My university forced me into teaching training. It was all dry 'eduspeak'

Posted on: 2018-10-12 07:30:00

Soon after I joined a UK-based university as a lecturer, I received an email inviting me to enrol on a year-long course on teaching and learning, which would purportedly enhance my skills as a teacher. I had taught for several years in another country, teaching mostly undergraduate students. I prefer to learn by doing and was happy honing my skills by building practical experience in the classroom. I had never heard any colleague voice the wish for formal teacher training, nor did I think it necessary. It turns out there was a reason for this.

To caveat: I absolutely believe in lifelong learning and professional development, and I’m always keen to be exposed to new ideas. Unfortunately the course that I followed, which is accredited by the Higher Education Academy, failed to deliver this. It wasn’t practical at all, but rather focused on theory and “eduspeak” that had little relevance to my everyday experience in the classroom.

I can’t point to a single practical teaching technique that I learned over the course of the year. What was drummed into us, however, was the constant need for student evaluation so that we could prove we were indeed reaching our students. This seemed designed to reinforce the increasing customer-service ethos that pervades British universities today.

During this year of enforced training, I avidly read teaching magazines and websites. Each week, excellent teaching advice was dispensed by fellow university teachers on how to discuss divisive topics in class. They gave tips for innovative forms of assessment, and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of new e-learning technologies. I learned more from these columns than the dry lectures in my formal teacher training.

The spread of obligatory and formal accreditation of the teaching skills of lecturers is not limited to the UK. Ireland, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries have similar schemes. The European Science Foundation (ESF) would like to see these teacher training programmes rolled out to every European county. It argues that in a context of rising tuition fees, lecturers must learn how to “satisfy student demands”. This pressure is particularly acute in countries that have introduced teaching quality rankings such as the UK’s teaching excellence framework, which reinforces the idea of students as consumers of a product that needs to be pleasing to them.

If formal teacher training is to be made obligatory – which I don’t think it should be – then it needs to be practical, delivered by lecturers with years of experience in the classroom, and tailored to the needs of today’s generation. A case study approach, focused on how to deal with tricky classroom situations, would be useful, as would demonstrations of how to effectively integrate new software such as polling tools into our teaching.

The HEA-accredited courses as they are currently designed do not truly help new lecturers become better, more reflective teachers. At the end of the course, you receive a nice certificate and encouragement to continue the process (there are four different fellow levels), but little in the way of practical knowledge. The experience left me feeling that it was more about offering extra titles to put next to our names, rather than genuinely improving teaching quality.

Anonymous Academic

Source: The Guardian

Available on the go

Once you are registered, you can access all of these key benefits straight from your phone. Find us on:

Get it on iTunes Get it on Google Play