by KYM FRASER and DENISE CHALMERS
The federal government’s proposed 2020 university performance-based fund, being reconsidered due to COVID-19, unsurprisingly draws on the usual quality teaching performance indicators: graduate employment outcomes, student experience, student success and equity group participation (by Indigenous, low socio‑economic status and regional/remote students). In all the talk of funding and models however, little is said about the quality of teaching and the support university teachers need to deliver on these indicators.
The current lack of federal government interest in the quality of university teaching is despite a previously long history dating from the 1980s when programmes were instituted to assess the quality of higher education teaching. Arguably the most successful of these encouraged the enhancement of learning and teaching, such as the Learning and Teaching Performance Fund designed to reward institutions that demonstrated excellence in L&T. This initiative required universities to have explicit L&T strategic plans, systematic support for teaching professional development, and publicly available student evaluation of teaching. Concurrently, funding was allocated to national L&T enhancement organisations. The most enduring programmes developed by those organisations were focussed on collaborative, sector-wide projects which disseminated good teaching practice and projects that addressed sector-wide concerns.
From our perspective, the LTPF and the enhancement programmes were successful primarily because of academic developers who had the knowledge of organisational change, the capacity for sophisticated brokering to develop individuals, teams and disciplines at multiple levels in an organisation, and who were informed by the vast body of research and evidence on effective L&T practice.
If the proposed performance-based funding does eventuate post-pandemic, it will be interesting to see if it leads to a resurgence of interest by universities committing more strongly to enhancing the capacity and skill of their institution and its teachers. If it does, the question of who might do this is problematic. With the diminishing focus on teaching quality enhancement of successive federal governments, universities’ support of academic development centres and academics who have deep L&T knowledge and capacity-building prowess has been considered surplus to requirements for some years.
Adjunct Associate Professor Kym Fraser, firstname.lastname@example.org
Emeritus Professor Denise Chalmers, email@example.com
ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here