‘Taxing’ lectures led to sacking, tribunal told

Former Imperial College lecturer claims low student satisfaction scores led to her dismissal

March 6, 2014

A former materials science lecturer at Imperial College London has claimed that low satisfaction scores resulting from her decision to stretch her students in classes ultimately led to her being dismissed.

Yeong-Ah Soh is pursuing an employment tribunal claim for unfair dismissal, racial discrimination and suffering detriment for whistleblowing.

Dr Soh claims that after receiving low student satisfaction scores for her first set of lectures at Imperial in 2010, she was told not to lower the level of the teaching.

Jason Riley, director of research and professor of materials electrochemistry at Imperial, told a hearing in London last week that “you can teach to a very high level as long as you have engaged the students. In this case, it appears there was an engagement problem.”

Professor Riley said: “She wasn’t told not to lower [her level]. She was told the level and intelligence of our students wasn’t the issue.”

Dr Soh also claims that high student evaluation scores for lecturers were related to expectations of high marks in exams. It had been to illustrate this point that she had alleged that a colleague, David McPhail, who gets high satisfaction scores for his conductivity lectures, in essence told his students what would be in the exam.

Dr McPhail, a reader in surface analysis, admitted that, one year, he had told his students that a key equation would be in the exam to ensure that they all knew it. “But saying [that] will come up would be like saying to my daughter every time she has a driving lesson that a car will be involved,” he said. “There are 100 different ways I can ask them something related to the equation.”

The college deemed the allegation against Dr McPhail vexatious, and dismissed Dr Soh partly on this basis.

The hearings were due to conclude at the end of this week.

paul.jump@tsleducation.com

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