Sunday, January 01, 2017

Ranking Teaching Quality

There has been a lot of talk lately about the quality of teaching and learning in universities. This has always an been an important element in national rankings such as the US News America's Best Colleges and the Guardian and Sunday Times in the UK, measured by things like standardised test scores, student satisfaction, reputation surveys, completion rates and staff student ratio.

There have been suggestions that university teaching staff need to be upgraded by attending courses in educational theory and practice or by obtaining some sort of certification or qualification.

The Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) has just published data on the number of staff with educational qualifications in English higher educational institutions.

The university with the largest number of staff with some sort of educational qualification is Huddersfield which unsurprisingly is very pleased. The university's website  reports HEFCE's assertion that “information about teaching qualifications has been identified as important to students and is seen as an indicator of individual and institutional commitment to teaching and learning.”

The top six universities are:
1.  University of Huddersfield
2.  Teesside University
3.  York St John University
4.  University of Chester
5= University of St Mark and St John
5= Edge Hill University.

The bottom five are:
104=   London School of Economics
104=   Courtauld Institute of Art
106.    Goldsmith's College
107=   University of Cambridge
107=   London School of Oriental and African Studies.

It seems that these data provide almost no evidence that a "commitment to teaching and learning" is linked with any sort of positive outcome. Correlations with the overall scores in the Guardian rankings and the THE Teaching Exercise Framework simulation  are negative (-550 and -410 [-204 after benchmarking]).

In addition, the correlation between the percentage of staff with teaching qualifications and the Guardian indicators is negative for student satisfaction with the course (-161, insignificant), student satisfaction with teaching (-.197, insignificant), value added (-.352) and graduate employment (-.379).

But there is a positive correlation with student satisfaction with feedback (.323).

The correlations with the indicators in the THE simulation were similar: graduate employment -.416, (-.249 after benchmarking), -449 completion (-.130, insignificant, after benchmarking), and -.186 student satisfaction, insignificant (-.056 after benchmarking, insignificant).

The report does cover a variety of qualifications so it is possible that digging deeper might show that some types of credentials are more useful than others. Also, there are intervening variables: Some of the high scorers, for example, are upgraded teacher training colleges with a relatively low status and a continuing emphasis on education as a subject.

Still, unless you count a positive association with feedback, there is no sign that forcing or encouraging faculty to take teaching courses and credentials will have positive effects on university teaching.


Anonymous said...

Of course you have to assume that the measures you are quoting are actually related to the quality of the teaching delivered.
For example, the level student satisfaction and quality teaching do not overlap greatly.

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