Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 43

Submission from the Heads of Educational Development Group


  We have concentrated our responses on the section:

"The balance between teaching and research" and particularly the subsection

    "The availability and adequacy of training in teaching methods for UK academics and the importance of Teaching Excellence for the academic career path, including the consideration of the role of teaching fellows":

      In summary we note that:

      1. Widespread introduction and recognition of pedagogical development programmes for staff new to HE teaching is valued and successful. This will need continuation with sensitive regards to mixtures of experience and research evidence led inputs, provision for part-time staff and programme credit ratings.

      2. Opportunities for continuing professional development and appropriate staff recognition need renewed attention.

      3. The end of the TQEF and introduction of TESS with funding rolling into the block grant should not be allowed to lead to an unintentional undermining of sound processes and practices which HEIs have developed to enable the enhancement of learning, teaching and the student experience.

      4. While HEIs vary the balance between teaching and research in relation to their place in the sector, the RAE has been seen as taking attention and funding away from learning, teaching and educational development, thus influencing the quality of the student experience. A robust future focus is sought on more research informed teaching, pedagogical research, scholarship, ways of linking research and teaching and developing students as researchers. This should now be given more serious consideration and application across the sector.


  The widespread introduction of pedagogical development programmes for staff new to teaching in Higher Education has been successful as proven, for instance, in improving student satisfaction scores across the sector. The common presence of such programmes will need continued and sensitive steering, to retain the current mix of research evidence and experience informed inputs and opportunities.

In particular, we must ensure that programmes equipping staff for teaching responsibilities, show parity in standards and quality across the sector, to the benefit of equitable student learning experiences for all HE students. In common with programmes preparing for other professions, this is done through an accreditation process administered by the profession itself—in our case, the HE sector through the HE Academy. We welcome differences in institutional missions and identities being reflected in development programmes for new academics and note that themes covered in such programmes now include more than learning and teaching ( eg leadership development, research development). However, we also note that the current accreditation process is increasingly allowing disparities between institutions that relate to agreed standards for learning and teaching (Professional Standards Framework standards 1 or 2), the level of engagement with "learning to teach" (credit size of programmes) and a shift from academic engagement with learning and teaching to training for teaching. Some of these disparities have caused substantial discussion and in light of the intention to achieve a high standard of learning experiences for all HE students, this needs consideration.

  Some further consideration also needs to be given to development for part-time staff and visiting lecturers and Graduate students who teach. If the golden rule is the ensuring of appropriate learning and teaching professional development for all who are teaching/facilitating the learning of students, then they and other colleagues clearly are entitled to appropriate development provision , support and recognition, including mentoring schemes, and time allowances.

  Moreover, further informed and focused commitment to the development and recognition of appropriate continuing professional development schemes for established staff continues to be needed.

  It is crucial that the healthy and imaginative developments to support established staff, and enhance the quality of learning and teaching and the student experience should not be eroded by the cessation of the TQEF and the rolling of the TESS into a block grant. This could in some instances lead to erosion of recognition and reward of effective schemes for teaching, learning, assessment, curriculum development and enhancing the student experience which have been established and nurtured during the TQEF funding period..

  With reference to teaching fellowships,on the one hand, National Teaching fellows are variously appreciated and their expertise made use of within their institutions. On the other hand, there are residual questions about the contributions and benefits to the institution that has supported them. Some colleagues report that their NTFS are providing models for teaching excellence awards, internal fellowship projects and other innovation, enhancement and recognition processes. Some leadership in relation to ways for engaging NTFS more fully in institutions and the sector would be welcomed.

  HEDG members represent the full range of HEIs, some more research intensive, some more teaching oriented. There is widespread indication that the RAE exercise has been seen as taking precedence over L&T. We consider that post RAE, more energy and focus should be dedicated towards:

    — Research informed teaching

    — The development of pedagogical research

    — Scholarly approaches to learning and teaching

    — Relating teaching and research

    — Developing students as researchers

  and that prioritisation and funding should underpin their further developments.

  Good practice in terms of the focused and imaginative breadth of continuing professional development activity that is being nurtured and carried out across the sector is being shown by many HEIs to lead directly to enhancement of the student learning experience. This good practice needs to be maintained, developed, mapped further against the professional standards framework, and shared as a norm of provision, across the sector. This will only be possible with appropriate strategic direction and funding support.

December 2008

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