How the TEF do you measure good teaching?

This week I attended an in-house teaching and learning conference. The theme of the day was “What is good teaching?” and was framed around discussions about the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) that may be introduced into Higher Education.

But what is “good” teaching and how do you recognise it?

The terms that are used to discuss good teaching are fascinating and inspiring. They demonstrate the passion people hold for teaching, and acknowledges that “good” teaching is important. However, it is a slippery beast to define and the language that surrounds it does not lend itself to easy measuring.

What is “good” teaching?

…..enabling discoveries, mentoring, supportive, encouragement, developing relationships, helping to achieve potential, challenging, inspirational, constructive, motivating, active, personable, patient, experimental, innovative, authentic, creative…and much more beyond.

These are just some of the words and phrases that were being used during the conference to describe what good teaching means to people – but how, and should, this be measured?

Will the TEF try to measure the unmeasurable?

Where would you start to measure creativity or innovation? What is creative to one person, is standard practice for another.  Will a matrix based approach simply lead to people teaching to the matrices, resulting in stifling of innovation and creativity? Or will it help to improve quality and enhance the learning experience of students?

The matrix itself cannot be neutral, as by its very nature, it is making value judgements about what we as a society should value as good and what as bad…who is responsible for making these judgements and defining them? How will they shape how learning happens? Will it shape it for better or worse? Should higher education be free to challenge the dominant stances in society, or is the role of HE to provide employable workers shaped to the needs of businesses and corporations?

Perhaps a TEF is needed to support staff to invest time in improving their teaching practices and being recognised for excellence in the field? Teaching is often seen as a poorer relation to research and maybe a TEF would provide an incentive for staff development in this area, and to management to reward and recognise excellence in teaching. There is certainly an issue that being an excellent teacher is not as strongly rewarded or recognised by institutions as being an excellent researcher….and yet students are core to HE, and their main interaction with academic staff is through being taught.

The Times Higher Education (@timeshighered) are running an interesting twitter discussion around theses issues, take a look at #TeachingMetric to see answers to their question ‘how would you measure uni teaching quality?’.



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