HEA work with universities on teaching themes integral to TEF

Monday, 15 February, 2016

The HEA has highlighted to higher education providers that their work on key learning and teaching themes through the HEA Strategic Enhancement Programme (SEP) initiative could influence the nature and the outcomes of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

At an event in Birmingham last week, over 120 representatives from the 101 UK institutions that took part in the six themed programmes came together to discuss the impact of their work and its potential place in the future assessment of teaching excellence. They also shared knowledge about how they had embedded HEA thematic frameworks into their policies and processes.

The themes for the SEP initiative - embedding employability into the curriculum; internationalising the curriculum; engaged student learning; flexible learning; retention and attainment, and assessment and feedback are all core to any institution’s learning and teaching strategy and are highly pertinent to the TEF.

Dr Geoff Stoakes, Head of Special Projects at the HEA, discussed the metrics for a TEF that had been outlined in the Green Paper and looked ahead to possible future metrics that may emerge as a result of the ‘technical consultation’  on the TEF  later this year. As the themes of the SEP initiative mirror those outlined in the Green Paper “the impact of your strategic enhancement programme could still influence the way the TEF is assessed, via the upcoming technical consultation,” he said.

As an example, he went on to suggest that while the numbers of graduates in employment six months after graduation  has been proposed  as a proxy measure of teaching excellence, the HEA thinks that embedding employability across the curriculum and measuring its impact  would be more useful. “There is much to learn from the SEP work in this area,” he said.

The HEA’s employability framework has a key role to play here too: there is no single measure of employability, but, using the framework, it is possible to identify a number of key elements of employability and to measure the impact of institutional activity designed to address those areas. The correlations between the currently proposed student metrics such as the National Student Survey (NSS), DLHE and other data sets such as the HEA’s UK Engagement Survey (UKES) and areas associated with learning gain could be examined.

UKES is also being proposed by the HEA as a useful tool  for measuring teaching excellence, reflecting aspects of work in the SEP on engaged student learning. The Green Paper suggests that TEF “should reward and encourage teaching practices that provide an appropriate level of contact and stimulation, encourage student effort, and are effective in developing their knowledge, skills and career readiness.” UKES looks at how they are taught and how they actively engage in their learning. It measures activity and student effort, and asks students  how far their courses have emphasised the development of key skills, such as evaluating different points of view or applying their knowledge.

“The  proposed ‘case for excellence’ approach to the TEF also gives  institutions the opportunity to submit additional evidence of teaching excellence, which might include the impact, for example, of flexible learning, internationalisation, or any other of the themes,” said Dr Stoakes. Should the HEA’s alternative proposal for assessing ‘distinctive standing’ (contained in its response to the Green Paper) be adopted, then excellence in a particular theme might feature even more prominently.

You can read the HEA’s response to the Green Paper here.