Letter: No winners in teaching turf war(1)

December 21, 2000

I read with concern "Union motion to abandon ILT" (THES, December 8). I have been involved with the Institute for Learning and Teaching as an accreditor and as a member since its creation, and I feel that to set up a rival system at this stage would be extremely counter-productive.

The accreditation process for individual members is rigorous and standardised, and initial targets for membership have been exceeded. The ILT has also explored and succeeded in establishing processes for large numbers of potential members to join.

In terms of accreditation of institutional courses or programmes, again the processes appear to achieve a good balance between rigour and a light touch. This is never easy, as those of us who have been Quality Assurance Agency reviewers know. After the implementation and bedding down of policies and procedures (which, given the speed at which the ILT was established post-Dearing, was bound to lead to a steep learning curve), the ILT needs to focus precisely on the type of issues the Association of University Teachers has raised.

In liaison with the Learning and Teaching Support Network, the ILT also needs to develop further activities that involve members and raise the status of teaching and learning. As the initial membership route ceases in September 2001, the accreditation process and membership fees should be revisited. The AUT demand for "the introduction of group membership for all teachers in a department that had successfully met external quality assurance demands" raises fundamental issues about the purpose and practice of external quality assurance procedures. Certainly QAA arrangements do not lead to the conclusion that all teachers in a department with a high score are (or should be) eligible for ILT membership.

Requiring individuals to provide peer-reviewed evidence of an interest and expertise in reflective teaching/learning is very different from the activities carried out as part of external quality assurance reviews. These focus on the whole student learning experience.

Teaching in higher education is widely perceived to be low status, and morale is low among teachers and students. The AUT and the ILT should make serious efforts to resolve their differences constructively. It is in no one's interests to have organisations that support professionals working to competing agendas.

Judy McKimm
Director, Undergraduate Medicine Office, Imperial College School of Medicine

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