Teaching quality [...]

Raban (2007)

most universities’ quality management systems employ annual monitoring and periodic review procedures that are retrospective and provision focused. These systems are weakly integrated with an institution’s decisions on resource allocation and longer term strategic planning.....The CNAA-derived systems employed by most universities were designed for the purpose of securing accountability of (and within) institutions that were, at that time, working in more stable environments.1 Today, when the agility of institutions is at a premium, they seem unhelpfully dirigiste and burdensome.

The second respect in which conventional systems are ‘self-defeating’ is their tendency to promote an ‘unintelligent accountability’ (O’Neill, 2002). Institutions respond to external requirements by strengthening their arrangements for internal accountability; managerial approaches to accountability, based on a lack of trust, undermine the professional commitment and motivation of academic staff; resources and effort are diverted from the core activities of teaching and research; and thus the effort to assure quality impedes its enhancement.

Many commentators take it as axiomatic that there is, at best, a tension between enhancement and innovation on the one hand, and accountability-driven quality assurance on the other. Their work builds a stack of imposing dichotomies which contrast managerialism with collegial participation, conservation with change, risk- aversion with risk-taking, compliance with self-determination, and retrospective with prospective approaches to quality management (Biggs, 2002; Jackson, 2002; Newton, 2002; Matthias, 2003; Wright, 2003). Whilst an enhancement-led approach does not abandon the accountability and public information requirements of audit, it does suggest that the two can work in harness.

Quality as quality enhancement

"learning our lesson"
Some scholars define quality in higher education as the process of quality enhancement. Hau (1996) argues that quality in higher education and quality teaching in particular, springs from a never-ending process of reduction and elimination of defects. Argyris and SChon (1974) believe that quality is driven by the inquest: "Are we doing things right?" and by the complementary "Are we doing the right things?"

Identify target first

"learning our lesson" identifies that "the notion of quality remains vague and unshared internally" and suggests it important to identify the important outcomes first.


"learning our lesson"
...institutions need to develop innovative approaches to measuring the impact of their support on quality teaching. They are still struggling to understand the causal link between their engagement in teaching and the quality of learning outcomes. Exploring the correlation among inputs, processes and outcomes of higher education calls for pioneering and in-depth evaluation instruments
Begging the question, why focus just on instruments (suggesting surveys) and move beyond that to alternate means.

Role of bottom up approaches

"learning our lesson"
Enouraging bottom-up initiatives from the faculty members, setting them in a propitious learning and teaching environment, providing effective support and stimulating reflection on the role of teaching in the learning process all contribute to quality teaching


Learning our lesson: review of quality teaching in higher education Raban, C. (2007). Assurance versus enhancement: less is more? Journal of Further and Higher Education, 31(1), 77–85.

To read references

Managing quality improvement of eLearning in a large, campus‐based university

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