This week we launched the Global Teaching Excellence Award, which is (as far as we can tell) the first time anyone has attempted an independent peer review and benchmarking of institutional strategies for teaching and learning – and, importantly, the impact they have on students’ outcomes.
There are now many national schemes for teaching excellence, some more instrumental than others, but none that comes from the sector and seeks to create a global benchmark that showcases the exceptional, the inspirational and the truly innovative.
While the award is the headline, it is just one aspect of the wider GTEA project. The programme is an enormous research project intended to identify and synthesise good practice for the benefit of providers and their students globally. Those shortlisted will be showcased and invited to take part in dissemination projects for wider benefit. And any surpluses will be reinvested in small grants and research projects to take forward learning from the GTEA, as befits the Higher Education Academy’s charitable mission.
The idea for the award came from three separate conversations that were, at one time, running in parallel.
First, there were requests from institutions for some form of benchmarking of global teaching practice to inform strategy development. Second, there was the desire, within the HEA and more widely, to identify best practice that would inform and inspire world-class higher education. And third, there was the internationalisation of the HEA’s work itself, with projects and fellows in 45 countries (and counting).
For the HEA, it was important that we take a developmental approach that is culturally sensitive and recognises the breadth of diversity of higher education. We want this to be an award for higher education wherever and however it is delivered. To that end, the award does not see teaching excellence as a destination but rather as a journey, and it seeks to recognise the astonishing step changes in practice that take place all the time in our sector.
Higher education is driven by a culture of excellence. We are fortunate to work in a sector where striving to be exceptional is the norm. But whereas excellence in research is readily measured and reported, excellence in teaching is far less easily described.
The HEA has a long tradition of celebrating and rewarding teaching excellence. The UK National Teaching Fellowship Scheme, now in its 15th year, has recognised more than 700 exceptional teachers. Last year, it was widened to include the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence to recognise excellent teaching in teams. It’s now time to celebrate the achievement of institutions that drive teaching to be the best it can be.
We are delighted to have received such incredible global interest from individuals wishing to join the international panel of experts that will lead the peer review process. This panel will itself celebrate the diversity of higher education worldwide, and we will be inviting applications for reviewers shortly. We hope that this group will also evolve into a community of practice that disseminates the insight from the GTEA project.
In launching the GTEA, in association with Times Higher Education, we hope to create a new global dialogue between institutions about teaching excellence. We aim to create a new, easier way for providers to learn from each other to benefit global practice. And we intend to celebrate the many and varied examples of teaching excellence. We hope that you take this opportunity to join the discussion.
Mark Jones is chief operating officer of the Higher Education Academy.