Faculty Development and Quality Assurance in Teaching and Learning
Universities are Taoist institutions -- the one constant thing about them is Change. So while the title I have been given describes some of the core activities of a university, these are dynamic processes and therefore turn out to be surprisingly complex.
I will pass from the traditional characteristics of the Good Teacher to traditional ways in which Faculty development and Quality Assurance were conducted at Cambridge, which is, like Oxford, a collegiate university. I will then deal with the changes both from within and without (for example, alterations in the university's student body and alterations in the national and international systems of Higher Education of which Cambridge is a part) which have led in the past 15 years to two major shifts in our own Quality Assurance processes. What served the university well when it was a small institution with a small range of courses and options and both students and teachers were rigorously selected and well prepared, is no longer adequate when students come variously prepared (though still very rigorously selected), and faculty are chosen by the university primarily for their Research talents and output.
Firstly, the processes governing our standard residential degrees, (Bachelors, Masters, Doctorates) have moved from the largely informal to the formal and codified. Responsibility which was chiefly with the student to manage his own learning (as is still the case in Continental European universities) has moved increasingly to the teacher, department and faculty in a society which is increasingly litigious and demands "transparency".
Secondly, major new areas of teaching and learning have arisen, broadly described as Lifelong Learning but comprising within that title very different issues of Quality Assurance. For example, at Cambridge Continuing Professional Development, CPD, where qualified professionals come to update their knowledge or skills, is assessed in quality terms by the governing bodies of the relevant profession, not the university. Meanwhile Cambridge Continuing Education courses may allow the first access to learning post-school for retired people wishing to study mainly for pleasure, or for working people improving their language skills to work abroad or building up a modular degree for themselves in association with the credit transfer systems of the Open University. This new area of Lifelong Learning is not negligible. Whereas some 17,000 students in the University are taking full-time residential courses leading to BA, Masters' or PhD degrees, there are also nearly 14,000 part-time and occasional students taking part in courses ranging from a few days to part-time Masters degrees over two years.
It is this context that most work has been done to move from a focus on developing the role of the faculty member who is teaching, to the need to meet the varied demands of the student who is learning. Both approaches require appropriate programmes of faculty development and of evaluation.
(china.org.cn, July 30, 2002)