Chris Clark, Department of History
At the time of writing this article in 1999, Professor Christopher Clark was an academic member of staff in the Department of History and also Chair of the Teaching and Learning Steering Group for the University's IT Policy Committee. What he refers to in his paper as the ‘technological revolution’ has, he suggests, created a student population who have very different expectations about their University experience. In relation to the difference in political, financial and educational pressures for change, he examined the uncertainty academic staff can feel when adapting to new teaching situations.
Staff at any stage of an e-learning project or development should find it insightful to read this paper – namely because Professor Clark discusses several of the inherent challenges likely to be faced. He emphasises the importance of forging links between the discipline-specific and institutional focus to ensure that needs at subject level can be met and translated to allow shared experience at a more generic level. This issue requires careful monitoring and emphasises the importance of support being available from both central and departmental sources - ensuring a collaborative approach to developments.
In a research-led institution like Warwick, it is often the case that lecturers may feel reluctant to invest time and energy in teaching developments when rewards for research seem more substantial. This raises two issues - the first being that of the perceived ‘tension’ between teaching and research. As the author outlines, students learn best by being involved with academic activities and therefore enabling an approach whereby innovation in practice impacts on the teaching and research activities of staff is a big institutional challenge. Since 1999, there has been much more focus on linking teaching and research. At Warwick, this has been tackled by initiatives such as the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS), and The Reinvention Centre. The second issue is the apparent ‘miss-match’ between rewards for research and those for teaching. This has undoubtedly been and continues to be an issue, but again there has been progress in this direction. At Warwick, awards to recognise and support teaching developments are available and teaching profiles are being included in applications for promotion. There are also national developments recognising teaching the importance of excellence in teaching. Despite these advances, the challenge of enhancing the status of teaching is ongoing.
First appeared in Interactions Issue 9 Autumn 1999