One of the recommendations from a recent Internal Periodic Review of Educational Developments was that we should blow our trumpet more, letting University colleagues know how well we can support them in learning and teaching (L&T). So, I am taking this thinly disguised and uncharacteristic opportunity to do just that.
Ray Land and George Gordon have recently published a report on an HEA funded small scale international study on Teaching Excellence Initiatives. In it they debate teaching excellence and how it has broken out of the confines of individual HEIs to be linked to discussions of individual performance.
Land and Georges’ study looked at practice in promoting excellence in L&T. They acknowledge that excellence itself is contested and the quality of teaching, especially the difference between satisfactory and excellent, is hard to judge. HEI initiatives can, they argue, be described as moving from novice to expert, something like the way the UK Professional Standards Framework is described in four levels, and how our own ULTRA Framework is articulated.
The study points out that most UK, Australian and NZ Universities (at least) encourage or require academics to take a course in teaching as part of probation, thus aiming to ensure competence in teaching. Many HEI’s offer rewards for excellence in the form of prizes or funding to develop practice or even pay increments (proficiency level). Going beyond, advanced proficiency including teaching and expert status is rewarded with prizes, citations such as Vice Chancellor awards, National teaching Fellowships (we have five at Liverpool) or Principal Fellows (four at Liverpool) are classed as high recognition.