Saturday, November 19, 2011

Indo-EU Workshop on QA in Higher Technical Education (at IITK)

Today, I spent the whole day away from office. IIT Kanpur is hosting the Indo-European Workshop on Quality Assurance in Higher Technical Education. We had speakers from Univ. of Lausanne, Switzerland, Lund University, Sweden, besides the local speakers from IIT Kanpur. The speakers from Europe had done tremendous amount of research in higher education, and it was a pleasure to listen to them. Every time I attend such a workshop (I attended one in February 2011 at Delhi also), I learn more about the teaching learning process, and I start hoping that one day, IITK will feel the need to have a center for research in higher technical education, which could provide us advice on issues that we face in teaching. But the attendance was very disappointing. From about 15 faculty members from IITK in the morning, it dwindled to about 5 in the last session - and almost all of them were the organizers.

The kind of support that such a center in Lund University provides to its faculty includes all aspects of teaching learning process, and even how to improve interaction with PhD students. A typical response of a faculty member in most such matters is, "I am a PhD, and I have taught for so long. My students are doing so well in life. I don't need no training to become a better teacher." I hope that they would at least try and see how expert help can convert a good teacher into an even better teacher.

There was a talk on assessing and rewarding excellence in teaching. And I realize we don't do even the obvious. The speaker said that there are four stages of assessment - deciding criteria on which assessment is made, collecting evidence that criteria are met, standards to judge the evidence, and an open and transparent process to match all this. And he gave example of all this as they follow in their university. When I look at awards at IITK, the criteria are often broad and ill-defined, the evidence is hearsay amongst the committee members, there is no peer review, and there is no way to find out who were nominated, what were their achievements, and why the award was given to someone.

There was an interesting observation by one speaker. Most of us have no problems with peers reviewing our research, but we don't want our teaching to be peer reviewed. As a professional, why shouldn't all output of ours be peer reviewed?

The workshop continues tomorrow. I am really looking forward to it.

Here is the workshop homepage. I have been told that all presentations will be uploaded soon.

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