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Practically perfect: the pursuit of teaching excellence in the Learning and Skills sector


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Title: Practically perfect: the pursuit of teaching excellence in the Learning and Skills sector

Practically perfect the pursuit of teaching
excellence in the Learning and Skills sector
  • Ann-Marie Bathmaker, UWE Bristol
  • SWitch Conference 4 November 2008

Constructions of excellent and outstanding
practice in the Learning and Skills sector the
case of HE in FE
  • The context
  • Some key players
  • Defining outstanding and excellent practice
  • The implications for teaching and the training of
    teachers in the Learning and Skills Sector

The pursuit of excellence
  • Identification and dissemination of good
    practice have been part of the UK governments
    strategy for improving education and training for
    a considerable time
  • The pursuit of excellence is more recent
  • But excellence is not enough

Excellence is not enough
  • Excellent Of the highest or finest quality
    exceptionally good of its kind
  • http//
  • Excellent of the highest quality
  • http//
  • Outstanding Superior to others of its kind
  • Outstanding distinguished from others in
    excellence http//

Excellence for all outstanding for the few
  • Excellent practice might be possible for many to
    achieve viz QAA subject review scores of HE
    teaching and learning provision
  • Outstanding practice suggests individuals/individu
    al institutions that stand out from the rest

Who decides? When? Using what criteria?
Mary Poppins Practically perfect
The context
  • Widening participation in HE, in FE, in lifelong
  • Osborne and Gallacher (2007) attempts to
    increase flexibility in HE provision challenge
    constructions of what constitutes knowledge at
    Higher Education level and the means by which
    knowledge can be acquired and demonstrated.
    (Osborne and Gallacher, 2007, p.7)
  • Chris Duke (2005) arguesHow far should we
    stretch the notion of university? What is
    essentially higher about higher education? Should
    we better concentrate on the notion of
    lifelong, enhancing access and approaching
    universal participation in societys
    cultural-intellectual goods? (Duke, 2005, p.1)

The context
  • HE in FE an increasingly recognised role with a
    growing power base The Mixed Economy
    Group(Foundation) Degree Awarding powers

What is HE in FE?
  • Is it always distinctive?
  • Is it always work-based and/or occupationally
  • Is it for widening participation students?
  • Is it for non-traditional students?
  • Is it for lower achieving students?
  • And what are the implications for teaching

Some key players in defining excellence in FE/LS
and HE
  • Ofsted
  • Quality Assurance Agency
  • Higher Education Academy
  • Institute for Learning
  • Centres of Excellence
  • LSC and HEFCE Student surveys

  • Inspects teacher training provision in the
    Learning and Skills sector
  • Has introduced grading criteria, which include
    grading for the observation of teaching, with
    grades of outstanding, satisfactory, good,

Ofsteds criteria for outstanding (1)
  • ensure that all learners make progress so that
    they fully achieve the challenging intended
    learning outcomes
  • teach learners to be able to explain how the
    teaching helped them to make progress
  • teach lessons that invariably capture the
    interest of learners, are inclusive of all
    learners, and feature debate between learners and
    between learners and the teacher
  • have a rapport with learners high-quality
    dialogue and questioning, guiding learning, with
    attention to individuals and groups
  • monitor learners progress to evaluate quickly
    how well they are learning so that they can
    change the approach during the lesson if
    necessary, and provide detailed feedback and
    targets to individual learners that are focused
    well to ensure further progress

Ofsteds criteria for outstanding (2)
  • demonstrate the ability to apply their own depth
    of subject knowledge to support learners in
    acquiring understanding and skills, often showing
    understanding, through application of a range of
    different approaches to ensure that all learners
    make the expected progress
  • demonstrate flexibility and adaptability by
    changing pace, approach and teaching method in a
    lesson in response to what learners say and do
  • make links with other aspects of learners
    development and understanding (for example,
    linking to work in other subjects)
  • fully exploit possibilities to promote learners
    understanding and appreciation of social and
    cultural diversity.

Quality Assurance Agency
  • Inspects HE in FE provision
  • Does not define excellent or outstanding
  • Sets benchmarks, and reviews standards and
    quality, and expresses confidence or not in

The Higher Education Academy
  • membership organisation for HE lecturers
  • The HEA has a National Teaching Fellowship Award
    which defines excellenceIndividual
    excellence evidence of promoting and enhancing
    the student learning experience.For example by
    arousing curiosity to stimulate and inspire
    learning, organising and presenting resources
    cogently and imaginatively, recognising and
    supporting diversity of student learning needs,
    drawing upon the results of relevant research,
    scholarship and professional practice, engaging
    with and contributing to the established
    literature or the nominees own evidence base.

The Institute for Learning
  • membership organisation for FE teachers
  • The IfL has a STAR awardThe QIA STAR Awards
    recognise and reward the work of those
    individuals who have made an outstanding
    contribution to the quality of teaching and
    learning that millions of people receive in
    England every day. These hidden STARs, in their
    many varied roles, are the unsung heroes who make
    a real difference to their organisations and make
    the further education system so vibrant. The
    awards are one of a number of programmes and
    services managed by the Quality Improvement
    Agency (QIA), which seek to recognise and promote
    excellence in the further education system.
  • (The QIA defines excellence by referring to

  • 74 Centres for Excellence in Teaching and
    Learning established in 2005
  • The Centres for Excellence in Teaching and
    Learning (CETL) initiative has two main aims to
    reward excellent teaching practice, and to
    further invest in that practice so that CETLs
    funding delivers substantial benefits to
    students, teachers and institutions.
  • http//

HEA subject centres
  • 24 Subject Centres, which include HE in FE
    sub-sections. They are intended to enhance the
    student learning experienceThe Academy's mission
    is to help institutions, discipline groups and
    all staff to provide the best possible learning
    experience for their students.
  • http//

Student surveys
  • HEFCE National Student Survey
  • LSC National Learner Satisfaction Survey

Some issues raised in the literature
  • All HE teaching cannot be judged in the same way
  • the impact of disciplinary differences
  • the ways in which work cultures influence and
    impact on learning
  • Different pedagogies, for example e-learning
    pedagogies, inquiry-based learning(Savin-Baden
    et al, 2008)

Issues raised in the literature
  • All HE students are not the sameFor example
  • mature students appreciate andragogical
    approaches, involving more practical, free and
    independent learning with well-developed learning
    materials, while young students prefer
    pedagogical approaches, with human contact,
    communication with teachers, friends and fellow
    students, both within the classroom setting and
    out of class.(Yoshimoto, Inenaga and Yamada,

Issues raised in the literature
  • WP may change what teaching and learning
    approaches are neededStudents may increasingly
  • the provision of clear learning outcomes
  • the ready availability of lecture notes
  • pedagogic guidance through workshops, tutorial
    support or handouts
  • routes to additional support that bypass tutors
    and lecturers and enable students to raise their
    concerns in confidence
  • clear feedback on submitted work (Watts, Bridges
    and Eames, 2008, p.iii)

Issues raised in the literature
  • Asking students about the quality of teaching
  • criteria for best practice are no longer being
    driven by the dictates of the intellectual field,
    but by the degree of client satisfaction.
    (Morley, 2003, p.89)
  • Edutainment Keeping students happy and in a
    comfort zoneLouise Morley argues that although
    students are being asked about the quality of
    teaching, they are reconstructed as consumers, in
    a way that encourages them to look for
    satisfaction, but not necessarily for
    intellectual challenge.

Implications for teaching and the training of
teachers in the L S Sector
  • Who defines what counts as good, excellent
    and outstanding practice?
  • How do WE define what we understand as good and
    excellent practice?
  • How do we address and debate the different needs
    and contexts across the sector?

Not forgetting
  • The need for situated understandings of practice
  • The need to embrace and cope with difference,
    diversity and contestation
  • The impact of change and new initiatives on the
    development of good and excellent practices

Mary Poppins Transgression for perfection
Ann-Marie Bathmaker
brilleBristol Centre for Research in Education
and Lifelong Learning
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