HEA announce publication following research into teaching excellence
The Higher Education Academy announced on 8th October that it is publishing the results of its research into teaching excellence.
The statement by the Chief Executive of the HEA, Prof Stephanie Marshall that “…an agreed definition of what constitutes teaching excellence would be very useful in the sector” seems innocuous enough but raises important questions about the generic versus the discipline specific nature of teaching and learning. Whilst the HEA research seems designed to create a framework of reference for us all to consider our teaching against, it is also vital that we as a sector are not drawn towards a notion that there is one model of good teaching. The local context is vital. This is made more important when we consider the second part of Professor Marshall’s statement, that “A framework for teaching excellence could have many functions. It could be used, for example, to inform reward and recognition schemes and promotional routes for staff who teach in higher education institutions.” This seems dangerous ground unless any nationally agreed framework for teaching excellence allows for local interpretation and discipline-specific flexibility. After all if we wanted to have a one-size-fits-all approach which allowed an outside agency to make swift judgements about the ability of a teacher to teach and of an institution to manage the learning of those it had responsibility for without fully taking into account the local context and the individual needs of the learner, we could always ask Ofsted!
To be fair, the report itself – a literature review of the evidence currently available – does recognise the need for different “conceptualisations” of teaching excellence and does make a plea for time to “experiment, imagine and innovate”. It also warns of the dangers around the use of “learning analytics” to make judgement about teaching excellence and student learning. As might be expected, the report also calls for more research to help create a “shared repertoire around teaching and teacher excellence”. However, as is often the case in the education sector, policy makers are often deaf to the nuances being advocated by the research and try instead for a simple solution which seems superficially to cover all situations but runs the risk of satisfying none. Read the report yourself and let us know what you think (download from http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/documents/Teaching_Excellence/TELR-final.pdf .)