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Book part
Publication date: 6 August 2020

John Sanders, Joanne Moore and Anna Mountford-Zimdars

This chapter critically engages with ways that teaching excellence has been operationalised in practice. Specific focus is on developing individual teaching excellence

Abstract

This chapter critically engages with ways that teaching excellence has been operationalised in practice. Specific focus is on developing individual teaching excellence, rewarding of success and recognition of teaching excellence and the building of evidence around what works in teaching for the benefits of students. We consider the daily interactions with students that form the basis of frameworks of teaching excellence before arguing that operationalisations of teaching excellence are highly context specific and operate at the level of institutions and the whole higher education sector. We discuss the criteria that underpin teaching excellence awards. This includes governance as well as development frameworks. After considering the complex links between research and teaching and the importance of the disciplinary dimension of teaching excellence, the chapter finally looks at the skills and attributes commonly associated with individual teacher excellence and argues that these are exceptionally difficult to pin down let alone measure. It concludes with some reflections on some of the challenges faced by institutions as they seek to develop the quality of teaching whilst meeting the requirements of the TEF.

Details

Challenging the Teaching Excellence Framework
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-536-8

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Book part
Publication date: 21 December 2017

Phil Wood

With the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the status of teaching has been moved towards the centre of concerns in the UK higher education (HE…

Abstract

With the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the status of teaching has been moved towards the centre of concerns in the UK higher education (HE) sector. This interest develops further the notion of teaching excellence created through various institutional and sectoral schemes such as the Higher Education Academy (HEA) fellowship. Whilst excellence schemes and the TEF all highlight the importance of teaching, they also run the danger of reducing it to lists and simplified proxies.

This chapter argues that reductive characterisations of teaching, through metrics supporting the TEF, such as the national student survey, or ‘idealised’ descriptions of the foundational aspects of ‘excellent practice’, all lead to partial accounts of the teaching process. Such characterisations might lead to creeping performativity and increasing organisational attempts to control. An alternative account of teaching is proposed based on complexity theory. This sees teaching as emergent, multifaceted and contextually based. It refutes notions of ‘best practice’ and argues that any attempt to capture ‘excellent practice’ is to reduce the holistic nature of the processes that bring teaching, learning, curriculum and assessment together.

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Teaching Excellence in Higher Education
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-761-4

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Article
Publication date: 7 January 2019

Phil Wood and Matt O’Leary

Teaching excellence remains a contested term in English higher education (HE). This paper begins by reflecting on its complex and sometimes blurred meaning, charting the…

Abstract

Purpose

Teaching excellence remains a contested term in English higher education (HE). This paper begins by reflecting on its complex and sometimes blurred meaning, charting the divergence between academic interests in the complexity and contextual questions relating to practice development and organisational and sectoral shifts which have been driven by managerialism, accountability and “top-down” ideas of change. The authors argue that this divergence, epitomised in the development of the teaching excellence framework, has led to a confused, if ubiquitous, use of excellence to identify organisational and sector-led ideas of what it means to deliver quality teaching. However, these frameworks have become progressively detached from the complexity of practice investigated by those interested in pedagogy. The paper aims to discuss this issue.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper which brings together literature from teaching excellence, organisational science, time and HE to develop an alternative approach to pedagogic development.

Findings

Based on a critique of the current, confused conceptualisation of teaching excellence, the authors offer a different narrative which demonstrates how a reconsideration of the factors is important in developing critical and challenging teaching opportunities. Based on a “bottom-up” system focusing on dialogue, sustainability and “unhasty” time, the authors argue for a re-establishing of a holistic approach in HE providers based on emergent pedagogies as opposed to teaching excellence.

Originality/value

This paper demonstrates why teaching excellence has become conceptually fractured in an English context, and why a new approach to pedagogic development needs to be considered to establish a more positive and critical approach at both the institutional and sectoral levels. This paper outlines a possible approach to developing such renewal.

Details

International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, vol. 21 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2396-7404

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Book part
Publication date: 6 August 2020

John Sanders, Joanne Moore and Anna Mountford-Zimdars

This chapter provides an introduction to the problematic notion of teaching excellence in higher education, which is a focus of this collection. It draws on an extensive…

Abstract

This chapter provides an introduction to the problematic notion of teaching excellence in higher education, which is a focus of this collection. It draws on an extensive review of relevant literature to explore how teaching excellence is defined and conceptualised and what factors underpin different conceptions. It notes that definitions are disparate, often context-specific and are influenced by a range of different ‘players’. It then examines how different conceptualisations play out at the macro, meso and micro levels and highlights the tensions between performative and transformative notions of teaching excellence. It notes the move from ‘surface’ to ‘deep’ excellence and efforts to articulate a more holistic conception of teaching excellence that emphasises the relational, emotional and moral dimensions of teaching. It suggests that, rather than seeking singular definitions and conceptions, it may be more useful to talk of ‘teaching excellences’, to reflect a stratified and plural sector, a diverse student body and different disciplinary families. Equally, it argues for further investigation of the intersections of teaching excellence with other key drivers of institutional change, such as student engagement and well-being, inclusion and diversity, widening participation and retention and success.

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Book part
Publication date: 21 December 2017

Sue Robson

This chapter considers the opportunities and challenges for HE to develop, support and celebrate excellent teaching. Drawing on conceptualisations of teaching excellence

Abstract

This chapter considers the opportunities and challenges for HE to develop, support and celebrate excellent teaching. Drawing on conceptualisations of teaching excellence in quality frameworks and in the literature, it considers how teaching quality has traditionally been interpreted, suggesting (as in Chapter 2) that there is a need for more nuanced and comprehensive understandings of teaching excellence to be developed, demonstrated, recognised and rewarded, to reflect the complex nature of teaching excellence across the academic career profile. It considers how institutions might build and communicate shared understandings of excellence in teaching and promote a culture in which excellence at all levels of teaching is valued in the same way as research. It discusses the ways in which the professional learning and support needs of academics can be met at various stages of the academic career, to develop in teaching faculty and education leaders a sense of being appreciated, connected and competent in their contribution and commitment to teaching excellence.

Details

Teaching Excellence in Higher Education
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-761-4

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Book part
Publication date: 21 December 2017

Amanda French

This chapter critically examines how recent government papers and policies have informed and contextualised the new Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB) passed in…

Abstract

This chapter critically examines how recent government papers and policies have informed and contextualised the new Higher Education and Research Bill (HERB) passed in April 2017. In particular, it concerns itself with the issue of ‘teaching excellence’, through what has been termed the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) that has emerged as a key plank of the current government’s policy for future funding of higher education (HE). It will consider the other spurs for reform in HERB, such as the desire to create a culture in HE where teaching has equal status with research, the need to ensure that universities provide better information about their courses and the experiences that they can offer students and the predictable governmental requirement for institutions to give value for money and to be clearly held accountable for any failure to provide a quality service to students. Lastly, there is also a strong emphasis on widening student participation across the sector and ‘levelling the playing field’ so that new providers can set up with the minimum of red tape. It is interesting to note how each of these additional areas for reform is clearly linked to TEF, which, this chapter will argue, will be the key vehicle used to drive them forward.

Details

Teaching Excellence in Higher Education
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-761-4

Keywords

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Book part
Publication date: 21 December 2017

Matt O’Leary

This chapter starts by interrogating the notion of teaching excellence. It then moves on to discussing some of the data sources currently used in Higher Education…

Abstract

This chapter starts by interrogating the notion of teaching excellence. It then moves on to discussing some of the data sources currently used in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to monitor and measure the quality of teaching. What do these sources actually reveal about teaching excellence and how might we make better use of them? From large-scale national censuses like the National Student Survey (NSS) to institutional data sets such as teaching observations, the contribution that each source makes to our understanding of the quality of HE teaching is underexplored and contested. It is argued that there is a need for more transparent debate across HEIs and the sector as a whole about the benefits and limitations of such data as well as greater acknowledgement of the role of collaboration over competition. The chapter concludes that teaching excellence is a marketised misconception of the complex reality of the reciprocal relationship between teaching and learning. Contrary to policy rhetoric and far from encouraging an environment of collegial improvement, it introduces an unhelpful ethos of contrived competition into what is essentially an interdependent relationship underpinned by collective collaboration. It is by focusing attention on the latter where the real gains and insights are likely to be made.

Details

Teaching Excellence in Higher Education
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-761-4

Keywords

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Book part
Publication date: 6 August 2020

Julian Crockford

The Teaching Excellence Framework was explicitly introduced as a mechanism to ‘enhance teaching’ in universities. This chapter suggests, however, that the highly complex…

Abstract

The Teaching Excellence Framework was explicitly introduced as a mechanism to ‘enhance teaching’ in universities. This chapter suggests, however, that the highly complex ‘black box’ methodology used to calculate TEF outcomes effectively blunts its purpose as a policy lever. As a result, TEF appears to function primarily as performative policy act, merely gesturing towards a concern with social mobility. Informed by the data and metrics driven Deliverology approach to public management, I suggest the opacity of the TEF's assessment approach enables policymakers to distance themselves from and sidestep the wicked problems raised by the complicated contexts of contemporary higher education learning and teaching. At the same time, however, I argue that the very indeterminacy through which the framework achieves this sleight of hand creates a space in which engaged teaching practitioners can push through a more progressive approach to inclusive success.

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Article
Publication date: 7 January 2019

Trudi Cooper

The purpose of this paper is to explore: why the concept of teaching excellence has been uncritically accepted into the lexicon of university management; and how it has…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore: why the concept of teaching excellence has been uncritically accepted into the lexicon of university management; and how it has been used to co-opt university teaching staff into supporting the myth that teaching quality can be maintained as financial support for teaching has declined.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is conceptual and analytical rather than empirical and a critical management perspective is adopted.

Findings

Per capita funding of university teaching has declined steadily. The concept of teaching excellence has been used to distract attention away from discussions about funding and the conditions required to promote good teaching in universities. The construction of teaching excellence as an attribute of individual teachers has co-opted university teachers into supporting the illusion that teaching quality can be maintained, despite falling organisational support and decreased funding.

Research limitations/implications

Teaching in universities can only be improved through changes to the management approach and maintenance of per capita funding, and ultimately democratisation of universities. This will require changes to the regulatory framework, and national policy.

Practical implications

The author concludes that teaching excellence is unhelpful as a concept. Instead the focus of discussion needs to return to ensuring that the necessary conditions for responsive teaching are in place.

Social implications

Democratise the workplace and management methods; adopt matrix management structures; Rebalance to focus on social benefit and public good.

Originality/value

This paper uncovers tensions, contradictions and missing elements in current policy and concludes with suggestions for change.

Details

International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, vol. 21 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2396-7404

Keywords

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 6 August 2020

Jenny Lawrence, Hollie Shaw, Leanne Hunt and Donovan Synmoie

This chapter attempts to capture what teaching excellence looks and feels like for students. Our research reports on research conducted by two student authors at separate…

Abstract

This chapter attempts to capture what teaching excellence looks and feels like for students. Our research reports on research conducted by two student authors at separate institutions. It suggests that the most crucial aspect of the student experience of ‘teaching excellence’ is a teacher's ability to build rapport and create meaningful interpersonal relationships with their students. Leanne Hunt's research was conducted with her fellow students at the University of Bradford. She outlines how, for her participants, the student–teacher rapport informed a positive learning experience which translated into a mutual understanding of excellent teaching. Widening participation, college-based HE student Hollie Shaw, now at Sheffield Hallam University, defines teaching excellence as flexible enough to respond to student learning needs, but strong enough to inspire interest in the discipline. In this chapter, we consider their separate testimonies carefully: we argue that exploring unconscious bias furthers understanding of how differences between student and teacher may compromise interpersonal relations and so student recognition of a tutor's positive and crucial role in the student experience and the implications of how one might measure this given the emphasis on proxies for teaching excellence in the TEF. We suggest breaking down unconscious bias calls for embracing differences, reflection and recognising the complexities of contemporary staff and student university lives. This chapter's exploration of staff–student partnership opens up potential for the creation of more equitable and honest learning dynamics in higher education – where a nuanced understanding of ‘teaching excellence’ can be defined, understood and evidenced within a HEI, with external bodies such as the Office for Students, and included in the Teaching Excellence Framework.

Details

Challenging the Teaching Excellence Framework
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-536-8

Keywords

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