Fri 1st September 2017 - 11:53

Supporting teaching in Higher Education

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

Teaching in higher education (HE) institutions in the UK can seem somewhat peculiar. You may assume that good institutions prioritise good teaching, and that good student experiences, as captured in surveys, 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. HE teaching revolves around a ‘delivery’ model – knowledge transmission through lectures. 

There is still work to be done 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 HE, and 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, where people share ideas and resources, connect and learn 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 does not happen. Thanks to social media and the many available open tools we have, it has never been easier to build communities of practice for teachers. For example, check LTHEchat

If universities are to grow and thrive in the fast moving context of technologically enabled learning environments, it is more necessary than ever to recognise the importance of open educational practice for the development of 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 (although they are based on language teaching, they are likely to be relevant to any discipline). 

If universities believe education (not just knowledge transfer) should be sustainable in the future, they need 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 need to be included in workload models to allow 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. This enables 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 HE, which at its heart has a participatory approach in support of a better world. One that has open educational practices as fundamental to building digital capability and that counters the competitive discourse. This would restrict our collaborations and limit our learning. You can explore this further here – take time to be a "flâneur" - this is at the heart of scholarly activity. Creativity and collaboration offers 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

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