A complete medical check-up

March 19, 1999

The front-page shocker reveals more about confused academic and journalistic attitudes than it does about Liverpool John Moores University or academic standards.

First, the only reason there was a story at all is that teaching material was written down rather than delivered in a lecture theatre. Lecturers say things in lectures that other academics would consider "wrong" all the time.

Second, when good teachers present material to students new to the subject they use a degree of simplification and deliberate avoidance of exceptions, elaborations and detail to convey the central ideas. They do not pretend this simplification is the truth - it is simply a useful pedagogic device. Taken out of context it is not easy to tell if teaching material is deliberately simplifying or is confused.

Third, the argument that lecturers need to be doing research to avoid such problems with teaching material is wrong. There is copious evidence that research excellence has nothing to do with teaching excellence. We certainly need teachers to be scholarly, but that is not the same thing as engaging in discovery research.

Graham Gibbs Centre for Higher Education Practice Open University, Milton Keynes

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