Case for lessons in teaching

August 16, 1996

A rich vein of discontent with the quality of teaching in universities has been tapped by graduate Anna Tobin.

Anna Tobin's account deserves better than the reply by Alan Macdonald (THES, August 2). Of course, there are people in every profession who are in the wrong job and should not be there. But this is no argument against training the rest, for, in spite of Macdonald's wholly unfair remarks on school teacher training, teacher training in schools and the little that there is in universities has led to definite improvements.

Ms Tobin's critique is similar to the one that I made of my university teachers more than 50 years ago and that I have heard repeatedly in the intervening years. Yet nothing was ever done about it. Were those who made these critiques wrong or singularly unfortunate? If not, how is it that the funding councils' quality assessment exercise has failed to notice this variation in quality, let alone done anything about it?

For, surely, no department could have been rated as satisfactory or better, as about 99 per cent were, if some of its staff "couldn't teach a dog to sit"? Students of today and tomorrow deserve an answer to these questions.

Lewis Elton Professor of higher education University College London.

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