Improving university teaching (Is it possible ????)

29 May

A very quick post, as I’m in the middle of the biannual marking-hell. I’ve had a couple of discussions with colleagues over the last few weeks about improving the quality of university teaching, and having just read a great article on the subject I thought I’d record my views here.

1) Most university teachers work on the basis of mirroring the style of teaching that they feel benefited them most when they were an undergraduate. The logic of this approach is clearly ridiculous. By definition, academics are likely to have been at the very top of the distribution of abilities in their undergraduate classes, and thus by modelling teaching on what worked for them it is likely that we are excluding the 95% of undergraduates who don’t end up in academia.

2) Students recognise good teaching more than we think they do. Ever year I ask students who have been at university for around seven weeks to tell me about examples of ‘bad presenting’ that they have witnessed. Every year, in addition to producing some embarrassing revelations, this exercise produces a list of what makes for a good presentation that would not be out-of-place in most ‘How To….’ books. In the past I have had quite senior colleagues tell be that poor teaching actually benefits students because it forces them to become independent learning. Hopeful with £9000 per year fees in the UK now, this defence has had its day

More thoughts on this when I have got the exam scripts off my desk

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