Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Focus on Teaching Which Works

Nicholas Hawkins writes "Reduced scope of the Office of Teaching and Learning should focus us on what works" (Online Opinion, 24 July 2015). The OLT has had limited results, due to the small scale of funding and limited time scale of projects. As a result, perhaps the resources of the scaled back OLT should be, as Hawkins suggests, put into communicating what works.

Universities spend considerable amounts of effort on improving teaching, but seem reluctant to take the obvious step and require their teaching staff to be formally qualified to teach. It is very frustrating to see university academics spending time reinventing techniques which have been developed, researched and tested for teaching.

Hawkins' Biomedical Education Skills and Training (BEST) Network sounds interesting. However, the claim that it is a world first has not been substantiated, or how it works explained. This is not the first "teaching network run by academics for academics", as anyone who has studied education as a discipline knows. The Smart Sparrow adaptive e-learning software sounds interesting. But there again, I would like to know exactly what it does.

Any academic looking to apply claimed revolutionary new learning technology first needs to learn the history of their discipline and looks at the techniques which have been proven and the may which failed.

Last week I was giving staff at Cambridge University tips on e-learning, while there to speak at a computer education conference. What I suggested was that they worry about good teaching first.

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