The Phenomenon of Lecturer Competences as a Prerequisite for the Advancement of Sustainable Development Ideas in the Context of Student-Centred Studies
1. Introduction and Background
2. Research Design and Methodology
Lithuania operates with a binary higher education system that includes both universities and colleges. The survey was conducted within these two types of higher education institutions from September to November 2019, employing a questionnaire survey method and involving 390 respondents. The responses were provided by 59.4% of university students and 40.6% of college students, representing a wide spectrum of science fields, including 45.8% in social sciences, 18.8% in technological sciences, 16.5% in biomedical sciences, 13.4% in humanities, 3.6% in physical sciences, and 2.1% in arts sciences. The study encompassed all three levels of study. The majority of the responses (93.6%) were from bachelor’s students, followed by 5.1% of master’s students and 1.3% of Ph.D. students. The survey instrument was developed by the authors of this article to analyse students’ attitudes and perceptions regarding the competences required by lecturers in the educational process. The research object was Lithuanian higher education students’ opinions regarding lecturer competences. The aim was to unveil a model of lecturer competences and its relationship with the integration of sustainable development principles in student-centred learning.
Simple random sampling (probability sampling) was used to ensure that each member of the population had a probability of being included in the sample. Research methods included the analysis of scientific literature and documents and qualitative content analysis. The students were given an anonymous questionnaire with open-ended questions and the analysis of its results is presented in this article. Informants were asked to name three qualities of a good lecturer in order of priority: Option 1 as the most important trait/quality, Option 2 as a less important trait/quality, and Option 3 as an even less important trait/quality.
The relevance of the statements to the informants is judged by the number of statements as Option 1 of the informants. The more statements are assigned to Option 1, the more significant it is. It is slightly less significant with Option 2 and Option 3 shows an even lesser degree of importance. The total number of statements from all options indicates the significance of the subcategory for the category. We can also discuss the breadth of the subcategory: the greater the number of qualitative statements within a subcategory, the broader the subcategory. Breadth may be related to the diversity of the subcategory, but it can also be linked to the dispersion of content. Dispersion arises from the wide variety of individual responses from informants, making it challenging to align them with other statements in terms of meaning.
3. Research Results
The subcategory of lecturer communication is the most significant for students, as the statements that make up this subcategory were mentioned as several as 42 times in total as all three options. In the process of communication, the lecturer takes on an important role as an educator, which can influence the student’s personality and create the preconditions for the future adoption of a style of teaching, communication, and speaking. The most important statement in the subcategory is the lecturer’s communication with students, as it was mentioned more times than the other statements as Option 1 (5 in total) and 16 times when all the options are taken together. This implies that it is important for students to have the lecturer interact with them, presumably in other educational environments than just during lectures. The importance of another statement, i.e., creating interaction with students, confirms this prediction, as it is mentioned 6 times as Option 2 and 12 times in total. One of the most important conditions of education is the establishment of the interaction between the learner and the educator. This is also where the phenomenon of the relationship of competences comes into play, as communication skills become very important in order to establish a relationship between the lecturer and the student.
Thus, in the context of student-centred studies, professionalism, a component of a lecturer’s subject competence, becomes the most important element when it comes to the phenomenon of the relationship between lecturer communication and educational competences. It is important for students to acquire knowledge and development in their chosen field of specialisation, which is possible when they are facilitated by a lecturer with a personality who is strong and versatile in his/her internal and external qualities of character, professional in his/her subject knowledge, and flexible in his/her ability “to juggle” that knowledge in the context of student-centred studies. It is in this context that educational competence based on communication skills becomes important. It is also important to emphasise the importance of the lecturer’s attitude to work, in terms of organisation, directedness, and versatility. The phenomenon of the lecturer’s competences is the lecturer’s own personality, which maintains a benevolent relationship with others (being understanding and tolerant) and combines this with their own personal internal qualities—honesty, responsibility, and openness. According to students, it is of utmost importance for a lecturer to be able to impart all the accumulated subject knowledge in a structured and planned manner, to communicate fluently, and to organise studies using a variety of study methods and forms. According to students, it is of utmost importance for a lecturer to be able to impart all the accumulated subject knowledge in a structured and planned manner, to communicate fluently, and to organise studies using a variety of study methods and forms.
The types and parts of competences can only be deconstructed and analysed theoretically, simulating laboratory conditions. In reality, human behaviour and decisions are the result of the aggregate of personality. Thus, due to the lecturer’s competence, qualitative changes in the student occur during the process of educational interaction. The subject-related knowledge, which is permeated with the ideas of sustainable development, becomes an integral part of the future professional. The educational interaction begins and ends with the communication between the lecturer and the student.
According to the findings of the study described in this article, a higher education lecturer develops a teaching plan that promotes not only mastery of subject material but also develops general life competences such as critical thinking, analytical skills, and problem solving. Lecturers can incorporate multidimensional learning into academic sessions, encouraging students to learn from their own experiences and to interact and share ideas with others. Lecturers should have excellent communication skills to convey information to students in a clear and understandable way. This helps students better understand the material being taught. They can also offer one-to-one counseling to help students clarify their difficulties and better target their development. Lecturers should continuously develop their subject expertise in order to provide cutting-edge information to students and encourage them to explore their subject. In this way, it demonstrates the importance of lifelong learning and illustrates the lifelong learning paradigm. In order to ensure sustainable development, lecturers should endeavour to integrate these competences into their teaching material and to ensure that students not only learn the facts but also acquire the skills that will be useful for their personal and professional development. This will help support the long-term growth of students and their ability to adapt to the changing needs of society.
Student-centred studies should be promoted both by the higher education institution through internal change and by the teaching staff by understanding the implications of change and supporting it through their actions. The possession and continuous development of lecturers’ educational and general competences, as well as personal development and subject competences, are becoming particularly relevant. This is confirmed by the results of the study discussed in the paper, which show the students’ attitudes towards the phenomenon/competences of the lecturer in student-centred studies. Analysing the survey data and calculating the total number of statements mentioned in the category, it can be seen that the most important category for Lithuanian students is the educational competence of the lecturer (98 chosen statements), which includes, to a large extent, communication competence (42 statements); a smaller category is personality competence (77 chosen statements), and an even smaller category is the category of subject competence (61 chosen statements). However, upon deeper analysis, dissociating from the categories and subcategories and focusing solely on those statements designated under Option 1, the ones most frequently mentioned by students, it becomes evident that students highly value having a lecturer who is a professional in the subject they teach. The pivotal aspect of a lecturer’s competence shifts towards the lecturer’s values, where both extrinsic (manifested as benevolence towards others) and intrinsic (manifested as one’s relationship with oneself) values and qualities assume significant importance for students. The phenomenon of the relationship between educational and communication competences has also emerged. Students expect a clear and coherent presentation of course material, collaborative opportunities, the ability to evoke student interest, and active interaction with students. Qualitative analysis of the research data suggests a synthesis of educational traditions and innovative approaches. However, the demands of the times call for a necessary shift considering the evolved approach of the younger generation to the learning process. In the 21st century, education should be engaging, interactive, and emotionally resonant, fostering a close and positive interaction between lecturers and students. The trends of modern studies are looking for ever-new ways of teaching and learning. For example, the model for design education is the design studio, an educational setting where students practice designing under the supervision of a teacher. This interaction between the teacher and student is a distinctive feature of design education. In this context, individual meetings between a teacher and a student take a central role. The key element of these meetings is the dialogue—an intimate and direct conversation regarding the student’s evolving design project. Consequently, insights into design naturally arise from conversations with students. Only a professional can manage such a process inconspicuously.
The critical, democratic educational ideal seems to allow education for sustainable development to be integrated as part of the didactical thinking and practice within the different subjects. The university has the ethical, academic, and peremptory responsibility to train education students and future trainers in sustainability. The University, as an educational institution committed to respect for the human person and to foster and defend human rights, should promote a culture of sustainability, which contributes to integral human development. In the study process, lecturers seek support in their efforts but do not question the relevance of the work. The competences of higher education lecturers, including their compositional, quantitative, and qualitative attributes, as well as their adaptability to changing times, serve as a fundamental requirement for the integration of sustainable development principles within higher education institutions. Emphasis and significance are placed on the alignment between the educational and communication competences of lecturers. Ideas that are not effectively communicated often remain confined to written papers or within the lecturer’s mind. The lecturer’s personal and professional qualities converge to establish a connection with the student, where interaction emerges as a pivotal element. Through this interaction, the lecturer not only imparts subject-specific knowledge but also nurtures values essential to the profession and personal growth. Additionally, they cultivate skills that meet the demands of the contemporary era, including critical thinking, analytical abilities, and problem solving. Within the educational process, lecturers themselves take on the roles of organisers and facilitators of communication. The success of this process depends on the phenomenon of lecturer competences, which requires continuous evaluation, revision, refinement, and adaptation. Lecturer competences stand as an imperative foundation for cohesive educational processes.
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