Lecturers can't twitter on in new media age 2

February 26, 2009

Richard Austen-Baker (Letters, 19 February) is guilty of a faux pas. The tiny survey evidence he calls on to support his argument serves only to question its validity, unless the fact that lecturers in receipt of training who say they feel better and more confident about their role is grounds for doubting the value of that training. His only other concept of research is a generalisation drawn from personal history.

Since he is unsure about constructing an argument and does not grasp the notion of scholarly research, it is fair to conclude that his estimation of the effectiveness of his untrained university teachers is wildly at odds with the evidence presented.

Again, it is reasonable to conclude that if his studies show under-trained and untrained teachers are roughly the same in terms of outcome, it could be that a more obvious cause of underachievement is the student rather than the teacher.

As is so often the case with the rants of the pedagogical Luddites, the argument is lazy because the real problem is a refusal to engage with the research that does exist in the fields of teaching and learning.

There is a large body of empirical research presenting results that enable teachers to achieve significant improvements in learning by occasionally stepping away from chalk and talk.

However, no in-service mechanism, beyond the paltry time allowance offered to introductory teaching courses and a few desultory staff development sessions, exists to disseminate that vital and often seminal knowledge.

Andrew Morgan, Swansea University.

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