Seven help us!

May 7, 1999

Henry Ellington's heptalogue of "golden rules" ("Teaching with confidence", THES, April 30) made my heart sink and convinced me that initiatives such as his are part of the problem, not of its solution.

I could not help thinking how the most inspirational lecturer I have come across (admittedly a Nobel laureate) would fare against Ellington's checklist. His enthusiasm for his subject was contagious - pity "enthusiasm for subject" does not appear in the heptalogue. Being a major contributor to the topic he was teaching, his lectures were not just up to date, but gave a glimpse of future developments and research avenues. Again, no brownie points here in the heptalogue.

I doubt that any of the inspirational lecturers I have encountered would ever "reflect deeply and critically on (their) own performance as a facilitator of student learning" and I bet none dreamt of checking their standards against those "produced by the Staff and Educational Development Association".

One of the many misconceptions underlying Ellington's project is that there exists a homogenous group - "tertiary teachers". Well, there does not. It makes a huge difference whether one is teaching frontier research one is engaged in or one is making someone else's work accessible and interesting to a student audience. This is not to say teaching standards cannot be improved. Scrapping most staff development units and using their budgets to produce innovative teaching materials, matching research and teaching more closely, would be a welcome step and at least would confine the dreadful jargon of "student outcomes", "facilitator of student learning", "higher order of multi-faceted skills" where it belongs - to the paper shredder.

Manfredi La Manna Reader in economics, St Salvator's College, St Andrews

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