Educational Research and Reviews

  • Abbreviation: Educ. Res. Rev.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1990-3839
  • DOI: 10.5897/ERR
  • Start Year: 2006
  • Published Articles: 1964

Full Length Research Paper

Teaching in Higher Education: A personal account seen through a perspective of “otherness” at a Swedish University

Girma Berhanu
Department of Education, Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 27 October 2006
  •  Published: 30 November 2006



This study is based on personal experiences. It adopts an auto ethnographic approach and action research perspective in an attempt to describe and reflect on my experience as a teacher in a University where I have worked for just over a year; the study also examines factors that have helped me in my role as a teacher to effect change in my praxis. The paper also addresses the challenges facing higher education teachers in general (with particular reference to a teacher with a foreign background) in a western university setting. Although the study does not arrive at any specific conclusions, which was not the intention either, the reflective account and recognition of the problem revolving around the teaching process and the day to day interaction with students as well as the staff, is of paramount importance in its own right. I begin with my personal life in connection with teaching and learning. I have focused on my own feelings, thoughts and emotions, and have used what I call systematic sociological introspection and emotional recall to try to understand an experience I have lived through and I am currently experiencing at a Swedish university. It is a reflective approach to the issue of improving teaching: What does it take to improve teaching while enduring the feeling of “otherness”? How does one evaluate and arrange for the improvement of teaching in order to bring about student learning? For me this personal narrative is about moral work and ethical practice. As the problems of teachers are shared with other teachers elsewhere or in the same school, my reflexivity and personal narrative may benefit others in a similar situation. Our lives are particular but they also are typical and generalizable, since we all participate in a limited number of cultures and institutions. Some readers may well identify with this situation or know others who do.


Key Words: Teaching in higher education, “Otherness”, reflexivity and personal narrative, auto-ethnography, personal account and action research