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Monitoring and Measuring Teaching Excellence in Higher Education: From Contrived Competition to Collective Collaboration: Challenges, Changes and the Teaching Excellence Framework

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... Leaving aside the challenges of measuring teaching excellence that have been explored in a voluminous literature (e.g., see Ashwin, 2017;Berger & Wild, 2016;Greatbach & Holland, 2016;O'Leary, 2017;O'Leary & Wood, 2018;Wood & Su, 2017), the difficulties of developing capability and demonstrating quality in teaching should not be underestimated. A number of the sector-wide and institutional schemes, outlined earlier, have sought (directly and indirectly) to raise the standards of teaching in the sector and have clearly had an impact. ...
... It also results in higher prioritisation being placed on professionalising the teaching aspect of HE work (Shaw, 2018) which, in turn, has led to the creation of PGCert-type programmes and the growth of Academic (or Educational) Development work (Gibbs, 2013). Given my professional role it is unsurprising that this latter point is something that I find a positive outcome but that needs to be set against the inevitable neo-liberal outcomes of increased surveillance (from both within and outside each institution) (Collini, 2017), exploitative work practices (Gill, 2014) and obsession with league tables sourced from data which is often a poor proxy for what it purports to measure (O'Leary, 2017b). It is no surprise that in cultures that value increased scrutiny, observation as a tool for monitoring becomes more prominent. ...
Thesis
Available: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10079394/ Drivers for improving teaching in Higher Education (HE) may be slowed by convention, conservatism and a sense of academic autonomy but are nonetheless inexorable. Formal programmes, such as Post Graduate Certificates in HE (PGCerts) for teaching academics, are still relatively nascent. The tension between academic autonomy and accountability is mirrored by the core tension of purpose when it comes to all types of observation of teaching and learning (OTL) used in HE, including those used within PGCerts. In this climate, some Academic Developers (ADs) who lead training programmes are experimenting with approaches to observation that deviate from an orthodoxy characterised by an emphasis on observee learning through feedback by a colleague on a teaching session. This study focusses on three cases of unorthodox approaches to professional learning designed to develop those with teaching responsibilities in HE from three very different universities. Case one examines a model of observation that widens the vista of observation beyond face to face teaching and asserts particular value in observer learning. Case two explores a system that extends and revitalises ‘microteaching’ and Case three analyses a scheme where students review teaching and ancillary work of lecturers. As a qualitative study, this exploration of cases of unorthodox observation seeks to understand how and why each is organised and the contextual drivers and impediments that shape AD thinking and the observation schemes they design and oversee. Of equal importance and fundamental for contrast and depth, within each case and comparatively across cases, is the experience of each observation system by those participating. Using Activity Theory as a framework for both data collection and analysis, the data has been used to narrate, interpret and critique each approach and then draw conclusions about actual and potential effectiveness. This, in turn, illuminates broader conclusions about academic development, professional learning in HE and the broader observation landscape. The findings show that breaking from the orthodoxy necessarily reflects the culture of the institution, can lead to positive (and sometimes unanticipated) outcomes and reinforces the imperative to question underpinning purpose and design of all observation schemes. Surveillance, compulsion, voluntarism, collegiality and developing self-efficacy are all key lenses of the analysis. Beyond these case-specific findings and conclusions, the thesis presents an original contribution to practice in the form of an analytical framework (The 4 Ms Observation Audit) for ADs (or anyone overseeing or designing OTL schemes) that can be used to appraise existing approaches and/or as a basis for the creation of new schemes, whether orthodox or innovative.
... A key premise underpinning the government's argument was that if teaching were to be considered of equal value to research, then an equivalent scheme to the Research Excellence Framework would need to be established to enable the monitoring and measurement of the quality of teaching across higher education institutions (HEIs). Continuing its adherence to neoliberal policy making, the government decided that for the TEF to achieve its desired outcomes, it was important to create the conditions for free market competition amongst providers, which would, in the government's eyes, subsequently result in each HEI striving for excellence in teaching (O'Leary 2017). ...
Preprint
In 2016, the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) marked a watershed moment for higher education (HE) in the United Kingdom. This paper views the TEF as an extension of the neoliberal policy narrative that has dominated policy thinking and decision making in HE in recent decades. It argues that the epistemology and methodology underpinning this narrative is flawed and ill-equipped to improve the quality of teaching. As a counter narrative, this paper discusses the creation of a cycle of collaborative observation (CoCO) between academic staff and students in an English university. Drawing on theoretical and empirical insights, the paper explores the conceptual and methodological framework behind CoCO, as well as the preparation of academic staff and students for engaging with this collaborative approach to observation. We argue that CoCO offers the potential to transform understanding of learning and teaching in HE and the reciprocal relationship between the two.
Chapter
In this chapter I continue the discussion on the nature and characteristics of university education. I highlight what I judge as both the domain and the drivers of university education, that together give us a comprehensive set of characteristics that typify university education. I combine features of university teaching, as identified by (Richmond et al. in Teach Psychol 41(4):281–295, 2014) and (Pickford in J Perspect Appl Acad Pract 6:98–102, 2018). When joined together, they form constitutive components, that define the unique nature of university teaching. They accurately depict all dimensions of university teaching that are prerequisites for correctly executing teaching as scholarship.
Chapter
In this chapter I discuss the debate about the UK Government’s controversial policy, called The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). The purpose of the discussion is to learn from these controversies what issues are fundamental for a debate on teaching excellence. Through this discussion of lessons learnt from the intellectual debates around TEF, I develop a set of challenges to be fulfilled for any meaningful account of how university faculty can strive to become excellent in teaching. In the second part of the chapter, I examine how researchers have thus far defined teaching excellence at university, so that I can develop an account of my own. I emphasise four themes that emerge in the literature about teaching excellence.
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Abstract In this essay, Gert Biesta provides a critical analysis of the idea of evidence-based practice and the ways in which it has been promoted and implemented in the field of education, focusing on the tension between scientific and democratic control over educational practice and research. Biesta examines three key assumptions of evidence-based education: first, the extent to which educational practice can be compared to the practice of medicine, the field in which evidence-based practice was first developed; second, the role of knowledge in professional actions, with special attention to what kind of epistemology is appropriate for professional practices that wish to be informed by the outcomes of research; and third, the expectations about the practical role of research implicit in the idea of evidence-based education. Biesta concludes that evidence-based practice provides a framework for understanding the role of research in educational practice that not only restricts the scope of decision making to questions about effectivity and effectiveness, but that also restricts the opportunities for participation in educational decision making. He argues that we must expand our views about the interrelations among research, policy, and practice to keep in view education as a thoroughly moral and political practice that requires continuous democratic contestation and deliberation.
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