Leagues expose lecturers' quality quirks

July 28, 1995

At the end of the academic year in Israel's universities, league tables of the marks given by students to their lecturers are displayed in corridors and common rooms.

Apart from their obvious role as a focal point for whispered rumours about Professor X's imminent retirement, a recent study has suggested that these polls play a key part in ongoing teacher training.

Research by Tel Aviv University's School of Education found that less than one in ten lecturers at the university had done any course in lecturing methods and material presentation. Even among those who had been trained, 35 per cent had less than ten hours of instruction.

In the absence of formal training, the study found that lecturers learned their trade by two main ways; watching their peers, and trial and error, the latter relying on feedback from students, including the league tables.

At a time when quality issues are attracting as much attention in Israel as they have in the United Kingdom, the survey is seen as exposing a situation that everybody is aware of, but that no one is prepared to tackle.

The ministry of education is unlikely to want to confront the universities on such an issue and the universities themselves are quick to emphasise the benefits of the existing system. Only the student unions have consistently raised the issue of teaching standards.

Consequently, students at Tel Aviv and elsewhere were unmoved by the study, pointing out that the same names can be found at each end of the league tables each year.

The tenure system was also blamed for poor performance in the lecture hall, with younger, untenured, lecturers tending to put more effort into making their classes interesting and effective. As one student said: "The quality of lectures ranges from the inspiring to the sleep inducing, some standardisation in either direction would be helpful."

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