Report to European Commission on improving teaching and learning

A new publication came out today, the report to the European Commission on improving the quality of teaching and learning in Europe’s higher education institutions.

The report emphasises the importance of teaching in HEIs, and asks that it be treated in the same way as research, in terms of status and promotion prospects.

A number of recommendations are provided- many of them are not earth-shattering, however in addition a number of questions are posed, for leaders of institutions and for teaching staff. Again, these may not be revolutionary for an instituition with a strong teaching and learning focus, but the ones for teachers do provide a useful reflective checklist:


>How comfortable am I with recent teaching concepts, such as student-centred teaching and learning, competences and learning outcomes, etc.? Would my teaching benefit from profes- sional training, mentoring or other support in this area?
> Would a teaching portfolio allow me to better reflect on my own teaching methods, objectives and achievements and thus foster constant improvement of my teaching performance?

Students as partners

> How can I make sure that my teaching puts the students at the centre of the teaching and learning process?
> How can I reach out to students to engage them actively and make them understand that successful teaching and learning at tertiary level requires strong personal commitment from both sides?
> How can I offer adequate counselling to my students,throughout their studies, to help them map out their individual learning itinerary and assume responsibility for it?
orientation phase
> How can I provide clear and transparent information on my study offers, including module descriptions, learning outcomes, and employment perspectives after graduation to prospec- tive students, e.g. through the website of my institution?
> How can I provide prospective students with any information on available self-assessment methods that would allow them to check their affinity and talent for the subject in question, the required previous knowledge, etc.?

Course design

> How can I make sure that my course design encourages and requires the active involvement of students in the learning process, e.g. through innovative forms such as problem-based and research-based learning, self-organised working groups, team work on research projects, tutoring and mentoring activities for the students, etc.?
> Is the course I am delivering part of an integrated curriculum which has been jointly designed by all members of staff involved in delivering the programme, based on a modular structure and agreed learning activities which will allow students to achieve clear and assessable learning outcomes?
> How can I organise my teaching in such a way that it will not simply provide my students with facts and knowledge, but confront them with questions that are bigger than the course itself?
> Will my teaching lead students to questioning their preconceived ideas and thus to a deeper understanding of the issue and to ‘self-thinking’. Will it stimulate critical and inquisitive
attitudes among my students?
> In the spirit of seeing students not as passive recipients of knowledge, but as responsible
partners in the teaching and learning process, how can I involve them in the permanent improvement of my course design?

Course delivery

> How can my teaching take into account the ever growing heterogeneity of the student body by using different methods, new media, new modes of delivery (such as blended learning), etc.?
> How does my course encourage my students to be aware of and to draw not only on my
own teaching and research, but also of fellow academics within and beyond my institution,
including international academics?
> How will my teaching impart, apart from the body of knowledge of the given discipline,
generic and language skills and stimulate personal development ?
> How does my teaching provide a research-rich and interdisciplinary environment to
> How does my course provide my students with a sense of global connectedness and an
understanding of how their subject is viewed in different parts of the world?
> How does my course encourage community engagement and a sense of active citizenship
among my students?


> How can I adapt my assessment formats to reflect the new pedagogical approaches, such as problem-based and research-based learning? Would presentations, role plays and case studies help me to measure the individual student’s progress in the acquisition of certain competences?
> How can I make sure that the number of exams is kept to a reasonable minimum so as not to distract students from their learning and research?

Quality enhancement

> How can I systematically demand student feedback on their learning experience in my courses? How can I use this feedback to constantly improve my teaching performance?
> Would I benefit from exchanges with colleagues on latest developments in curricular design,
new modes of delivery and assessment, and from peer reviewing of my teaching?