Sunday, July 08, 2012

Vocational Training Certificate for University Academics

Introducing a compulsory teaching, assessment and supervision qualification for Australian university academics, I suggest would improve the quality of higher education and research.

In Australia, the higher the level of education, the less formal qualifications required to teach it. School teachers require at least a graduate diploma, or more usually a Bachelor's Degree. Vocational teachers require a "Certificate IV in Training and Assessment". Those teaching at university are not required to have any teaching qualifications.

It seems reasonable to require someone who is teaching at a university to have at least some minimal training in the theory and practice of how to teach. Even if not teaching a class, an academic is likely to be working in a team, supervising research students and assessing their work. This teamwork and supervision requires similar skills to teaching, so researchers might as well do the same course as teachers, to learn these skills.

Australian university staff are encouraged to do a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education, made up of four one semester courses, the equivalent of one semester full time study. Having done an introductory three day course and being half way through a certificate, I am finding this a little too heavy on pedagogy theory, with not enough practice.

One of my colleagues is instead doing the Australian qualification required for vocational teachers, a "Certificate IV in Training and Assessment". The vocational qualification is one quarter the size of its higher education equivalent. I suspect it is just as useful, by leaving out much of the theory.

Perhaps a useful middle ground would be for new university academics to be required to do a short introductory course of a few days, in their first year. They would then be required to complete the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment in their second year. After that, to be considered for promotion, they would be required to have undertaken another three courses and obtained at least a graduate certificate in higher education.

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