmental challenges, people who precede innovations, who never agree with retroactive decisions or the status quo, but who are initiators and promoters of innovations and who will be able to make big changes in the life of students and society in general.



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[i] The article is based on the author's text: Teaching in higher education (2024)