“There is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people… but its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down”
Martin Ince, Chair of the QS Global Academic Advisory Board, writes about how we measure success in higher education teaching.
What is higher education for? The answer depends on who you ask. For researchers, universities are the place where new knowledge is generated. For politicians, they are vital sources of innovation and economic growth.
But there is little doubt that the main role of higher education is to produce educated people. Students may leave university with a degree that opens up a lucrative and satisfying profession, or they may have improved their minds rather than their earning power. They may be 21 or 91. But in either case, the key to their university experience is how well they were taught and how much they learned.
The only problem is that it is tricky to see how well this vital function of universities is being carried out. Higher education is still provided largely by “destination” universities using time-honoured teaching methods. But these techniques now exist alongside distance learning, and blended methods that use a mixture of these approaches. But whatever combination is in use, its effectiveness is chronically hard to pin down.
“This issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale”
I chair the advisory board for the QS World University Rankings, and this issue is especially salient for us because of the impossibility of measuring teaching and learning on a global scale. Even within the UK, it is captured only indirectly, by surrogates such as student satisfaction. This does not work internationally, because a course that satisfies someone in Chicago might not go down well in Seoul. And we are well aware that despite the validity of traditional methods, teaching is being transformed by new approaches and new technology.
This is why QS was delighted to back the suggestion by Professor Jerry Wind, director of the SEI Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of our advisory board, for a global competition to recognise innovative approaches to teaching in higher education.
The Wharton-QS Stars Awards 2014: Reimagine Education has assembled a distinguished panel of judges from around the world to examine evidence-based claims for innovative approaches to higher education pedagogy. They welcome evidence of distance, presence and blended approaches to teaching, from any type of institution and in any subject. There may also be awards for the top innovations in specific regions or in subject areas.
A specific feature of Reimagine Education is that entrants have to show that students feel the benefit of the innovations they have made. They are encouraged to complete a student survey to prove the claims they make for their improved pedagogy.
We are sure from the response so far that Reimagine Education is timely. Please do spread the word about it, and consider entering yourself. The inaugural awards will be presented at a major conference at Wharton in December, and publicized heavily by QS and Wharton.
There is more about the competition, and our motivation for launching it, at www. reimagine-education.com. The site also has entry details and the timetable.