Fri 1st September 2017 - 11:53

Supporting teaching in Higher Education

The teaching context in Higher Education institutions in the UK can seem somewhat peculiar. You may assume that good institutions prioritise good teaching, that good student experiences as captured in surveys also reflect good learning experiences. In turn it would be logical to suggest that institutions recognise, reward and celebrate their best teachers. However, there are many assumptions here that clearly need to be challenged. 

Real experiences of teaching fellows in research intensive universities shows a different reality

Higher Education teaching revolves around a ‘delivery’ model, knowledge transmission through lectures. 

There is still work to do in order to establish teaching quality as this HEA report shows

The place of technology within teaching excellence is not established and encounters great resistance

I doubt that many students would disagree that good teaching contributes to good learning. Learning is central to a university education, learning support from an experienced, supportive teacher is fundamental to enhancing your university experience. To be a ‘good teacher’ it helps to be part of a community of practice, sharing ideas and resources, connecting and learning from each other. This is not currently widely established as a modus operandi in Higher Education in the UK. However it is not to say that it doesn’t happen. Thanks to social media and the many available open tools we have, it is more practical than ever to build communities of practice for teachers. For example, check LTHEchat

If universities are to grow and thrive in the rapidly moving context of the technologically enabled learning environments we have today, I would argue that there is a greater need than ever to recognise the importance of open educational practice for the development of the teaching professionals in Higher Education. Indeed, I did some work to investigate the challenges and opportunities of such an approach and here are my hypotheses (which although they are based in language teaching are likely to be relevant to any discipline). 

  • If universities believe education (not just knowledge transfer) should be sustainable in the future it needs to actively support those working to understand how learning happens in our evolving contexts. They can do so by recognising the efforts of those engaged in open educational practice. The example here is the use of ‘produsage’ in language teaching and learning. 
  • For institutions to support the sustainability of education, this needs to be reflected in their policies. See this meta-analysis. Time and space needs to be included in workload models to allow for this to happen. 
  • If we as teachers wish to increase and extend our professional status in the face of increasing threats, we need to engage in the teaching communities, which enable us to address the learning we need to thrive in changing times. I would suggest watching this recording

Together, these resources make the case for envisaging a position for teaching in higher education that has as its heart a participatory approach in support of a better world vision. One that has open educational practices as fundamental to building digital capability and that counters the competitive discourse which would restrict our collaborations and limit our learning. You can explore further here - take time to be a "flâneur" - this is at the heart of scholarly activity.  Creativity and collaboration offer a chance for us to be the change we want to see. 

The images above were created by Kevin Mears @mearso and shared with me under CC BY licences. I have used them to award to those who engage in open educational practices

This article will summarise the UK context for teachers in Higher Education and offer a way to protect the teaching profession in extreme times through active community engagement in open educational practices. 

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