Is the role of academics as teachers changing? An exploratory analysis in Italian universities

Giovanni Barbato, Roberto Moscati, Matteo Turri


University teaching is under pressure to evolve in line with the social, cultural and economic changes of modern society. This process inevitably affects the professional profile of academics since it creates an increasing tension between the traditional modes of teaching and the learning styles and professional expectations of students. This article analyses, both theoretically and empirically, the process of change of university teachers in the face of today’s challenges. The empirical analysis is based on the Italian university system, which has always been characterised by an overall reluctance to reforms. This article presents a theoretical framework based on two dimensions, i.e., the teacher/university relationship and the teacher/student relationship, to investigate the evolution of the professional profile of academics as teachers on the basis of seven teaching practices identified in the literature. The findings show that, besides some limits that are specific to professional bureaucracies, the support of universities is fundamental to promote innovation in teachers’ teaching practices, which are otherwise regulated and shaped only by their disciplinary community.

Received: 14 January 2019
Accepted: 27 March 2019
Published online: 29 May 2019


Academics; Italian higher education system; professional profile; teaching activity; teaching innovation

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