teaching quality

It appears the University of Auckland is gearing up towards a shift in how teaching quality is evaluated. In particular, faculty will soon need evidence of their teaching being peer reviewed–summatively–as part of the process of reappointment or promotion. I suspect this will be something of a bumpy ride for faculty, leadership and (marginally) students. But these are bumps along a road well worth travelling.  More detail would be helpful, of course.

My former institution is several km ahead on this journey. Research intensive universities are particular sorts of tertiary institutions. Many whose “college” experience is US-based aren’t aware that different models exist for undergraduate education–between disciplines of course, but also different institutional models. In addition to the difference between private and public institutions, there are foci on research or teaching, liberal arts or comprehensive or technical, all of which tempts me to make a lovely matrix…

I’ll resist for now 🙂

In many other Western, liberal democracies–like Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and much of Europe–tertiary education is mostly a public endeavour, where private institutions play a more marginal role. The statutory frameworks can vary (some places give each university its own Act; others have national or regional Acts for legal frameworks), but the overarching assumption is that tertiary education features prominently on the public services agenda–and quality and access are both important. This explains the proliferation of choice in the US: there are thousands of degree granting institutions with millions of students. Some of these are the best in the world. Others…far from it.

New Zealand and Canada have almost entirely public systems, where budgets, fees and program allocations (which institutions can grant which degrees) regulated to a significant extent by government. This doesn’t mean universities in Canada and New Zealand aren’t cognisant of developments elsewhere: both UBC and UoA position themselves globally and to a certain extend are focused on what Edinburgh and Singapore do more than Calgary and Otago.

Many of these institutions have already shifted their teaching and learning cultures towards summative peer review of teaching. Practices include:

  1. Specific requirements for pre-observation meetings
  2. 2 or more classroom observations
  3. Integration post-graduate student supervision
  4. Integration of laboratory and other applied teaching environments
  5. Online and blended learning-specific processes
  6. Consideration of student evaluation of teaching (SEoT) data as a part of overall teaching quality evaluation

Among others aspects. But the principles are consistent: evaluation that is somewhat longitudinal, that takes into account differing norms and practices across disciplines and subjects, where individual teaching styles and perspectives are respected.

I’m a supporter of these sorts of initiatives if they’re well thought out in terms of design and operations. The next few months should be very interesting!