Reflecting on the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework

by Matthew Wheeler


Reflecting on the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework

~ Teaching Excellent Framework ~

FEBRUARY 3rd 2016· by Matthew Wheeler


Having spent the early part of my career in both teaching and research roles, I’ve experienced first hand the tension between these roles; often with research taking a priority over the quality of teaching when it comes to reputation and the all important pay and progression opportunities. 

The changing tide of UK politics has stirred up a summer storm for UK universities, almost on the scale of our bank holiday weekend weather, with the government announcing they intend to “link the student fee cap to inflation for those institutions that can show they offer high-quality teaching”. A recent Guardian article interpreted this as a reference to the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

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But what could the TEF look like?

Well the Times Higher Education article outlined the government aims which include:

○ Ensuring all students recieve an excellent teaching expierence that encourages original thinking, drives up enagmenet and prepares them for the world of work.

○ Building a culture where teaching has equal status with research, with great teachers enjoying the same professional recognition and opportunties for career and pay progression as great researchers.

○ Providing students with the information they need to judge teaching quality.

○ Recognisning institutions that do the most to welcome students from a range of backgrounds and support their retention and progession.

○ Specifying a clear set of outcome-focused critera and metrics.

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The finer details of the TEF and how it would be measured and managed remain unclear, but this is not the first time a government has attempted to focus the minds of University hierarchy on teaching quality and not just research outputs. The National Teaching Fellowship scheme (NTFS) is now in its 15th year and is well regarded within the sector. I guess my initial reflection at this stage is can the TEF compete with the NTFS or will it simply dilute both into meaningless exercises? Will the TEF substantially make a difference to how people perceive the importance of their teaching? I genuinely don’t know.

I’m also less clear how this tension between teaching quality and research outputs affects our customers in Australia and the USA – so I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts.

What I do know however, is that no matter what our role is, or whether we’re interested in improving our pay and progression, we should all ensure our practices are excellent.

There are some great examples of how our customers are using PebblePad to support the collection and presentation of evidence for the NTFS, and increasingly, PebblePad is being adopted for appraisal and performance review.

If the TEF is going to become an important factor for universities, not least financially due to the link to fee caps, then enabling and sustaining the evidencing of excellent teaching is going to be equally important and I just happen to know a system that a lot of people already have access to and use on a daily basis!

The TEF may never materialise but our reflective practices and desire to continually improve should never wain. So come on, jump online and take the opportunity at the start of a new academic year to collect evidence and demonstrate what excellent practitioners you are, and in this way be prepared to prove the impact you are having on your organisation.


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Matthew's last role before joining PebblePad back in 2009 was the Keeper of the Media Zoo at the University of Leicester. In our eyes (and our customers) Matthew is definitely a keeper. In his role as Director of Service and Partnerships (UK), Matthew couples enthusiasm with an unparalleled product and sector knowledge, which results in him being able to translate our customers' ideas into hugely successful implementations. Matthew exudes a contagious energy, which we expect is mostly fuelled by a super-human capacity for tea drinking, which a lot like his enthusiasm for all things PebblePad - literally knows no bounds.