Teaching qualifications should be compulsory for university lecturers!

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omegaSQU4RED
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Much to my surprise, and many others at university, is that unlike teachers in schools and colleges, those who teach at universities are not required to have a teaching qualification and are not assigned any sort of formal teacher training. Anyone in the teaching profession pre-university is required to have some sort of teaching credentials, such as a PGCE or CertEd, to indicate that they have developed an understanding of pedagogical issues surrounding their subject and fully acknowledged that there is more to being able to teach a subject than just knowing it. so, naturally, students assume that the lecturers they will be encountering will be fully qualified professionals teachers. However, it seems as though lecturers at university are exempt from such rigorous training and this has an adverse impact on the overall quality of teaching and the levels of student satisfaction. It is assumed that just because they are experts at the subjects they are teaching that this automatically puts them in an ideal position to teach; there is much more to it than this!

There is a fundamental difference between teachers at university and those pre-university, and it is summarised by the following sentence:

Teachers in school/college spend virtually all their time teaching,whilst those at university are researchers who have simply been delegated teaching as an additional responsibility to their research.


The above statement is true of lecturers in general, and as a result, teaching is often viewed as a nuisance that gets in the way of what it is that lecturers want to spend their lives doing: research. Of course, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this, and research is a highly respectable and versatile career path to go down (and it’s something I want to go down myself one day). However, the big goal of university departments is to attract students to work with potential supervisors and become an expert in certain fields, thus getting published and attract more funding for the university.If the lecturers are generally of better quality and made more engaging, Then surely this would only serve to benefit the universities as it would get students more interested in the research areas/topics being offered as opposed to having to just be passionate about them anyway? The whole point of a teacher/course is to endow students with skills and knowledge that they wouldn’t otherwise have picked up, and not simply to weed out students who can do it from those who can’t.

Here are some of my gripes with university lecturers in general (which you may or may not agree with):
  • Many lecturers are experts in their field, but may lack the basic communication skills, common sense social skills required in order to be able to teach non-specialist audiences, which makes them unfit for purpose.
  • Most lecturers see students as nothing more than a pain in the backside, who serve only to get in the way of their research, and therefore lecturers take a half-arsed and contemptuous approach towards their students just to keep them out of the way.
  • Some lecturers are genuinely awful, and consistently receive poor feedback from the students year upon year. However, they are still allowed to teach, purely on the basis of their research, which requires different skills entirely.
  • Some lecturers are unaware of the pedagogical aspect of their subject, either because they have had no training, or they oppose the need to gain such awareness.
  • Some lecturers are technologically inept, and therefore don’t know how to use or create educational resources that form a staple part of a student’s educational experience.
  • Many lecturers have an appalling and oversimplified attitude towards teaching, and automatically feel that if a student is having difficulties, that the student should simply work harder in every case.
  • Many lecturers may recognise that their teaching is bad, but make their exams easy for students (e.g. same as previous years but just different numbers), making it statistically appear as though they are a better teacher than they actually are.
  • Many lecturers (rather hypocritically) do not attempt to make their subject interesting or engaging, which contravenes the whole reason they are pursuing it for their own research in the first place!
  • Only 3 out of the 35-or-so lecturers who have taught me actually know how to teach properly!
At present, provided that a researcher at a university is attracting funding, then nothing else seems to matter. This is fundamentally flawed, because many academics gravitate towards research as a career because it doesn't require many communication skills, and so these are the kinds of people who may not be cut out for teaching.

There are many drawbacks to lecturers having no teaching credentials, yet still being made to teach students:
  • There exists no filtering mechanism to discriminate between good and bad lecturers
  • There exists no vetting process to assess a lecturer’s ability to teach.
  • There is no system in place to delegate unsuitable teachers solely to research duties that they would probably prefer to focus on, whilst saving teaching responsibilities to those who can actually do it (and maybe quite enjoy it!)
  • Students can end up feeling like they don’t get anything out of the lectures and that the £10,000/year they are paying is of questionable value. Many lectures are often just a handwriting exercise.
  • Students are easily be put off by teaching of variable quality – all it takes is one bad teacher to put a student off of a subject they once loved!
  • Students can be made to feel like it is their fault for having difficulties with a course or subject that is badly taught, and this can contribute to mental health problems and drop-out rates.
  • Many lecturers hate the teaching part of their work, and this comes across in the way they teach the course – if they are actively unpassionate about teaching the course then the students may not see much of a point in learning it, which can reduce the amount of uptake in courses that build upon it.
I am fully aware of the fact that university students need to be more independent and that they need to develop strategies in order to be able to self-study autonomously, but independence on the student’s part should be supplementary to the way the course is taught, and not a substitute. Many university courses are challenging and rigorous, but this challenge should arise from the nature of the subject that is being taught, and not the way it is being taught. If certain courses are taught badly, which results in students having to learn it themselves, then this is something that brings the tuition fees into serious question; if a student wanted to teach themselves something then they could just grab a book on the subject and read it themselves, which is not something that costs £10,000 per year to do.

Having been part of the Student-Staff Liaison Committee during my undergraduate degree, there have been instances where examples of poor teaching practice have been flagged up, yet nothing has been done in order to improve it. When such culprits are spoken to or reprimanded, they refuse to accept any leverage or influence on the quality of their teaching, and automatically shift the blame onto the students claiming that they should work harder and that they should become autonomous self-learners. This indicates an appalling lack of leadership or communication skills, which should not be present in anyone who wants to teach. It doesn't matter what students should be; lecturers and anyone teaching at any level should grasp what students are, and adjust their teaching methods and attitudes accordingly. As much as I agree that students should be effective self-learners and passionate about the subject, most of them go to university to become trained for a specific profession or open doors in the job market (which is understandable) and may be more inclined towards getting a degree than making breakthroughs in their subject.

Although I did very well at university, I still share the same disillusionments as a lot of other students about the variability of the teaching quality at university and this is something that seems to be universal across universities of different academic calibres. The generally mediocre quality of university teaching is something that most students can recall as part of their experience, but once they leave university this is an issue they forget about and think nothing more of.

I feel this is something that needs to change. I therefore propose that teaching qualifications and training should be made compulsory for researchers, and that if they cannot pass the training or simply don’t want to take part, that they should be exempt from any sort of teaching responsibility as it will be clear that they are unsuitable for it.

There are ways in which rigorously training researchers at universities to teach can drastically help:
  • Improve students’ confidence in the abilities of the lecturers to teach, thus attracting more students. This can increase the amount of funding attracted by a university.
  • It might help researchers personally to help refine their ability to explain their subject to others, thus benefiting their own careers
  • It can help researchers to make their subject engaging, and attract a larger group of students who may want to approach the lecturer and carry out research with them.
  • This can boost the reputation of the supervisor and increase the likelihood of them having students who go on to become successful researchers.
  • Making the quality of teaching better can improve the level of student satisfaction at university and make it seem like a more worthwhile option.
It seems like making lecturers properly qualified can have many benefits for the lecturers, the department and the university on the whole, but universities have been operating on a fundamentally flawed teaching system which is centuries old, and has only been maintained so that research funding is a top priority and also because it has been place for so long and naturally continued all this time.

I have heard stories of people studying at top universities such as Oxford, Imperial and UCL, only to be told that the quality of teaching is generally poor, partly due to the fact that some of the teaching duties are fobbed off onto postgraduate students as a cheap alternative to actually hiring someone who can teach properly, such as teaching fellows, whose responsibility it is to teach courses and carry out research into the education and pedagogy of their subject.

I’d be interested to hear if there have been any government directives to help combat this issue, and any other opinions on the matter. In recent decades, the government has taken many steps to clamp down on bad teachers in schools and colleges and externally assess them. It is about time that this needs to change at universities, particularly as they have been operating the same way for centuries.

So, in short:
  • What was your experience of university lecturing/teaching like?
  • Did university teaching match your original expectations of it before going to university?
  • What efforts have been made (if any) to improve the overall quality of university teaching?
  • Do you think teaching qualifications should be made compulsory for academic faculty?
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llys
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(Original post by omegaSQU4RED)
So, in short:
  • What was your experience of university lecturing/teaching like?
  • Did university teaching match your original expectations of it before going to university?
  • What efforts have been made (if any) to improve the overall quality of university teaching?
  • Do you think teaching qualifications should be made compulsory for academic faculty?
That was one very long post.

1) Lecturers generally did read off their powerpoint. I stopped going to lectures at some point because I could just read the book at home. However, I'm not complaining, because I liked that I could stay at home instead. Labs of course were completely different, and 1:2 practicals were generally taught very well.
2) Yeah, expectations met. (NB We don't have any tuition fees where I come from.)
3) I don't know.
4) No. Where universities employ dedicated lecturers (not researchers) - these should have a HE teaching qualification. But faculty who do mainly research should not have to get one.
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omegaSQU4RED
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(Original post by llys)
That was one very long post.
Yeah, sorry about that, I just had to vent :P

Basically if there is a way that universities can employ people whose sole responsibility is to teach (who can consult the experts on the subject if they are unsure about something) then this would be ideal and alleviate the problem completely. Then this means that those who teach at university genuinely want to, and those who don't can focus more on their research interests.
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yabbayabba
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TL;DR

But basically, I agree with the title. Seeing as students have to pay for uni, there's no excuse that lecturers can't teach. If they don't want to teach, they should just take a massive pay cut and live with it.

There should also be some sort of OFSTED like organisation to hold universities accountable.

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earthworm
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You would miss out on the leaders in research delivering up to date, cutting edge knowlage and make unis nothing more than big schools.
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omegaSQU4RED
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(Original post by earthworm)
You would miss out on the leaders in research delivering up to date, cutting edge knowlage and make unis nothing more than big schools.
I wasn't trying to say that research and teaching should be mutually exclusive. Some of my lecturers, whilst focusing primarily on their research, can actually do a quite good job of delivering courses and then leaving it to the student to complete assignments and work independently. This is what distinguishes school from university, and I agree that students should learn to self-study without the lecturers taking them by the hand. However, there are some lecturers who are genuinely appalling at teaching yet are still allowed to teach, because it's cheaper for the university than hiring a teaching fellow who can teach the areas required.
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yabbayabba
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(Original post by web-girl)
Can I point out, what exactly would a teaching qualification do?? Teach leactures to stop reading off the presentation? It sound bizzare how an individual with a PhD needs further education. What a waste of money. If its better education you seek there needs to be more enhanced regulating bodies where those lecturers who do do not conduct their job to the fullest get the sack
Lecturers need to be trained how to teach. Just because somebody has a PhD doesn't mean they can teach their subject well

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JHart1865
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(Original post by web-girl)
Can I point out, what exactly would a teaching qualification do?? Teach leactures to stop reading off the presentation? It sound bizzare how an individual with a PhD needs further education. What a waste of money. If its better education you seek there needs to be more enhanced regulating bodies where those lecturers who do do not conduct their job to the fullest get the sack
It would do a lot, especially helping them to communicate better with students.

It's not all lecturers that need it though, it's the ones that go Undergrad > Postgrad > PhD > straight to teach that are the problem. The ones that have actually been in the real world and actually done what they teach for a living have a far better way of communicating the subject.


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El Salvador
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No. It's just more control for the government. It's the market which has made universities this way. Applicants apply to universities not due to their teaching quality, and universities earn other income not due to that either. Major league tables, especially the most important REF, consider research output a lot more than they do teaching, if they do consider the latter at all.

Also, teachers in schools do not need to hold a teaching qualification either, so you're opening statement was wrong to begin with.
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wwelol
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im at uni of manchester, studying economics and most lecturers just dont give a daam, read of from powerpoints. no passion
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omegaSQU4RED
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(Original post by JHart1865)
t's not all lecturers that need it though, it's the ones that go Undergrad > Postgrad > PhD > straight to teach that are the problem. The ones that have actually been in the real world and actually done what they teach for a living have a far better way of communicating the subject.
There are some lecturers who do a good job, and for those lecturers, if they put in a considerable amount of effort into teaching and get positive feedback from the students, then these don't need to worry about getting weeded out. It's the lecturers who consistently deliver courses poorly year upon year, who should not be allowed to teach. I remember a lecturer in my final year who I think had been teaching for years before, except her teaching was appalling - it was a course aimed at finance students and contained mostly repeated content from my first and second year at university. It was easy to me, having done it before, but I would not have learned anything from the lecturer if she was teaching me the content for the very first time. However, despite me and another SSLC member raising concerns about her as a lecturer, and one of her colleagues saying she was a mismatch for the module, she was still allowed to teach the year afterwards. So the faculty knew about it but didn't do anything about it. This is the kind of thing that annoys me, and such lecturers should be exempt from teaching.

The whole broader life perspective thing is why I want to become a college maths teacher for a while, and then consider a return to academia with research in either mathematics and/or mathematics education. I originally wanted to go the full academic route, having recently attempted a maths PhD, and decided that it was too premature. So I'm taking a side-step so that I can gain some teaching experience and qualification, so that if I do return to a mathematics department in the future, I'll effectively be one up over the other lecturers for being a qualified teacher.
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Joinedup
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You're in agreement with the head of Eton College https://www.timeshighereducation.co....says-eton-head

the comments below the line counter predictably (it's the trade paper for academics after all) that schools are mollycoddling and producing university entrants who can't stand on their own two feet anymore.

IMO they're both a bit right; uni is a place to stand on your own two feet and think about your subject critically - schools and the exam system have dumbed down over recent decades and become more about replicating markschemes than learning to think about a subject... But there are also some proper duds lecturing with weak monitoring of standards - on the positive side the dud lecturers often try to avoid stress from above by setting easier papers to keep the pass rate up.
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omegaSQU4RED
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(Original post by Joinedup)
But there are also some proper duds lecturing with weak monitoring of standards - on the positive side the dud lecturers often try to avoid stress from above by setting easier papers to keep the pass rate up.
Yes, but that shouldn't be necessary. I'd rather it was the other way round - that the teaching was excellent but the exams made people think.

I know of a lecturer who wasn't particularly good, but he made up for it by telling students what was on the exam paper -_- for example, he'd go through a problem in class and say, "so if I change this 4 to a 3 can you all do it?" After hearing everyone say yes, he'd say, "Good, it's on the test!" This really riled me at the time and I almost filed a complaint, as I thought that a goal of university was to get people out of the mindset of doing past papers as their primary form of exam preparation.
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Steeplechasing
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I'm at Leeds, some lecturers are absolutely **** and their teaching needs to be scrutinised and tested before they're allowed in the lecture hall, IMO
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omegaSQU4RED
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(Original post by web-girl)
Can I point out, what exactly would a teaching qualification do?? Teach leactures to stop reading off the presentation? It sound bizzare how an individual with a PhD needs further education. What a waste of money. If its better education you seek there needs to be more enhanced regulating bodies where those lecturers who do do not conduct their job to the fullest get the sack
You're missing the point. Being educated to a very high level requires a very different skill set to being able to teach lower level concepts to non-experts. Even people with maths degrees who teach GCSE Maths can find it a challenge, not because of the content, but because it requires a different skill to think of ways of explaining it to people. Although just having a teaching qualification may not appear to mean a lot on its own, there are many responsibilities that one needs to demonstrate in order to pass the qualification, which are more towards the pedagogical and educational aspect than simply deepening your subject knowledge.

I do agree about the need to have regulators who can report to the university and exempt specific lecturers from teaching if they're unsuitable for the job, however.
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PQ
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http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/HEFCE,2...nt_July_15.pdf

64% of academic staff with known data do hold a teaching qualification

There's a danger in assuming that a teaching qualification automatically makes a good teacher.

To all the posters bemoaning the poor teaching on their course - have you raised this with your course reps as an issue that needs addressing? (or even volunteered to be a course rep). University teaching quality is almost 100% assessed based on student feedback - instead of waiting til a module is over and then moaning on the feedback form get your course rep to raise it as a problem at the staff:student liaison meetings and there's a possibility it will get sorted out while you can still benefit.
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yabbayabba
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(Original post by PQ)
http://www.hefce.ac.uk/media/HEFCE,2...nt_July_15.pdf

64% of academic staff with known data do hold a teaching qualification

There's a danger in assuming that a teaching qualification automatically makes a good teacher.

To all the posters bemoaning the poor teaching on their course - have you raised this with your course reps as an issue that needs addressing? (or even volunteered to be a course rep). University teaching quality is almost 100% assessed based on student feedback - instead of waiting til a module is over and then moaning on the feedback form get your course rep to raise it as a problem at the staff:student liaison meetings and there's a possibility it will get sorted out while you can still benefit.
This won't solve the problem nationwide though and is a very slow process, as departments just don't give a sh*t

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Rubgish
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As PQ pointed out, the majority of academic staff do already have some kind of teaching qualification. But this doesn't mean they will be some kind of fantastic and enthusiastic teacher.

There is a major difference between the way education is provided at university and in pre-university settings. In the university setting, the aim is for a lecturer to provide a suitable foundation on a course such that you can then go away and understand the topic yourself. In this sense, while reading/providing a detailed yet dull powerpoint is boring to sit through and might not seem very interesting, it achieves the aim of providing you with a solid foundation of information that allows you to learn what you need to learn after the lecture.

It's true that it's always nice if a lecture is engaging/more interesting to sit through, but I don't know that the teaching is actually any more effective in that situation. I have personally found that it is generally the quality of the notes provided that is the most important aspect of any lecture course.

edit: I should probably state that I feel what I have said here primarily applies more to STEM subjects.
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PQ
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(Original post by yabbayabba)
This won't solve the problem nationwide though and is a very slow process, as departments just don't give a sh*t

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Yeah you're right. Better just to ***** on a website. Engaging to solve the problem is too much effort. :indiff:
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Muttley79
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Some unis DO insist all lecturers hold teaching qualifications.
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