Defining best terms in teaching

February 24, 1995

It is not the timing of semesters that is wrong (Letters, THES February 17), it is their very existence.

Those familiar with teaching and learning in higher education know that it is conducive to good learning to have teaching in blocks of ten to 12 weeks, with breaks in between.

These are called terms and can conveniently be arranged so that the short breaks coincide with Christmas and Easter, with a long break between years falling across the summer.

These years can then be grouped together so as to allow students to take courses which are in two (eg HND), three (full-time degrees) or four (sandwich degrees) stages. Experience and research show that students learn best when able to consolidate their learning over time, and courses are most coherent where they are able to build over a reasonable period, and are not so fragmented that deep learning and conceptual understanding is impeded.

In many institutions the new modular semesterised year has left the students confused and anxious, and the staff running in ever-decreasing circles trying to meet unreasonable deadlines, all so that formal assessments can take place twice a year instead of once, even though the spring results are "provisional" and cannot be confirmed to the students until July.

At a time of year when students and staff used to be in the classroom, students are now wandering around like lost sheep while the staff burn the midnight oil trying to get marking completed in a week.

Why is this madness called semesters happening? The best answer most of us have heard so far is that "everyone's doing it!" Pardon? Tomorrow, four motions calling for campaigns against semesterisation are going to be debated at Natfhe's national conference for the higher education sector.

The people who do the job know what needs to be done. When will managements listen, learn and act?



Natfhe national higher education sector conference

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments