Teaching institute lays cards on table

April 10, 1998

A RADICAL shake-up of teaching across higher education gets under way next week as proposals for an Institute for Learning and Teaching are aired.

The proposals are in a consultation document from the institute's planning group. They suggest that the institute comes into force this year to issue all new lecturers with a licence to practise. Eventually even existing lecturers are likely to be compelled to attend updating courses every year.

The institute will probably be regulated by royal charter in order to be independent of government and other regulatory bodies. To parallel bodies such as the medical profession's royal colleges, it must establish guidelines for a regular commitment to continuing professional development.

It is proposed that the institute will offer various levels of membership to staff able to demonstrate ability across a variety of tasks. Associate membership, for example, will cover classroom practice, marking and evaluation of teaching, while a fellow of the institute would need to demonstrate ability to lead changes in teaching across an institution or a discipline.

Another suggestion is that the institute would develop a shared knowledge base on learning and teaching. The Dearing report, which suggested the institute, proposed that another key function would be to use the outcomes of research to stimulate innovative teaching. In particular, Dearing highlighted the possible role for the institute in providing a focal point for communications and information technology in teaching.

The institute could launch a national awards scheme to recognise excellence in teaching and might also regulate the profession by setting standards, devising codes of professional conduct and effective disciplinary procedures.

A feasibility study on the financing of the institute is being commissioned. The deadline for comments is May 22.

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