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Subject:

Re: Making completion compulsory

From:

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Date:

Wed, 5 Dec 2001 17:24:02 -0000

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Tim and colleagues,
1 Evidence that these courses work? A fair request. See THES November
9 2001 p.20 for a summary of research that suggests that such courses do
work. Further published papers will add details to these findings.
2 The dangers of requiring successful completion of a course? Indeed
such a requirement would be a change to conditions, and would need
negotiation. Passing a relevant course might in fact prove a more robust
measure for completing probation than do some current arrangements which
lack clear and explicit criteria and requirements and rely considerably on
the judgement of seniors.
3 In-service or pre-service training for university teachers? I agree
that pre-service is politically and economically unacceptable. And I think
I'm glad. Through an in-service course, new lecturers can relate theory and
practice to each other in an intimate and continuing way which speeds the
development of informed professional ability. That's been my experience,
anyway.
3 Exploitation? If the course is working well, one of its outcomes
will be teachers who can teach more efficiently as well as better, as has
been necessary for most of my years in higher education. And if the course
should be longer and thinner, say lasting two or three years at lower
intensity; or should adopt varying patterns of short intensive sessions
following by longer periods of teaching and reflection; or should take some
other form; then this will be possible, if we collect and analyse the
evidence and make the case.
4 Costing? Yes, the courses should be costed properly. As should all
the other major activities of a University and its staff. (Some Universities
are using some of their HEFCE HR Strategy and Learning and Teaching Strategy
money to support these courses.)
The new lecturing staff trained in these new ways will work their way
through the system. In time it will come to seem odd that, once, University
teachers were not necessarily trained and qualified to teach. In the
meanwhile, I hope we can find ways to avoid upsetting the less new staff, as
Tim suggests that our efforts sometimes do. Any suggestions?
David
_________
David Baume
Director (Teaching Development)
Centre for Higher Education Practice
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
MK7 6AA
UK

Phone +44 (0)1908 858436
Fax +44 (0)1908 858438
Web site http://cehep.open.ac.uk <http://cehep.open.ac.uk>

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Tim Reuter [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
        Sent: 04 December 2001 14:25
        To: [log in to unmask]
        Subject: Re: Making completion compulsory

        Perhaps I can introduce a note of sour realism into this discussion,
not
        being a director of an HE centre but simply an ex-HoD who had until
very
        recently to face the practical realities of all this on the ground.
I
        wouldn't see it that way myself but I can think of plenty of
colleagues
        who would treat what's been said so far as little more than the
        backslappings of successful empire-builders, and I'd certainly like
to
        see a more evidence-based approach to the outcomes of these
programmes:
        we're introducing them because we expect them to raise standards and
        professionalism, but let's check in due course that that has
actually
        happened rather than assuming aprioristically that it will follow as
the
        night the day that it must have done.

        More specifically, a basic HR and employment legislation point first
of
        all: if you require successful completion this has two implications:

        a. you are changing people's terms and conditions of service.
However
        annoying you may find the restriction, you may not do this
unilaterally,
        and where an HE institution has recognised a union for purposes of
        collective bargaining what can be changed will be determined by the
        nature of the consultation mechanisms in force;

        b. as an institution, you are putting yourself in the position where
you
        may be forced to set in motion a capability dismissal on the say-so
of
        people who do not have to bear any responsibility for the outcome
and
        normally have no HR training or qualifications. My memory and
experience
        don't go back as far as the days when Professor Welch bullied Jim
Dixon,
        but probationers have needed protection from their seniors far more
        recently than that, so we shouldn't want to wish safeguards away too
        readily, and this may lie behind institutions' choosing not to
_require_
        completion.

        All this is the product of the sector's having chosen -- uniquely
for
        any profession I can think of -- to go down an in-house training
route.
        Generally, employment-related professions, including teaching,
expect a
        minimum level of qualification as a condition for employment, to be
        followed up by further training and development; we don't, and I
think
        David Baume's distinction between a 'first' and a 'second'
profession
        evades that point (and raises serious questions about the
relationship
        between teaching and research). Of course, if we'd pushed for the
PhD to
        become the entry-level qualification and to include a substantial
        teaching-related component that would have solved the problem -- but
it
        would also have meant pushing the standard term for the PhD up from
3 to
        4 funded years, i.e. a 33% cost increase, and no one was prepared to
pay
        for that. Equally, no one wants to pay for in-house nationally
        accredited and interchangeable schemes other than through funding
the
        providers, which means that at a typical institution with a serious
        in-house scheme everyone not doing the scheme finds that their work
load
        goes up by between 1 and 3%, at a time of still-declining unit of
        resource. Even probationers doing the scheme get exploited; locally,
we
        had established a general convention that probationers initially got
        plenty of time and a light load to play themselves in (and often to
        complete their PhD/turn it into a book) -- only to find ourselves
being
        told that we had to ensure that probationers were doing 'enough'
        teaching in their first year to satisfy the needs of the local
        certificate course.

        Last not least: the typically uncosted manner of these schemes'
        introduction has done nothing, in my experience, to make not-so-new
        staff embrace the need for further development or to foster a
        developmental culture: they can very easily and by no means wholly
        unreasonably come to see it all as yet another form of taxation on
their
        efforts, and if you are trying at middle management level to change
        attitudes it does not make it any easier to be forced to work in
this
        kind of context.

        Tim Reuter
        Department of History
        University of Southampton

        PS I believe here the question of making both taking the course and
its
        successful completion a requirement is still being negotiated,
though
        I'm out of the loop now and hence uncertain of this.

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