Open University Tutors' Conceptions Of Teaching Excellence In Higher Education Teaching

Andersen, Kurt (2007). Open University Tutors' Conceptions Of Teaching Excellence In Higher Education Teaching. MRes thesis The Open University.



The purpose of this study is to examine Open University tutors’ conceptions of teaching excellence. A qualitative approach was adopted involving eleven tutors in interviews plus a focus group discussion on the topic. The recorded data were subjected to a thematic content analysis focussing on the tutors’ conceptions of teaching quality rooted in their own practices. The study furthermore examined the data for indications that would confirm or disconfirm three strong claims made in recent higher education research literature relating to HE teaching practice: first regarding a ‘psychologised’ (understood mainly as a ‘behaviourist’) discourse among HE teachers (Malcolm and Zukas, 2001, Skelton, 2005), secondly a ‘performativity’ culture (focussing on targets as a consequence of current accountability regimes being introduced) (Ball, 2003, Camell, 2007, Skelton, 2005) and finally a ‘prescriptive’ discourse (Nicoll and Harrison, 2003). The study found that the tutors are highly dedicated to their students, strongly focussed on their students’ learning and progress, but too modest to think of their own practice in terms of ‘excellence’, even if some of them have received teaching excellence awards and all are involved in projects in the Open University’s Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The findings suggest that the tutors are in favour of initiatives to promote teaching excellence and of HE teacher accreditation. Their teaching approaches are found to be co-constructivist (certainly not behaviourist) and student-oriented, and indications of being under ‘performativity’ or ‘prescriptive’ pressures are not apparent.

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