Teaching learning and assessment strategy

teaching learning academy and teaching learning and assessment in education and training
KirstyPotts Profile Pic
KirstyPotts,United States,Professional
Published Date:14-07-2017
Your Website URL(Optional)
Comment
Excellence in teaching and learning: a review of the literature for the Higher Education Academy Centre for Higher Education Research and Information The Open University July 2007 Brenda Little, William Locke, Jan Parker and John Richardson Contents 1. Executive summary ..............................................................................................1 2. Introduction...........................................................................................................5 3. Methodology.........................................................................................................6 3.1 Scope of the review....................................................................................6 3.2 The search process....................................................................................7 3.3 Categorisation............................................................................................8 4. System-wide level.................................................................................................9 4.1 Teaching at the system-wide level .............................................................9 4.1.1 Excellence as performance...............................................................10 4.1.2 Recognition of teaching.....................................................................12 4.2 Student learning at the system-wide level..........................................................13 5. Institutional level.................................................................................................14 5.1 Teaching at the institutional level .............................................................14 5.1.1 Strategies for learning and teaching .................................................14 5.1.2 ‘Delivery’ and recognition of excellence at an institutional level........17 5.1.3 Notions of scholarship linked to excellent teaching...........................18 5.1.4 Recognition and rewards for excellent teachers ...............................19 5.2 Student learning at the institutional level..................................................22 6. Departmental level..............................................................................................23 6.1 Teaching at the departmental level ..........................................................23 6.1.1 Psychologised understandings of teaching excellence .....................25 6.1.2 Excellence at programme level.........................................................27 6.1.3 External reviews of programmes.......................................................28 6.2 Student learning at the departmental level...............................................33 6.2.1 Psychologised conceptions of student learning ................................33 6.2.2 Excellence in managing and supporting learning?............................36 6.3 Excellent learning outcomes and standards of achievement ...................37 6.4 Classifications as an indicator of excellence ............................................43 7. Individual level....................................................................................................44 7.1 Teaching at the individual level ................................................................44 7.2 Student learning at the individual level.....................................................46 8. Conclusions and implications for policy and practice..........................................49 8.1 Broader implications for policy and practice.............................................52 Annex A: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education: Academic Infrastructure – Benchmark Statements .................................................................................................55 Annex B: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education: Academic Infrastructure – Benchmark Statements .................................................................................................58 Annex C: Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education: Academic Infrastructure – Benchmark Statements .................................................................................................61 References ....................................................................................................................64 Excellence in teaching and learning: a review of the literature for the Higher Education Academy Brenda Little, William Locke, Jan Parker and John Richardson Centre for Higher Education Research and Information The Open University 1. Executive summary 1. To ‘excel’ means to surpass, to be pre-eminent, hence ‘excellence’ in teaching and learning implies being pre-eminent and connotes a sense of certain distinguishing features such that those exhibiting excellence stand out from the rest. 2. However, within a diverse system of higher education (as now exists within the UK) debates about concepts of excellence in teaching and learning highlight underlying tensions between notions of excellence as a positional good (with attendant concerns for reputational hierarchies) and excellence relating to higher education’s role in broader societal terms. 3. The literature review set out to address three main questions: how is the term ‘excellence’ used in the context of teaching and the student learning experience? What are the key conceptualisations of excellence? What are the implications of usage and conceptualisations for future policy in relation to promoting or developing excellence? 4. In UK policy documents, excellence in teaching at a system-wide level is often associated with international standards, rankings and meeting national economic goals, but it also used to enhance the status of certain institutional functions (for example, teaching) in relation to others, in particular research. Some critics have noted that when such a use of teaching excellence is considered alongside more explicit policies for stimulating system performance through diversity and competition, different understandings of excellence can arise. Few literatures refer explicitly to excellence in student learning at a system-wide level, though some suggest that the management of learning is central to achieving excellence. 5. Since the late 1990s, more explicit attention has been given to higher education teaching and learning through the development of institutional teaching and learning strategies, linked to broader underlying mission statements. Analysis of such strategies shows the term ‘excellence’ being used in both an aspirational sense as well as being bound up with claims of enhancing students’ learning experience and providing an experience of high quality. Critics claim that such an emphasis on teaching and learning strategies (and on learning outcomes) leads to discussion of process and form taking precedence over content; ‘what’ is being taught and learned becomes less important than whether it is done excellently. 6. Debates on concepts of teaching excellence are linked to two other notions, viz. the scholarship of teaching and the expert teacher, with some suggestion that Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 1 excellence should be an attribute of any professional teacher, which may be confusing excellence with notions of good (enough) teaching. Much has been written about institutional mechanisms for recognising and rewarding excellent teaching and the need for such mechanisms to reflect an institution’s values, missions and culture. However, there are fewer publications focusing specifically on excellence in student learning at the institutional level. 7. Further, the discourse of scholarship is tied to concepts of disciplines and disciplinary cultures. Some critics note that disciplinary boundaries can act as a barrier to change, impeding students’ approaches to learning and learning outcomes, and call for a new form of disciplinarity that emphasises reflection on existing practice and critical dialogue about the discipline. 8. Alongside literatures relating to understandings of teaching excellence in the context of rankings and performance sits another large body of literature, which refers to psychologised understandings of teaching and learning processes and focuses on micro-level transactions between teachers and students. Much of this research literature takes ‘excellent teaching’ to be synonymous with ‘effective teaching’ (as do some policy documents). Although there is some conflicting evidence surrounding the hierarchical nature of approaches to teaching and learning, there seems to be consensus that excellence in learning would be reflected in more sophisticated conceptions of learning and perhaps more generally in more sophisticated conceptions of knowledge and its construction. However, it is clear that the dynamics of the relationship between teaching and learning are mediated by students’ own perceptions of their environment and by their own motivations to learning: excellence in student learning may or may not require excellent teaching. 9. External reviews of higher education provision (conducted under the auspices of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, HEFCE) originally used the term ‘excellent’ (along with ‘satisfactory’ and ‘unsatisfactory’) to categorise judgements of provision, and characteristics associated with excellent higher education were identified. Following revisions to national systems of assessing the quality of higher education, ‘excellent’ provision was no longer identified; rather, characteristics of ‘high quality’ higher education within an overall context of diversity and differentiation between subjects and institutions were distinguished. With the advent of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and a single unified approach to assuring the quality of UK higher education, characteristics of excellent or high quality education were no longer identified; rather, the outcomes of external subject reviews were reported with regard to improving and/or enhancing the quality of the student learning experience. 10. However, in England and Northern Ireland, notions of excellence in teaching and learning continue at least in the form of the HEFCE initiative to fund over 70 Centres of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs). This has been seen as one way of demonstrating Government’s continuing commitment to raising the profile and quality of teaching and learning. In Scotland and Wales there has been deliberate move towards supporting all institutions in a process of continuous quality enhancement (rather than using specific initiatives to promote excellence). Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 2 11. In several policy documents there is an implicit acknowledgement that excellence in student learning may not require excellent teaching, and that the former can be managed. There is also some acknowledgement that excellence in student learning is likely to arise from a combination of different dimensions, including support for learning from players other than teachers, but there is little in the literature exploring this aspect of excellence. 12. Subject benchmark statements form part of the QAA’s academic infrastructure and are intended to make more explicit the nature and level of academic standards in UK higher education. All such statements provide a point of reference for expressing minimum standards, specified as intended learning outcomes, but a number go further and set out how excellent learning outcomes might be demonstrated and recognised. Notions of creativity, originality, innovation, as well as critical evaluation feature strongly in the stated characteristics of excellent student learning outcomes (and as such, chime to an extent with some of the ideas around scholarship). 13. The introduction (in 2000) of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) in England and Northern Ireland sought to recognise and reward excellent individual teachers. One detailed investigation of the scheme’s operation concluded that there was a shift away from traditional understandings of teaching excellence towards concepts better suited to a mass system of higher education. 14. Though much has been written about recognising and rewarding excellent teaching, there is little in the research literature about students’ perceptions of excellence in teaching and what might constitute an excellent learning experience. Further, the policy literature rarely seems to address the individual student and excellence in learning. While rather limited, the literature on student learning is suggestive of notions of excellence that move towards ideas of personalised learning that will enable students to deal with difficult concepts, contested knowledge bases and the complexities inherent in ‘uncertain situations’. 15. In conclusion, the review notes that a recurring critical theme within the literature argues that the current focus on teaching (and to a lesser extent learning) excellence is symptomatic of an ever-present contemporary desire to measure higher education performance by means of systematic criteria and standardised practices, wherein ‘form’ and ‘process’ predominate and the ‘what’ is in the background; arguably it is the ‘what’ that forms the essence of what is being valued and recognised as distinctive about higher education, and within that, what might constitute an excellent learning experience. 16. The ‘trick’ seems to be to find ways of meeting both the needs for greater articulation of form and process (in relation to excellence in teaching and learning) to go some way to ensuring transparency of operations and equitable treatment of all learners (and addressing questions of fitness for purpose), while at the same time being ready and willing to ask the difficult questions about the fitness of the purpose itself. 17. A number of broad implications for policy are identified as follows: Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 3 • At a national level, there needs to be much clearer explication of the precise meaning being attached to the term ‘excellence’ to ensure that given the UK’s diverse higher education system, certain (more traditional) notions of excellence are not implicitly privileged over others. • Government-driven initiatives that purport to foster excellence in teaching and learning should be critically appraised to ascertain the extent to which they are meeting their objectives. The findings of any such independent evaluations should be disseminated widely for discussion among practitioners and stakeholders alike. • Policy documents should acknowledge that teaching and student learning are distinct, although related, phenomena; notions of teaching and student learning could usefully be disentangled, particularly in the context of more distributed sites of learning and sources of learning support, the increasing range of (access) to learning resources and, arguably more importantly, continuing debates about forms of knowledge and knowledge construction. 18. At a practical level, three specific implications arise from the review: • In a higher education system that continues to be steered towards meeting the needs of the economy while at the same time nurturing conditions that will create a more inclusive society, it is likely that higher education will increasingly be engaging with curricula based in or derived from individuals’ workplace experiences and professional practices as well as drawing on a range of discipline-based knowledge. As such, there will need to be dialogues between different stakeholders about what constitutes excellent teaching and excellent learning beyond the acquisition of excellent discipline-based knowledge. • A more comprehensive approach to the management of student learning processes and dimensions of learning provision could usefully broaden the debate to include academic-related and support staff and their roles in supporting institutional drives towards enhancing the quality of students’ learning experiences. • A more holistic view of the student-learning environment needs to be employed in trying to develop more sophisticated understandings of student learning and of what might constitute excellence in learning from students’ perspectives. Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 4 2. Introduction To ‘excel’ means to surpass, to be pre-eminent, and hence ‘excellence’ in teaching and learning implies being pre-eminent in teaching and learning. The term connotes a sense of certain distinguishing features such that those exhibiting excellence stand out from the rest. As Elton notes, “excellence, by definition, is a normative concept” (Elton, 1998, p. 4). As higher education has expanded from a rather small and elite activity experienced by a minority of the population into a mass system (Trow, 1973), whereby it is expected that a majority of the population will, at some point in their lives, gain a higher education experience, the range of learners engaging in higher education learning has grown and diversified as has the range of provision on offer. Whereas difference and diversity might previously have been delineated using horizontal classifications (between disciplines, between areas of research), some commentators note that increasingly the emphasis is on vertical stratifications that seek an “aura of exceptionality” (Teichler, 2003, p. 34) but cannot easily be measured. Although higher education institutions may well be valued for both “the excellence and the accessibility of their knowledge” (Calhoun, 2006, p. 22), it can be argued that tensions exist between the two ideals and that the pursuit of recognition and positional good for its own sake is now detracting from broader notions of higher education and the public good (Calhoun, 2006). Others suggest that debates about excellence in (higher) education need not be couched in such stark reputational and ‘positional good’ terms; rather, the question is “what sort of social and personal conditions promote excellence … what sort of actions can educators take to assure that students will learn to be excellent in ways that both they and society value?” and not “who is gifted or exceptional” (Ferrari, 2002, p. viii). At a functional level, excellence of knowledge might be seen as linked to a higher education institution’s research mission, whereas access to (excellent) knowledge can be seen as linked to the institution’s teaching mission (Calhoun, 2006). A teaching mission necessarily embraces both a concern for teaching and a concern for the end- product of the teaching process; that is, the student learning experience. Alongside these two missions, there is (in the UK at least) increasing emphasis given to a ‘third’ mission, that of higher education reaching out to business and local and regional communities, which might beg the question: how does regional engagement fit with the pursuit of academic excellence? The Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England recently suggested this notion of a separate ‘third’ mission be dropped; rather, reaching out to local and regional communities should be seen as a central part of any modern university (HEFCE, 2007). Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 5 This review of the literature was commissioned by the Higher Education Academy to enhance the sector’s understanding of the varied conceptualisations and usages of the term ‘excellence’ in relation to teaching and student learning experiences, and to consider the implications for future policy and practice in relation to promoting and developing excellence. 3. Methodology 3.1 Scope of the review The review set out to address three main questions: • How is the term ‘excellence’ used in the context of teaching and the student learning experience within current higher education policy and practice, and how does its usage vary? • What are the key conceptualisations of excellence in the relevant literature? • What are the implications of usage and conceptualisations for future policy in relation to promoting or developing excellence? It focuses on exploring the available literature covering the period from the mid-1990s onwards (as opposed to undertaking a comprehensive and systematic review). Such a period roughly coincides with the point at which the UK started to move beyond mass towards universal higher education, and it was anticipated that this range of literature would ensure that the diverse, and increasingly distributed, nature of higher education would be taken into account. The date range was taken as a guide only, rather than being applied rigidly (especially in the case of relevant international literatures). Expansion of higher education has in large part been justified as a means of improving economic competitiveness within a growing global knowledge economy, and such growth has provided a human capital argument for widening participation in higher education. With such agendas shaping developments, and continuing drives towards the marketisation of higher education, it is not surprising that there are a number of stakeholders whose views on excellence in teaching and learning (both usage and conceptualisations) need to be taken into account, in addition to academic staff themselves. The literature searched included published research (in the form of journal articles, books and reports emanating from UK policy bodies and other agencies), as well as ‘grey’ literature (in the form of information not formally published but accessible through Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 6 websites; for example, higher education institutions’ own mission statements and teaching and learning strategies). The literature covered conceptual studies, academic critiques and research studies on teaching and learning, as well as policy documents, but did not cover those literatures focusing on the teaching-research nexus. This latter aspect was the subject of a separate activity commissioned by the Higher Education Academy at the same time as the review of literature presented here. 3.2 The search process At the outset, some initial searches of three bibliographic databases of education literature were undertaken – viz. the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), the British Education Index and the Australian Index – for the specified date range. A search for entries with both ‘excellence’ and ‘teaching’ in the title or abstract resulted in 2,047 hits. A search for entries with both ‘excellence’ and ‘learning’ in the title or abstract resulted in 2,056 hits. Adding ‘higher education’ as a keyword reduced the number of hits to 650 and 514 respectively, and an examination of these latter entries revealed that a number were in fact the same publication. A more refined search was then undertaken using the same bibliographic databases to identify publications that: (i) had ‘excellence’ in the title or abstract; (ii) had ‘teaching’, ‘learning’ or ‘scholarship’ in the title or abstract; (iii) had ‘higher education’ as a keyword. The search resulted in more than 900 entries, of which 419 had been published since the beginning of 1995. A close examination of these 400+ entries revealed that the majority did not, in fact, address in any substantive manner either conceptualisations of excellence in relation to teaching and learning, or considerations of use in practice as evidenced through empirical studies. Rather, the term ‘excellence’ was more often used as an alternative to the term ‘quality’, or in conjunction with notions of equity and the equitable treatment of students. Moreover, a significant number of items found through the search process focused on issues to do with the implementation of teaching excellence awards per se, without any substantive consideration of conceptualisations in relation to teaching and learning. In addition to searches of bibliographic databases (including CHERI’s own Higher Education Empirical Research database), hand searches were made of relevant documents emanating from UK policy bodies and other agencies dealing with issues relating to teaching and learning in higher education. Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 7 3.3 Categorisation From the materials identified, it was evident that considerations of what excellence in higher education teaching and learning might mean were being developed along a set of (interlinked) dimensions, viz. institutional, departmental and individual levels (see, for example, Elton, 1998; Skelton, 2005); a further dimension, viz. system-wide, was added to ease categorisation. The materials were then categorised according to: which ‘level’ within the system they engaged with considerations of excellence (system-wide; institution; department/discipline; individual); whether they focused on teaching/individual teachers, or on students/their learning experiences (either as process or outcome); and the extent to which they engaged with concepts or aspects of usage. The grid below describes this categorisation in diagrammatic form. Table 1: Map of literatures on excellence in teaching and learning Dimension Aspect Individual teacher/ Student/their learning teaching experiences Concept Usage Concept Usage 1. System-wide 2. Institution 3. Department 4. Individual can be viewed as ‘process’ and ‘outcomes’ The grid proved a useful device for ‘sorting’ the materials in preparation for review and analysis, but does not provide a precise ‘map’ of the literature in that very many materials cover more than one aspect. Further, for one or two aspects few materials were found. In the following sections, each ‘level’ of the higher education system is taken in turn. For each level, first the conceptualisations of excellence in teaching and in learning found in the literature are considered, then usages and the relationship between concepts and usage are examined. Much of the material reviewed referred to the notion of excellence in ‘teaching and learning’, the implication being that teaching and learning are automatically complementary aspects of a single phenomenon. However, in what follows teaching and learning are, where possible, addressed as distinct (but interlinked) phenomena, Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 8 such that the literature about excellence in teaching is considered separately from the literature on excellence in student learning. As noted above, rather a lot of materials related to the implementation of reward schemes for teaching excellence were found, but very many lacked substantive consideration of the concepts underpinning such schemes. An exception to this is Skelton’s book, Understanding Teaching Excellence in Higher Education (2005), which, building on a study (funded by an ESRC grant) of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme for teachers in higher education in England and Northern Ireland takes a critical approach towards understanding teaching excellence in higher education. This work is referred to throughout this review. 4. System-wide level 4.1 Teaching at the system-wide level Alongside expanded and more diverse systems of higher education have come moves towards seeking ways of differentiating systems, and establishing hierarchies within them. As Calhoun (2006, p.19) commented “it is a striking characteristic of universities that their excellence is often measured in terms of their exclusivity”. Furthermore, from reviewing recent journal articles, it is evident that the term ‘excellence’ is used not only in the sense of claiming a position within a hierarchy, but also as a way of giving prominence to particular initiatives geared towards enhancing international competitiveness. The term is also used to reinforce the worth and merit of aspects of higher education not traditionally linked to excellence (for example, articles in the journals Equity and Excellence; Diverse: Issues in Higher Education; Chronicle of Higher Education). In this sense, it could be argued that the term ‘excellent’ has kept only the loosest connection with notions of ‘excelling’; rather, it is used to position an institution or an initiative in some real or imaginary league table. In much of the literature, discussions of excellence are linked to universities’ traditional functions of creating and transmitting knowledge and ways of enhancing the quality of those functions. Arguably, the ‘sorts’ of knowledge being created and transmitted are becoming more diverse, as distinctions between academic and professional ways of knowing are becoming blurred. Barnett went further (Barnett, 2000) and contended that in the current age of supercomplexity, the university has new knowledge functions. He called for a new epistemology for the university, viz. an epistemology “for living amid uncertainty”, and asserted that in this age of supercomplexity, the university has some new functions: to add to supercomplexity by offering completely new frames of Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 9 understanding; to help us comprehend and make sense of the resulting knowledge mayhem; and to enable us to live purposefully amid supercomplexity. While Barnett looked to new knowledge functions for the university, others have explored the roles of other ‘actors’ in the production of knowledge, outside of universities. For example, Gibbons et al. (1994) differentiated between Mode 1 and Mode 2 types of knowledge production, with the former being produced by academics and scientists working within discrete disciplines in academic and research-based institutions, and the latter being socially constructed by many actors in specific and multiple local contexts. Debates about increasing employer engagement with higher education are currently prevalent in the UK. In this context, discussions about work- based learning and higher education that draw on the ideas around the distributed nature of Mode 2 knowledge production are highly relevant (see, for example, Harris, 2006, for further exploration of this). Alongside debates about the contested nature of knowledge, its locus of production, and the challenges these may pose for the role of the university in pursuit of excellence, a different concept of excellence is expounded by Readings (1996). Writing from an American perspective, Readings argued that excellence has been adopted (in policy documents) in opposition to quality. Whereas quality implies that a university is (just) like a business (with all the attitudes and values that this implies), Readings contended that excellence has no content and hence no ideological baggage. He argued that the interest in the pursuit of excellence reflected a change in the university’s function. With universities no longer having to safeguard national culture (because the nation state is no longer the major site at which capital reproduces itself) the idea of national culture no longer serves as an external referent toward which all of the efforts of research and teaching are directed. Hence, ‘what’ gets taught or researched matters less than the fact that it be excellently taught or researched (Readings, 1996, pp. 13-14). In the era of globalisation, the link between the university and the nation state is no longer in place, and the university shifts from being an ideological apparatus of the nation state to being a relatively independent bureaucratic system. Some of the ideas espoused by Readings can be seen to resonate with other critiques of the rise in emphasis in the process and form of learning per se assuming dominance over content (see, for example, Morley, 2003; Temple, 2005). However, current UK policy documents clearly have notions of nation state to the fore in promulgating ideas of excellence in higher education and ways of pursuing it. 4.1.1 Excellence as performance Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 10 In the UK policy documents there is an association of excellence with international standards and even ‘world-class’ performance (NCIHE, 1997; DfES, 2003), which seems to be partly the result of a concern to raise the status of teaching vis-à-vis research (and to employ the terms used by the Research Assessment Exercise to rank research outputs) and partly because of the emerging dominance of the economic purposes of higher education in policy discourse during this period (related to debates around raising tuition fees and graduate repayments). Thus, excellence is not just about competition between teachers or even institutions, but between national systems or economies. The Dearing Report (NCIHE, 1997), in particular, equated excellence with ‘world class’ and ‘international standards’: We believe that the country must have higher education which, through excellence in its diverse purposes, can justifiably claim to be world class. As institutions will increasingly have to operate within an international market for education, they will all be judged by international standards. (NCIHE, 1997, para 1.4) This is later closely tied to national economic prosperity: The education and skills of our people will be our greatest natural resource in the global economy of tomorrow. They must be developed to internationally excellent standards if we are to prosper. (NCIHE, 1997, para 5.28) Thus, as has been noted elsewhere (Skelton, 2005, pp. 167-78), teaching excellence can be seen as being used in a ‘performative’ sense: increasing the efficiency of the higher education system and using higher education teaching and learning to meet national economic goals. The Dearing Report also referred specifically to excellence in learning and teaching at a sector-wide level: In pursuit of a national strategy of excellence, we are convinced that the enhancement and promotion of learning and teaching must be a priority for all of higher education. (NCIHE, 1997, para 8.8) In talking about challenges for teaching and learning in the next 20 years, the Report argued that: Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 11 One current barrier is that staff perceive national and institutional policies as actively encouraging and recognising excellence in research, but not in teaching. (NCIHE, 1997, para 8.9) We recognise the scale of the challenge to institutions in our prescription of national excellence in teaching and the management of learning. (NCIHE, 1997, para 8.11) 4.1.2 Recognition of teaching The Dearing Report noted the importance of recognising and rewarding teaching: … our survey of academic staff indicates that only three per cent believe that the present system rewards excellence in teaching. We agree that there is currently inadequate recognition of teaching excellence, and make proposals to help change this … (NCIHE, 1997, para 14.6) However, these system-wide proposals were very limited: The Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education would provide the basis for a nationally recognised system of professional qualifications for higher education teachers based on a probationary period, and followed up with appropriate continuing professional development at later career stages. Differing levels of expertise would be recognised by different forms of membership of the Institute, from associate member through to Fellowship for those attaining the highest levels of excellence in teaching. (NCIHE, 1997, para 14.29) In his short polemic, Against Excellence (Evans, 2000), Evans argued that, despite having the strap-line Supporting excellence in learning and teaching, the Institute for Learning and Teaching (ILT) should have been in favour of high standards. Focusing on the excellence of the best and tokenising it through teaching awards can appear to absolve us of responsibility for the rest. He argued that, as in other areas of human activity, we want standards to be high and wide, especially in a mass higher education system. “If anything there should be prizes for institutions which demonstrate that all their teachers have a high standard …” (In practice, however, Evans acknowledged this was the ILT and Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) policy at the time.) It is more not less likely that those individuals who are competitive, challenging and perfectionist will innovate and be outstanding if the emphasis is on widespread high standards. You have to be very bright to shine in broad daylight; it is easier to be a Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 12 beacon on a darkling plain. In a world of high standards, excellence, in the form of a star, the uncategorisable wonderful, will look after itself. (Evans, 2000, p. 7) The White Paper (DfES, 2003, p. 9) stated that the Government would “improve and reward teaching excellence”, but the authors did not indicate how they conceived of this (nor did they explain what improving excellent teaching might mean). At several points (for example, DfES, 2003, para 1.37) there are references to international and national levels of excellence, following the RAE distinctions but applying them to the range of higher education institutions’ activities, including teaching. Nevertheless, according to this ‘vision’, all institutions are supposed to excel in teaching and reaching out to low participation groups (DfES, 2003, para 1.45). Presumably, if all institutions were excelling in ‘teaching and reaching out’ then it was other aspects of their functions (research; knowledge transfer; links to local and regional economies; opportunities for progression) that would allow them to stand out from the rest. Skelton suggested that this performative use of teaching excellence is an implicit policy goal rather than “something that is explicit and subject to serious critical scrutiny” (Skelton, 2005, p. 169). His ‘performative’ model of teaching excellence comprises three aspects: the contribution teaching makes to national economic performance; the ability to attract students on courses that compete in a global higher education market place; a lever to regulate, measure and maximise individual, institutional and system performance. He suggested that when such an implicit policy goal is set alongside other more explicit policies of stimulating system performance through diversity and competition, it can give rise to different understandings of teaching excellence. However, as discussed below, the Government-funded initiative on Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs) in England and Northern Ireland explicitly sought to encourage bidders to define their own understandings of excellence (and make evidence-based claims to support their bids for funds). 4.2 Student learning at the system-wide level Elton (1998, p. 3) suggested that the basic unification to all the dimensions of teaching excellence was that “the purpose of teaching is to engender learning … looked at from the learner’s point of view, only such teaching as can produce excellent learning can lay claims to excellence”. The survey of the published literature found very few sources referring specifically at the system-wide level to the notion of excellence in learning per se. However, see later discussion of learning outcomes for more on excellence at system-wide level. Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 13 The Dearing Report took a pluralist view on the means by which institutions should achieve excellence, but clearly regarded the management of learning – by staff and by students themselves – as being central to this: It is not for us to offer institutions a compendium of learning strategies to enable them to achieve excellence in a world in which it is unrealistic to expect a return to former staff to student ratios. But it seems plain that an effective strategy will involve guiding and enabling students to be effective learners, to understand their own learning styles, and to manage their own learning. We see this as not only directly relevant to enhancing the quality of their learning while in higher education, but also to equipping them to be effective lifelong learners. Staff will increasingly be engaged in the management of students’ learning, using a range of appropriate strategies. (NCIHE, 1997, para 8.15) It is noteworthy that Dearing’s reference to “former staff to student ratios” can be seen to betray (yet again) an underlying concept of excellence aligned to exclusivity, and an almost wistful glance back to earlier times when such conditions prevailed. Arguably, the references to “guiding and enabling students to be effective learners, to understand their learning styles, and to manage their own learning …” also hints at some aspects of learning that needed to be taken into account (by institutions) to enable them to achieve excellence in the ‘new’ world of mass higher education. Further, the reference to equipping students to be effective lifelong learners clearly engages with contemporary concerns about the need for continuing personal and professional development outside formal learning situations. 5. Institutional level 5.1 Teaching at the institutional level Debates about excellence in university teaching have been gaining prominence since the late 1990s. Following the publication of the Dearing Report (NCIHE, 1997), the Government openly endorsed the need for institutions to place an increasing emphasis on learning and teaching strategies, and in particular on what students were actually learning through higher education. 5.1.1 Strategies for learning and teaching Skelton (2005) suggested that the production of learning and teaching strategies and institutional cultures that support teaching excellence are basically associated with Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 14 system efficiency and attempts to raise overall teaching standards. Further, whereas “traditional understandings of teaching excellence emphasised the importance of the institution” (with regard to its role in processes of socialisation and character formation), the current focus on teaching excellence within a mass higher education system is measured by operational systems, procedures and policies and a drive to “standardise practice across different departments” (Skelton, 2005, p. 74). Gibbs and Habeshaw’s (2002) practical guide, Recognising and Rewarding Excellent Teaching, linked definitions of excellence with a university’s mission or learning and teaching strategy and explored how ‘traditional’ concepts and methods might no longer suffice: For example there may be a considerable emphasis on widening participation, student retention and supporting students from diverse backgrounds. In this context a generic definition of excellent teaching might inappropriately encourage teachers to use traditional methods better suited to a well qualified and homogeneous student body. However expertly such traditional methods might be used they might not help the institution or the students much. There are an increasing number of examples of defining what teaching excellence means so as to re-orient teachers in their efforts. There is no mention of lecturing or indeed of any classroom teaching, as ‘performance’, in the definitions below. Instead they include institutional concerns (such as efficient use of resources) and preferences for the process of teaching improvement involved (for example ‘scholarship of teaching’ and ‘team working’). (Gibbs and Habeshaw, 2002, p. 5) A cursory look at (just) three current institutional strategies for learning and teaching (and assessment) shows that institutions do indeed try to link their strategies to the broader underlying mission of the institution. Thus: • For Institution A, the primary aim (of the LTA strategy) is the enhancement of the learning experience through a well-designed, inclusive and accessible curriculum that promotes student success. For this institution, the underpinning rationale for the strategy reflects its mission, purpose and values of being “learner-centred, on widening participation in higher education, on employability and on personal and professional development”. The LTA refers to enhancement of learning (not excellence per se), but one of this institution’s core values is “to aspire to excellence in all areas of activity”. • For Institution B, the underlying strategic objective is the institution’s commitment to provide a high quality educational experience for all its students and to promote excellence in teaching and learning through encouraging (among other things) critical intellectual development through guided learning in a research Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 15 environment, personal reflection and the acquisition of subject-specific and broad-based skills to enable graduates to achieve success in their career paths and make a valuable contribution to society. In promoting its teaching and learning strategy, this institution acknowledges its key role in enhancing the experience of its students. • For Institution C, the teaching and learning strategy comprises a number of key objectives set out as ‘high-level aspirations’, which include aspects not only of student learning per se (e.g. “improve learning and teaching effectiveness”), but also of institutional positioning (“improve competitive position”). The foregoing shows, at an institutional level, notions of excellence being used in both an aspirational sense as well as being bound up with claims to enhancing the students’ learning experience and providing an experience of high quality. The outcomes of a more thorough and systematic analysis of institutional strategies can be found in a review of Welsh institutional learning and teaching strategies (Higher Education Academy, 2005). The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales promotes excellent teaching by supporting institutions’ learning and teaching strategies through a learning and teaching fund. The Higher Education Academy’s analysis noted that reference to institutional cultures and climates was extremely helpful in setting the context for learning and teaching strategies, and “another excellent feature was where institutions have missions and aspirations to provide a particular ethos” (Higher Education Academy, 2005, p.2). However, the report noted that providing evidence of success in this area may be more difficult to achieve. Such an emphasis on teaching and learning strategies (and learning outcomes) is not without its critics. In her book, Quality and Power in Higher Education, Morley (2003, pp. 27-8) noted that the concept of learning has largely taken over from the sociology of education, and that the socioeconomic context of teaching is ignored and the process is atomised. She referred to other critics who argue that the form of teaching has assumed dominance over content, and that what is being taught has become less important than that it should be done ‘excellently’ (cf. Readings, 1996). She argued that excellence, in these terms, is regarded as value free, and that the ‘culture of excellence’ (quality, audit, performance indicators, managerialism, professionalisation, consumerism etc) has resulted in mediocrity (Morley, 2003, p. 130). Temple (2005) provided a specific example of the dominance of form over content and a value-free concept of excellence in a paper on the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model. He argued that the EFQM Model is a classic management fad as analysed by Birnbaum (in Management Fads in Higher Education: Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 16 Where they come form, What they do, Why they fail, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001). He drew on the example of the introduction of the Excellence Model in Sheffield Hallam University in 2003. In a particularly telling paragraph, that is relevant to this review, he wrote: The Excellence Model, while giving a particular reading of the university’s relationship with its students, and despite its claims for a holistic approach, does not ask questions about what might lie at the heart of the organisation: about what it does, what it believes in, what gives it its special character. ‘Excellence’, rather, is seen as a neutral feature, being equally applicable across institutional types and disciplines: the same approach to, say, leadership is appropriate for every type of institution in every setting. Can in higher education the cultures and values of different disciplines and institutions really be passed over in this way? (Temple, 2005, p. 269) 5.1.2 ‘Delivery’ and recognition of excellence at an institutional level Chapter 4 of the White Paper, The Future of Higher Education (DfES, 2003), was entitled Teaching and learning – delivering excellence. The notion of ‘delivering excellence’, while curious, does seem to acknowledge a distinction between teaching – even teachers – that may be excellent, or merely effective, and the ‘outcomes’ that may result (for example, excellent student learning): Effective teaching and learning is essential if we are to promote excellence and opportunity in higher education. High quality teaching must be recognised and rewarded, and best practice shared. (DfES, 2003, p. 11) The White Paper announced (DfES, 2003, p.11) that Centres of Excellence in teaching would be established to reward good teaching at departmental level and to promote best practice. It reaffirmed the need to recognise individual excellence, and then linked this with student choice and cultural change: As well as having their good practice spread to others, it is right that those who teach outstandingly well should be rewarded. Their excellence should also be celebrated and made visible, which will both help students make choices and help drive cultural change in the value attached to good teaching in higher education. (DfES, 2003, para 4.26) The nature of excellence in teaching was also linked with changes to the criteria for university title, albeit in negative terms: Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 17 It is clear that good scholarship, in the sense of remaining aware of the latest research and thinking within a subject, is essential for good teaching, but not that it is necessary to be active in cutting-edge research to be an excellent teacher. (DfES, 2003, para 4.31) Consequently, in order to: … recognise excellent teaching as a university mission in its own right, University title will be made dependent on teaching degree awarding powers – from 2004-05 it will no longer be necessary to have research degree awarding powers to become a university. (DfES, 2003, p. 51) 5.1.3 Notions of scholarship linked to excellent teaching As noted in the methodology section of this report, the search strategy of bibliographic databases was refined to include the term ‘scholarship’, in addition to the terms ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’. Ideas around the notion that scholarship should mean more than (just) the discovery of new knowledge and should be extended to embrace the integration, application and transmission of knowledge, referred to by Boyer (and others) as the ‘scholarship of teaching’, have been developing since the late 1980s and early 1990s (see, for example, Gordon et al., 2003, pp. 15-19; Kreber, 2002). Kreber noted that in the UK and Australia there has been a tendency to think of the scholarship of teaching as a “campus activity … an endeavour aimed at promoting an institutional environment that is supportive of teaching and learning” (Kreber, 2002, p. 6), whereas in the United States it is conceived of as both a campus and an individual activity (geared towards a career path). Whatever the focus, it is generally considered that such moves were part of a deliberate attempt to address the undervaluing of teaching (in relation to research) that was (and arguably still is) prevalent in most higher education systems. The discourse on the scholarship of teaching is often linked, in the literature, to two other notions, viz. teaching excellence and the expert teacher. For Shulman (2004), the expert teacher was one who not only ‘knows’ the subject matter being taught and knows ‘how’ to teach, but also knows how to transform the particular subject being taught into terms that students can understand (Shulman, 2004). Kreber contended that scholars of teaching are both excellent teachers and expert teachers, but what distinguishes them as scholars of teaching is the fact that they “share their knowledge and advance the knowledge of teaching and learning in the discipline in a way that can be peer-reviewed” (Kreber, 2002, p. 18). However, she provided neither argument nor evidence for concluding that scholars of teaching are excellent teachers (which could be a Final report -Review of Excellence in Teaching and Learning July 2007 18

Advise: Why You Wasting Money in Costly SEO Tools, Use World's Best Free SEO Tool Ubersuggest.