Lecturers seeking professional teaching status in higher education should be tested against a national statement of required abilities, a key planning group has proposed, writes Tony Tysome.
Institutions that want their professional development schemes for lecturers accredited by the new Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education would be expected to meet the statement's requirements. But they should be allowed to tailor make training schemes as long as the targets are broadly in line with the statement.
The planning group for accreditation and teaching in higher education suggests in a consultation paper distributed this week that institutions could devise assessment schemes or performance tests to help lecturers shape up to the statement's conditions.
Existing teaching staff could gain recognition for their experience and skills through accreditation of prior learning. Interim arrangements could also be made to recognise existing professional development schemes and assess their outcomes against those in the statement.
The planning group led by Clive Booth, former vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, was set up last June by institutions' representative groups, unions, funding and professional bodies. It calls for the creation of four levels of professional expertise that could be recognised and accredited by the ILTHE or some other body.
At the first level, leading to the award of associate part one status, lecturers would have to show competence in classroom practice and marking. At the second, to gain associate part two, they would also be able to design a series of teaching sessions, design assessment systems and evaluate modules. The third level, where they would become a member of the accrediting body, would involve curriculum design, improving teaching programmes, innovation in course practice and supervising associates. At the fourth level, a fellow would be expected to lead change in teaching or curricula through research, publication or work on disciplinary or professional bodies.
The paper offers three options for accrediting professional development programmes.
The ILTHE could invite institutions to adopt a code of practice based on the national statement. As a condition of recognition, institutions would submit annual reports to the ILTHE, and the programmes could be assessed within the normal cycle of quality audits.
The second, preferred, option builds on the first but allows the ILTHE to nominate peer reviewers to the validation or revalidation panel for each programme. They would report on whether the institution had fulfilled the terms of accreditation.
In the third option, the ILTHE would appoint a separate accreditation panel for each institution and conduct accreditation under published guidelines on a set cycle, possibly of five years.