Are we paying lip service to the idea of quality improvement in teaching?

Jul 17
Author:Drew McCoy
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An ongoing commitment to excellence and improvement in the quality of teaching remains the stated value of every higher education institution in Australia. With increasingly sophisticated tools to extract ever more nuanced information, the actualisation of this goal should be clearer than ever before.

But is actual progress being made? Or is this a case of all sizzle and no steak?

There is an additional stage in the journey that is often lost amidst the glamour and promise of analytics tools – how do institutions actually use this data to implement change and continuous improvement in the quality of their learning and teaching?

At present the approach is highly variable across the sector, and the success often depends on the motivation, buy in and data literacy of multiple stakeholders in key positions to effectively function. Weak links in the chain will often derail the best of intentions.

Learning analytics yet to be mastered

True progress requires the institutional vision and strategy to be aligned with the practices and beliefs of academic and professional staff throughout the university. This further requires the functional embeddedness of support structures to continually reinforce the desired performance at each level, as well as the more prosaic and functional capabilities to: record, measure, analyse and present timely, actionable data when and where it’s required.

Learning analytics, though continually evolving, are hardly an emerging discipline. That no single institution can claim mastery of this process indicates clearly that this is a matter of more easily said than done. With quality of the learning and teaching experience perceived as the cornerstone of economic competitiveness, the future success of higher education is intrinsically linked with the ability to understand and continuously improve their respective qualities.

The Measuring and Improving Quality in Learning & Teaching conference, running this September in Sydney, aims to address the disconnect between data and actionable change. All the data in the world is useless if meaningful and actionable information cannot be extracted and effectively presented. Likewise, without the appropriate support structures and alignment of values, genuine implementation remains just a pipe dream.

Teaching and Learning

Submitted by Drew McCoy

Drew McCoy

Drew is a Conference Producer at Criterion.

One thought on “Are we paying lip service to the idea of quality improvement in teaching?

  1. In response to the question: YES! We are paying lip service to the notion, not even the idea, of quality improvement in teaching!
    Addressing this requires the acknowledgement at the highest level of Tertiary Institutions and application at Faculty and School level that the greatest majority of great researchers do not make great teachers and likewise for managers. A significant cultural shift is required to provide ongoing opportunities for quality researchers with measurable outcomes that actually contribute to society to continue their great work. There also needs to be a quantum shift in mindset where quality teachers are recognised and are offered every opportunity to beneficially contribute to graduate capabilities and not be treated like second class citizens in a toxic environment created by those who (falsely) believe they are entitled. Too many students are disadvantaged and too many opportunities lost by the current toxic culture embedded in dysfunctional Faculties and Schools and perpetuated by staff who certainly would not achieve minimum benchmark standards under an appropriate corporate model of measurable performance.
    The ‘product’ offered by many Universities is sub-standard but with the current funding model, there is little or no recourse with which to address the problems (plural). A change in the funding model where the Tertiary education sector is funded on Graduates achieving benchmark graduate attributes and relevant skill sets would go a long way towards creating a new culture within the Tertiary education sector. This would lead to students taking ownership of their degree(s) and Universities responding accordingly.

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