Friday 16 July 2010

The 'Teaching Machine' and the 'Quality Machine'

I've been trying to think through the issues involved in the separation of the 'teaching machine' (T) from the 'quality machine'(Q). There's little doubt that the university maintains its capital value through the Q machine, but it's deeply entwined with the T machine, with teachers playing key roles in both mechanisms.

Globalisation and the drive for efficiency will force us to separate the two mechanisms. But this will potentially cause problems which we need to find ways of averting. There's no point in separating-off the T machine, if the Q machine rejects everything it does (and basically doesn't trust it).

The values of T are different from those of Q. Q concerns itself with normative conceptions of fairness, equality, accountability, value-for-money, etc. Quality is maintained through the Q machine producing communications which uphold these normative conventions.

T concerns itself with pedagogy, knowledge, skills, relationships, conversation, activity and assessments. T's values are not always normative; they may be highly individual and personal. Assessment is the conventional interface between teaching and quality.

Teachers can get upset if their personal values concerning teaching conflict with conceptions of quality which deem their practice deficient. If teachers are increasingly asked to play a role in the Quality machine, they will get upset if the teaching machine isn't doing what they think it should be doing.

Do we need to solve this through more pervasive quality? To make the normative values of quality part of the process of teaching? This would be a bit like TQM for education perhaps... TEACHING Quality Management!

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