Staff: Enhancing Teaching: Final Project Report

Pete Cannell*, Alison Gilmour

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


1. The Developing and Supporting the Curriculum Enhancement Theme commissioned this report on staff professional development and enhancement in Scotland. The research for the report was carried out between February and June 2013.

2. Evidence was collected through a review of relevant literature, extended interviews with key staff from each Scottish higher education institution, a cross-sector workshop and a survey of staff. The findings represent a snapshot of the Scottish university sector at an important point of transition as the new UK Professional Standards Framework for learning and teaching is introduced.

3. The report highlights the diversity of the Scottish sector. There is evidence of a high degree of commitment to enhancing teaching by both institutions and staff. Examples of effective and innovative practice are noted throughout the report.

4. The report identifies common issues and challenges across the sector. Significantly, there is still a perception among staff that excellence in research is considered to be more important than teaching. In different degrees across the sector pressure from parts of the academic role other than teaching means that staff feel that time to develop professionally as teachers is limited.

5. Formal support for professional development at the start of academic careers is well organised, typically through the provision of an accredited postgraduate certificate. There is a wide range of support for continuing professional development but this is less consistent and may only reach a minority of more experienced staff. The new UK Professional Standards Framework seems to be acting as a catalyst for new developments in initial professional development and in continuing development frameworks.

6. Staff who begin their career with the postgraduate certificate form a growing community of higher education teachers with interest and expertise in the practice and scholarship of learning and teaching. There is support across the sector for further development of communities of practice and an ongoing debate about the most effective ways to achieve this.

7. Teaching in universities is carried out in a wide range of roles and many institutions are considering how to improve support for staff who are not on full-time academic contracts.

8. The report concludes in section 5 with a summary of key issues and challenges for the sector, and in section 6 with ideas for further research and suggestions for areas where there is potential to share good practice.

9. Key priorities for staff included: - engagement with colleagues - observation, peer assessment of teaching, opportunities for discussion, half-day themed discussions on specific issues - time and space for reflection - opportunities to learn about new techniques and new technologies at a level that goes beyond simply 'how to' - opportunities to engage with learning and teaching issues in their own discipline - moving beyond routine evaluation to more opportunities for pedagogical research - this perhaps links to a desire to be able to engage with more of the relevant research literature.

10. Top learning and teaching issues for institutional contacts included: - working with new technology to enhance teaching, keeping up to date with developments (particularly distance learning) and ensuring that changes keep pedagogy to the fore - approaches to assessment - internationalisation - Curriculum for Excellence and student diversity.

11. Policy and practice issues included: - adequate resources - building in time to staff workload planning - finding a stronger space for learning and teaching in light of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) (this is a big issue in research-intensive institutions) - understanding what constitutes good teaching and evidencing enhancement - developing systematic ways of supporting the career-long development of all staff, the hard to engage, part-time staff and Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) - working better with HR and finance to support professional development - finding a common language and understanding - support for engagement with new technology is sometimes seen as simply a question of developing new technical skills; there is evidence that, while in some circumstances staff may be reluctant to divulge deeper learning needs, technical training and pedagogical development are best considered together
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGlasgow
PublisherQuality Assurance Agency Scotland
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


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