Each year the Chartered Association of Business Schools showcases best practice at its Learning, Teaching and Student Experience event. Tom Hill reports back on the big themes at this year's conference.
If I was in doubt as to which themes would dominate the two day CABS LTSE conference, I wasn't in doubt for long. Within his opening remarks Jerry Forrester, vice chair of CABS, had set the tone: “If anyone thinks the Teaching Excellence Framework is going away, it’s not. It’s here to stay and at subject level.”
We're in for a TEF ride
The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) was a strong theme throughout the conference, and discussion around it was responsible for much of the heightened emotion expressed by attendees. Aspects of the TEF that led to lecturers expressing concern included the proxy measures, gradings and the fact the framework covers only undergraduate programmes. Attendees also expressed concern around student perception of the framework and comparisons being drawn with Ofsted.
Lecturers openly shared the desire for TEF to become something that can inform students and consistently drive up teaching quality for learners.
Innovation is in abundance
What was equally apparent was that fuelling this desire to make TEF work, was an incredible amount of innovation. There were over 50 different presentations covering a multitude of new, alternative and innovative initiatives in HE.
It was a pleasure to be part of Swansea University’s session. Swansea used Pearson’s Revel product and discussed how the use of Revel, on a Master's course dominated by international students, resulted in a direct correlation to better results.
It was one of many presentations that focused on the use of digital technology in the classroom.
The risks and rewards of innovation
The undercurrent throughout the conference was that TEF cannot inadvertently restrict this innovation. Implementing new technology or flipping a classroom is risky in an environment where perceived student satisfaction holds so much weight. Deviate from what students expect, or want, and the risk can feel like it outweighs the reward.
And what about what students need? Ray Land’s keynote on ‘Teaching in unprecedented times’ spoke to this question. Land talked about providing students with troublesome knowledge. “Real learning requires stepping into the unknown”, he said, it is an ontological shift.
Real learning requires stepping into the unknown
Ray Land, professor of higher education, Durham University
This idea made me think of my daughter. She was convinced that whales were fish until we got the encyclopedia out, talked about mammals, and adjusted her mindset. The satisfaction that came from the realisation was immense, but the process of getting there was confusing and stressful for her.
And herein lies the problem. If this shift is pursued in the wrong way, it can have a negative effect on student experience, which could in turn encourage a risk averse teaching approach within the current system. This potential outcome is clearly something that, as Land said, “needs addressing”.
Large teaching teams
In numerous sessions the issues of large teaching groups was raised. In many of the cases mentioned, enthusiastic innovators lead the charge only for the intent to be diluted as it trickles down through a large teaching team. Attending CABS LTSE must have been a welcome change for those lecturers struggling to generate consensus on new teaching methods, as the event provided a forum for sharing best practice with others who are also innovating within their business schools.
More than any other external conference I’ve been to, CABS LTSE has the most collegiate feel. Everyone there is striving toward the same goal. The conference was collaborative and open, and as a result, incredibly valuable to all involved. It’s no surprise numbers are growing year on year, and my opinion is that the more members of the academic community get involved, the better.
About the author
Tom Hill is a specialist portfolio manager for business and management at Pearson. Before this he spent seven years in various editorial roles in education publishing. His spare time is consumed by playing rugby and looking after his two small children.