System-wide Changes Needed to Improve Student Learning Outcomes
Toronto, March 22, 2010 – A new book released today argues that postsecondary institutions need to enhance faculty teaching practices in order to improve student learning outcomes. A compilation of essays by internationally renowned experts in teaching and learning, Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education draws on evidence suggesting that common teaching practices do not adequately respond to the diverse learning needs of students.
“It is important for government and postsecondary institutions to create the context in which faculty are encouraged to use teaching methods that will lead to high quality educational outcomes for more of their students,” said Julia Christensen Hughes co-editor of the book and dean of the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph. “Overwhelming evidence suggests that when faculty adopt active-learning pedagogies students become more engaged in their learning and are better able to master skills and concepts.”
The book cites practices of convenience, such as the traditional lecture and multiple choice exams that test for short-term recall as being particularly problematic. Undervaluing effective teaching, a lack of expectation for continuous improvement of one’s teaching skills, and scarce resources are suggested as some of the barriers to teaching-practice reform.
Taking Stock identifies a number of strategies for improved teaching and learning, including;
- support for the scholarship of teaching and learning (research on the effectiveness of teaching practice), including the provision of grants and the establishment of teaching chairs;
- faculty recruitment, selection, promotion and tenure processes where teaching and learning competence and scholarship are properly assessed and valued;
- professional-development opportunities that are offered in collaboration with educational developers and local teaching centres and that encourage faculty to engage with discipline-specific pedagogical literature, to identify threshold concepts, and to participate in research projects relevant to their own pedagogical practice;
- effective pedagogical leadership at all levels of the academy;
- encouraging the creation of departmental cultures in which teaching and learning are valued, and in which an ethos of pedagogical creativity and experimentation is encouraged;
- pedagogically-sound physical and virtual learning spaces; and,
- a focus on curriculum assessment and development.
“A lack of attention and not being sufficiently prepared for class are common concerns faculty voice about their students,” said Dr. Joy Mighty, co-editor of the book and president of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. “However many students would approach learning differently if more faculty were to change their teaching practices and create learning environments that engage students in deep learning processes.”
Taking Stock was commissioned by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) and adds to the work they fund to enhance teaching and learning, including pilot projects at 10 institutions where faculty who teach college math and university languages and literatures courses share their best practices online. HEQCO is also sponsoring a self-assessment by faculty of their teaching development needs and opportunities. This report will be released in the spring.
“Improved teaching and learning ensures that Ontarians are getting the best value for the money spent on higher education,” said Dr. Ken Norrie, vice-president research of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. “This analysis provides a solid foundation on which to improve student outcomes in order to ensure that Ontario has a postsecondary education system that allows us to prepare students for prosperous careers and fulfilling lives.”
The book is available for purchase at http://mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=2425.
About the editors
Dr. Julia Christensen Hughes is dean of the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph. She is a past-president of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. For 10 years, Dr. Christensen Hughes was director of Teaching Support Services at the University of Guelph.
Dr. Joy Mighty is director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning and a professor in the School of Business at Queen’s University. She is president of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
About the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario is an arm’s-length agency of the Government of Ontario dedicated to ensuring the continued improvement of the postsecondary education system in Ontario. The Council was created through the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario Act, 2005. It is mandated to conduct research, evaluate the postsecondary education system, and provide policy recommendations to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities with a view to enhance the quality, access, and accountability of Ontario’s higher education system.
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