Monday, June 07, 2010

What is excellence in teaching?

Certificate At the conference earlier this month, Morag Shiach, Vice-Principal (Teaching and Learning) at Queen Mary, University of London, gave an interesting presentation titled "Enhancing Teaching and Learning through a research-rich environment".

Morag started by talking about the costs of teaching and how “optional” elements will be always be pruned (not sure if she was on the "do more with less" agenda or suggesting judicious use of chaff when writing grant applications). She went on to describe the situation at Queen Mary, which tries to reward teaching as research. The indicators that are used to measure teaching "quality" are:
  1. National/International prize(s)
  2. Peer-reviewed funding
  3. National/International (how is "impact" measured?)
  4. Appointment as an external expert
It's an interesting list, although Morag stressed that Queen Mary uses these headings as the framework for a conversation, not as strict metrics. What is interesting from this list is that teaching is not enough - a research component is required to be deemed "excellent". This is not just a Queen Mary criterion, many other universities apply the same thinking. Now while universities get a lot of funding for research, this is still pretty confused, as they also get a lot of money from teaching. Is it true that you can't be an excellent HE teacher without conducting research?

The snag is, we're not talking about conducting research here. Getting grants, winning international prizes, that's about generating (spurious?) metrics that the ever-growing army of non-teaching, non-researching HE managers can use to "manage" "their" "staff" (what about colleagues - remember them?) That's why teaching is on the lowest rung of the HE tree. Higher "Education"?