Teaching and learning or just teaching … should staff development be compulsory?

As part of a staff development course I’ve been doing we were encouraged to discuss a paper about computer assisted assessment and the barriers to adoption.  The paper made reference to the 1997 Dearing Report into Higher Education (HE), which highlighted the need for institutions to develop information strategies, and that training and support were key to the effective use of computers and IT in HE.  The Dearing Report also recommended that it should become the norm for all new full-time teaching staff to undergo training in teaching in higher education on accredited programmes.  Universities were also encouraged to review and update their staff development programmes.  Reflecting on this I included this in one of the comments I posted to the discussion,

Whilst lecturers as a group  stay up to date in subjects they teach and practise in do they stay up to date with advances in teaching and learning?  Do we just complete the LTA course because that’s the hoop we have to complete or do we stay engaged with learning, teaching and assessment?  There are optional staff development sessions, but should there be compulsory CPD/staff development sessions in the way that doctors, dentists, lawyers etc need to do CPD to keep practising.  I can imagine that many would think this is a completely outrageous suggestion!

Is this outrageous?  What do you think? I did get some support for this suggestion of compulsory CPD for teaching staff, including from a colleague in the medical school, who also commented that there was an assumption that doctors can suddenly become good teachers.

Having had this discussion a tweet from Rod Lucier (@thecleversheep) on Twitter last week caught my attention.

Back in July Steve Wheeler posted a tweet asking, what is the most important issue in e-learning? Sarah Horrigan said ‘one of the most important issues in e-learning is the gap between innovators & lack of real engagement by the majority’. This was a view which I supported and I also argued for more staff development to help lessen the gap. Is this gap as Rod proposes, increasing or are the majority catching up?

The JISC report Higher Education in a Web 2.o World identified the need for targeted staff development opportunities aimed at identifying and spreading best practice in the use of Web 2.o tools in pedagogy.  How do we encourage teaching staff who already feel over stretched to take part in these opportunities, particularly in areas like medicine where teachers have heavy clinical commitments.  Should it be compulsory?


  1. Clearly we should expect our teachers to show evidence of their personal development in teaching and learning. I have to provide evidence that I am doing so, and I will be expecting those who I manage to do the same.

    1. You are doing this, but are all doctors doing this? Also generally in HE I’m not sure whether all lecturers are having to show evidence of personal development, may be someone else can help with clarifying this.
      What about those who deliver the same lecture year in year out without changing it much, do you think they will have contemplated the quote you included in your recent post on just in time learning, “As you enter a classroom ask yourself this question: If there were no students in the room, could I do what I am planning to do? If your answer to the question is yes, don’t do it.”

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