Defining high-quality teaching : perceptions of students and academics

Page, Nigel, Burden, Penny and Poma, Sabrina (2022) Defining high-quality teaching : perceptions of students and academics. Educational Developments, 23(1), pp. 9-12. ISSN (print) 1469-3267


Higher education is increasingly driven by a thirst for metrics as the sector decides on those most appropriate for defining and measuring the quality of teaching (Bamber, 2020). This is further set against the backdrop of creating successful and equitable graduate outcomes for all students (HEFCE, 2018), the widening participation agenda (Thomas, 2020) and the teaching excellence framework (TEF, 2017). However, there can be issues and variations with using metrics as a measure of teaching excellence including in their definition and interpretation. Defining excellence remains a challenge, as highlighted by the plethora of academic definitions found in the literature (reviewed in Greatbatch and Holland, 2016). Nonetheless, most definitions remain from an academics’ perspective and there is a continuing paucity of information to show how these compare and align directly with those perceived by students (Strang et al., 2016). Overall, there does need to be greater understanding of how what is being measured is perceived by different groups − students, academics, and other stakeholders − to bring closer alignment in expectations. The introduction of tuition fees and concomitant removal of public funding has focused attention on the competitive nature of teaching excellence (Gourlay and Stevenson, 2017) and shifted more onus on students determining what high-quality teaching looks like (BIS, 2011). Mechanisms such as the Teaching Quality Assessment (TQA) and the Quality Assurance Agency’s (QAA) Subject Review, used to determine teaching excellence scores, have been replaced by greater student evaluation. Surveys such as the National Student Survey (NSS) are nowadays used, where these scores feed into the more recently formulated Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF, 2017). Nonetheless, the NSS is far from a perfect quality metric (DfE, 2021) being used as a proxy (that provides correlation but not a direct measure/ understanding) of teaching quality at the end of students’ courses (Pearce, 2019). Subsequently, the UK government is reviewing the NSS along with the future direction of TEF (DfE, 2021) with the expectation there will be even greater emphasis on student feedback through redeveloped surveys and more robust student contributions to the TEF (Pearce, 2019; DfE, 2021). Therefore, with the growing focus on student perceptions of teaching excellence, we set out to explore and compare perceptions of what high-quality teaching means between different groups of academics and students.

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