Beyond Teaching Excellence

Beyond Teaching Excellence

  • Meena Mehta Kotecha
  • 23 June 2017
  • Posted in: Education

What is teaching excellence in university education?

From the viewpoint of students’ academic performance, one could argue that an excellent teacher is one who inspires students to learn, encourages active student-participation, nurtures independent learning and promotes critical thinking.

Teaching excellence from the perspective of student support service refers to the ability to facilitate the development of students as individuals; promote inclusive practice; identify and remove barriers to student engagement; and design teaching delivery that is appropriate to students’ academic and cultural diversity manifested in diverse learning needs.

From the university management angle, teaching evaluation reports might help identify teaching excellence. We could go on considering a range of perspectives.

Nevertheless, teaching excellence has become a global theme and is not just limited to the UK. There have been teaching excellence initiatives worldwide such as the Norwegian approach and Germany’s teaching excellence. Furthermore, I would argue that teaching excellence is a multi-dimensional theme that goes far beyond students’ academic performance, student support and/or teaching evaluation reports. University education has become an immensely dynamic sector worldwide over the last three decades which requires us to prepare our students for the global era and help them to develop as global citizens.

We are required to help our students enhance their graduate profile by promoting core transferable skills, in addition to subject specific skills, knowledge and academic qualifications.

These skills are essential from the viewpoint of preparing graduates to compete in the global employment market. Bloomberg interviews recruiters hunting for top MBA talent, to identify the most valued qualities in managers and how the latest batch of business school graduates measures up. As part of their latest ranking of business programs, Bloomberg asked 1,251 job recruiters at 547 companies about the skills they want and have trouble locating. Creative problem-solving, leadership skills, strategic thinking and communication skills were the skills that were confirmed as highly in demand but hard to find (Bloomberg, 2016). Our aim should be to create learning environments that would facilitate these skills and I think this should ideally begin in our students’ first year undergraduate programme.

Trivial interventions can have significant positive impact on facilitating a vibrant start to students’ respective study programmes as well as their career prospects.

In my experience, student-led education, which I have incorporated in my research informed teaching practice, is an effective way forward. I think it creates learning environment conducive to enhancing students’ graduate employability profile and helps them develop skills that are sought after by head hunters but hard to find. It would inspire students to share the responsibility of their education and develop a sense of partnership.

I have been setting up Facebook Study Groups since 2012 with a view to extending student engagement beyond teaching rooms. Despite these being optional, students have been participating with enormous enthusiasm with a participation rate of more than 98% during the last two academic years.

My findings show the contribution of Facebook to promoting inclusive education, student interaction and collaborative learning, to be highly significant.

I believe that internationalisation has never been more important in university education which is reflected in the increasing number of international academic partnerships. We are presented with several excellent opportunities especially with the increasing cultural diversity of the university student population as well as academics. Our students will be expected to work with colleagues from all over the world whether they decide to work for multi-national corporations or other sectors. I think we should work with our students to facilitate inter-cultural competencies. We should enhance their understanding of different cultures, languages and religions which is essential to make them tolerant to diversity and comfortable to work in a multi-cultural space.

Furthermore, we need to develop international curricula that would facilitate mobility and offer students opportunities to collaborate with other cultures. I also believe that we should offer inter-disciplinary degree programmes which would broaden our graduates’ outlook and promote creative problem-solving, leadership, strategic thinking and communication skills.

Finally, I think it is unfortunate that internationalisation seems to be tending towards competitiveness and commercialisation of university education which goes against our students’ interests!

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About Meena Mehta Kotecha

Meena has been teaching at the London School of Economics (LSE) since 2006. She has been named as an LSE Innovator and is an LSE Teaching Excellence Prize Winner for both statistics & operational research methods (2008, 2013 and 2016).

Meena has organised four mathematics education international conferences thus far in collaboration with the U…