The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF): Implications for HE

Dr Nena Skrbic, Head of Teacher Education at Leeds City College, discusses the TEF and its implications on HE Teacher Preparation

This academic year saw the implementation of The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). Its aim is “to provide clear, understandable information to students about where teaching quality is outstanding” in an effort to “inform the competitive market”.

The framework, which has universal applicability (94 Further Education colleges opted to be assessed against it), necessitates a common understanding of the features of outstanding teaching and learning in HE across both Higher Education Institutions and College Based Higher Education (CBHE). One of the TEF’s ancillary aims is to ‘drive up the standard of teaching’. Inevitably, this will have implications for the content and supply of HE-specific teacher preparation programmes. This article draws on one FEC’s attempt to devise such a programme, with the TEF metrics in mind.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice in HE at Leeds City College is based on 60 credits acquired from a set of three compulsory modules: Demonstrating Professional and Interprofessional Practice; Teaching, Learning and Assessment in HE; and Building a Research Identity. Given that the “engagement with the UKPSF remains patchy” in CBHE, it was especially important to integrate the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) into the educational aims of the award. The criteria that will define teaching excellence are broad, but the TEF will include assessment on innovative practice in the design of HE curricula, the internationalisation of curricula and inclusivity in curriculum design. The educational aims programme has been conceived with such criteria in mind.

One of the key criteria against which institutions will be judged is “Teaching Quality” – loosely defined as “teaching practices which provide an appropriate level of contact, stimulation and challenge, encourage student effort and engagement”. Beyond the precepts of the Quality Code Chapter B3, however, there is little guidance relating to the sectorial expectations for quality teaching or outstanding teaching and learning across the different contexts of HE.

A good researcher doesn’t necessarily make a good lecturer. So, a course such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice – that prepares people to teach in HE – can only be a positive move both in universities and in CBHE.

Drawing on research into HE-specific pedagogies, the award proposes a set of skills that a programme of HE teacher preparation should equip practitioners with, including the ability to:

·    Critically appraise a range of effective pedagogies in HE, including the need for inter- rather than mono-disciplinarity.

·    Evaluate the implications that the variable of ethnicity holds for teachers of adults in HE and the challenges that learners from diverse educational, linguistic and cultural backgrounds pose in HE.

·    Commit meaningfully to wider scholarly and professional development activities in order to maintain an analytical and reflexive understanding of current practices in HE provision and pedagogy both     nationally and trans-nationally.

·    Explore how the insights gained through small-scale, context-specific research can inform the work of others and drive innovation and change in HE practice.

·    Collaborate productively with colleagues and students on innovative projects as part of an inclusive and inter-disciplinary community of practice.

In accordance with the sectorial expectations for research and scholarly activity in HE, the award aims to promote relevant “knowledge and understanding of current scholarly developments in their discipline area and that such knowledge and understanding directly inform and enhance their teaching”. It highlights the importance of promoting a culture of research and scholarly activity that clearly supports a HE ethos among staff and students. Practitioners are trained in developing curricula that are designed to mirror the research processes in their discipline.

Ultimately, the programme has been welcomed by the Dean of HE at Leeds City College, who commented: “One of the challenges for HE is that, historically, there hasn’t been a teaching qualification for HE teachers and, until recently, lecturers were not required to have a teaching qualification. The emphasis has always been on somebody’s research capabilities rather than teaching. A good researcher doesn’t necessarily make a good lecturer. So, a course such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice – that prepares people to teach in HE – can only be a positive move both in universities and in CBHE.”