Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Teaching and learning, and research management

I have been a teacher for more than 40 years. I have taught thousands of students (including 9 PhD's). I have written textbooks. I have always found it hard work.
Towards the end of my career in Sydney (1998) I discovered the astonishing fact that in order to prove that one was an excellent teacher (which I was not) to the satisfaction of university committees one needed to have published research in education. At the same time the university started using the word learning rather than teaching.

This process of formalizing what it means to be a good teacher has progressed enormously in Sydney. There are the very interesting centres The Institue for Teaching and Learning, and  Learning Solutions which will give you courses on how to prove you are an excellent teacher, and how to manage your career.
Learning Solutions is "responsible for developing and training staff across the University, in support of the University's strategic objectives. Learning Advisors work closely with Faculties and Units to build the capabilities of their staff. Programs focus on leadership and change, community engagement (media), and research", so they also give courses on research.
So, for example, there is a programme for "mid-career researchers who are new to the role of CI (recently won grants) or who are currently working towards being in a CI role (ie. who have already been involved in successful grants and have submitted grant applications with themselves as a lead CI). The program develops the skills required by those responsible for the management of research grants and projects. The focus of the program is on those who will be managing research projects, teams or budgets".

I have doubts that such programmes identify good teachers, or improve teaching or research. They certainly increase the amount of nonsense, and business language in universities. I don't believe research is the same thing as managing research grants.

I can only repeat Peter Cameron's phrase:
"the purpose of a university used to be teaching and research; now it is making money and scoring well in league tables".

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