Laurie Taylor – 2 February 2017

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

February 2, 2017
Businessman with smiley face cardboard box on his head
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Shock TEF decision

“A great day for our teachers!”

That was how our Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, celebrated the news that Poppleton would be joining the majority of English universities in the teaching excellence framework.

Targett told a hastily convened press conference that the TEF was “an exciting way to measure yet another aspect of academic work”.

He admitted that the TEF had its critics. “There are those reactionary old dons who call it an intellectually dishonest attempt to force something as multifaceted as teaching into three little boxes labelled gold, silver and bronze.”

And they weren’t the only ones. “There are smarty-boot methodologists who question the validity and reliability of the TEF metrics. They ask how it can possibly measure teaching quality by relying on scores from the National Student Survey, with its well-documented biases against women and ethnic minorities. They even question the appropriateness of using student retention and graduate employment as proxies for excellent teaching.”

So how did Targett explain his own newfound enthusiasm for the TEF?

“I rely on the acuity of Nick Hillman of the Higher Education Policy Institute. As he points out, there are three compelling reasons for accepting the TEF. First, it might provide extra income for those universities who can engineer their way into the gold or silver categories. Second, people working in higher education ‘tend to prefer new knowledge, however imperfect, over ignorance’. And third, ‘senior university leaders see the information from the TEF as a useful new management tool’.

“And there you have it,” said Targett. “The TEF might get us some more money. It will give us a bit of imperfect knowledge. And, best of all, it will help management to weed out all those academics who fail to succeed according to that imperfect new knowledge. What’s not to like?”

Gold and nickel TEF

Out of the medals

Our university will establish a new “nickel” label for those Poppleton teachers who do not fit the new gold, silver and bronze categories introduced by the teaching excellence framework.

According to our Head of TEF Submissions, Ted Chippings, “nickel teachers” are those “rather sad old-fashioned individuals who insist on giving lectures in which not every idea is fully comprehensible to every student in the room”. Such “nickel” lecturers, said Mr Chippings, also indulged in such key TEF faults as “abstraction”, “irony” and even “the occasional expression of uncertainty”.

In the interests of the TEF, such “nickel lecturers” would shortly be redesignated as “redundancy only”.

Leaning towards leniency

Is our marking fair?

Janet Fluellen, our Head of Curriculum Development, has responded positively to a new study by Ido Millet of Pennsylvania State University’s Behrend College that raises serious concerns about the variability between “lenient and tough graders” in higher education.

But whereas Professor Millet regards this variability as “dysfunctional” in that it encourages students to opt for courses run by more lenient faculty members, Ms Fluellen sees it as a wholly positive development.

“We know from research that students accord the highest ratings to lecturers who are lenient markers. Now that such high ratings will increase our chances of receiving gold in the TEF, we will encourage all teachers to avoid any of this dreaded variability by marking all student work as leniently as possible. In the words of our new TEF slogan: ‘Love my marks? Then love my teaching!’”

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