RAE shake-up is needed before teachers improve

January 1, 1999

The worst lecturers in higher education will ignore moves to improve their teaching skills unless there are significant changes in the research culture.

This is the conclusion of the five-strong editorial board of the teaching research journal, Teaching in Higher Education.

The academics called for radical changes to the research assessment exercise in an open letter to the Higher Education Funding Council's research assessment exercise manager, John Rogers.

They want to encourage academics outside university education departments to conduct educational research on teaching and learning issues in their own disciplines, and to be acknowledged and rewarded for it through the assessment exercise.

The academics, led by the journal's executive editor, Stephen Rowland, director of Sheffield University's higher education research centre, are urging the assessment panels for the 2001 exercise to recognise specific educational research and give it proper consideration in subject specific assessment units.

He said: "Academics I receive little credit or encouragement to engage in serious research into the teaching of their subject.

"We ask that you give serious consideration to the possibility of including such research from academics in determining the criteria for making judgments about the units of assessment in the institutions."

Because the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education will focus on basic, and largely generic, teaching competences the very people who need the most teacher training will not be engaged by the voluntary project, he said.

"The government has made a great deal of promoting teaching in higher education," said Professor Rowland. "But there is a danger that in setting up the ILT, they will widen the gap between teaching and research even further. Some of the most powerful and well-funded institutions see the ILT as a joke. Research that helps our understanding of teaching the disciplines needs to be encouraged."

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