Natfhe backs peer review of teaching

January 3, 2003

A national framework for rewarding university teaching through peer review is being devised by lecturers' union Natfhe.

In a consultation report out this week, Natfhe says the framework would mirror research assessment by setting parameters for the recognition and reward of teaching per se. This would be a departure from the vogue for rewarding a few star lecturers, according to Liz Allen, head of higher education at Natfhe.

"I am not against the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme but rewards need to be much broader if they are going to have an effect across the system, and could be a mixture of salary and non-salary inducements including promotion opportunities and scholarship funding," Ms Allen said.

"We need to find ways of establishing a more widespread recognition of committed practice, although this will be a challenge, until performance-related pay is finally laid to rest."

Rewarding teaching should not be about separating teaching from research. A delicate balancing act was needed to ensure that teaching received the attention it required to cope with a diverse student population, she said.

"Institutions need to be persuaded that there are rewards in focusing on teaching rather than in competing for shares in an inadequate pot of research funding," Ms Allen said. "This is about ensuring that teaching-related activities get equal esteem and reward to other activities."

But to reward individual members of staff through the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund for 2002-05 would be difficult. "There would be stark choices to be made between rewarding small numbers significantly and rewarding larger numbers on the basis of low cost or temporary mechanisms," the report says.

Rewards targeting teaching would encourage teacher-focused activities for those working in less research-oriented institutions who might otherwise become demotivated, according to Natfhe.

Staff should not have to compete with peers to demonstrate distinctive levels of excellence to merit some form of reward.

Rewards should therefore be available for "competent and effective practice that would focus on evidence of commitment to teaching".

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