I just read this great, succinct piece by Philip Plowden on the Guardian HE pages – How to approach the Teaching Excellence Framework with confidence.

It’s very balanced and sensible. I particularly liked recommendations 1, 4 and 5:

1) Stay Passionate about your subject area

Too often a commitment to learning and teaching is presented in opposition to engagement with research and scholarship, but the two should be inextricably linked. Universities are above all places where knowledge and practice are questioned, and our understandings extended. Without that continuing commitment to the discipline, any teaching can become rote, and the value to students is lost.

The emphasis on the link between research and scholarship and teaching is spot on, universities are meant to be places where students can and should learn about the boundaries of knowledge and understanding in their chosen subject; sharing that knowledge and working together to push the boundaries of understanding is what is should all be about.. Most important is the need for students to feel a sense of passion, commitment and excitement from their lecturers, this can come from linking teaching to their own research but not necessarily, it’s about having a sense that the person in front of you teaching you cares just as much (possibly even more) than you about what you are studying.

4) Talk with the students

“Co-production” has become something of a buzzword, and there is increasing challenge, including from students, to the idea that it is in part their responsibility to shape the learning experience that they are now funding. But if nothing else, it reminds us that students are best placed to comment on how a programme or a module feels to them. And that gives us our first intelligence as to whether we are achieving what we intended.

I’ve written a book about student engagement (get yourself a copy on Amazon!) so get very excited by concepts such as co-production, change agents, partnership etc. However, I have always been of the view that when boiled down to what can and should every member of staff at a university be doing, it’s this, talking to your students. They are the only people who know what it is like to study on your module or programme, taking time to talk to them and listen to them will be invaluable. This can be through formal structures such as student-staff committees or feedback forms, or less formal opportunities at the end of a lecture or around assessment hand-in times.

5) Get assessment right 

When we get assessment right, it becomes a seamless part of the learning process. There can be an unspoken anxiety that unless assessment is burdensome – for student and academic alike – it cannot have been rigorous. Perhaps this is why the assessment process often remains the most traditional element in any programme and module. If you can get the assessment right, the rest of the module will follow.

This is what it all comes down to, this is the biggest burden and stress factor for every student and academic. There are so many shibboleths and myths about assessment that lead to over-assessment but also over-burdensome methods of assessment for students and staff.

The other recommendations are good too.

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