Talking Teaching

August 8, 2012

more on accreditation

I spent some time recently in an interesting discussion around the question of whether tertiary teachers should be required to complete some form of national accreditation. Now, many – but by no means all! – institutions do already have something like this available for their staff, albeit that take-up is essentially voluntary. What would happen to these in-house programs, we wondered, in the event of such a national qualification becoming the norm? Would the individual organisations stop running their own systems? – a pity, in many ways, as these are likely tailored to the needs of their own staff and students. There’s also the issue of portability: whether the putative national qualification would be portable, between institutions and between countries. If this could be guaranteed, then why would teachers bother with the in-house model? This would be a negative result overall, as it would then remove any need for an individual institution to develop and maintain its own programs for its own staff.

We also wondered what form accreditation – accreditation, not a qualification – should take. Teaching excellence is not a static thing: the best teachers are always reviewing, reflecting on, revising and enhancing their practice. A qualification based on examinations are not going to adequately measure these attributes. Far better, we thought, to go with portfoliosmeasured by portfolio of work. This would be a living document as the individual’s practice should be constantly self-reviewed & enhanced, a process reflected in the portfolio.

Part of the discussion hinged on just how you define ‘excellence’. We were all Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award winners, so you’d think we’d know, wouldn’t you? But we’re all excellent at different things, so a definition proved hard to pin down. Can we define ‘excellence’ a la John Hattie’s work on secondary teaching? Possibly. Well, maybe not ‘define’, but we could certainly give examples of excellence from the portfolios of previous TTEA awardees.  could then act as basis of any form of professional development. In fact, you could argue that those awardees show something called ‘positive deviance‘ – and in this instance ‘deviance’ is something to aspire to!

So maybe accreditation would be based on a portfolio – a ‘living’ document – demonstrating someone’s ongoing professional & personal development, & built around a clearly explained concept of ‘excellence’ as it applies to facilitating students’ learning (& helping others to do the same)? Something to be think about, anyway.

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