Botho TED Symposium on Achieving Quality in Higher Education
On the 20th of September Botho University’s Teaching Excellence Department (TED) held its inaugural public BothoTED Symposium at the Gaborone campus. Academics from various tertiary institutions in Botswana attended the event which was streamed live to the Maun and Francistown campuses of BU.TED Manager Tom Atonga was recently quoted in BIZTECH AFRICA as saying that the department’s main objective is to improve University-wide quality of teaching and learning and BothoTED talks are a forum they have created for teaching staff to meet and discuss best practices.
This first public BothoTED symposium was delivered by University of Botswana (UB) Dean of Education Professor Tabulawa whose research interests include pedagogy, policy analysis, higher education and the interface of education and globalisation. The topic of his presentation was ‘Achieving quality in higher education:The Significance of a Constructive Alignment between Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment ’.
Tabulawa began by explaining that perceptions of what constitutes quality in tertiary education have shifted in the recent past to views which emphasise producing job-ready graduates. There was a time when the only expectation of universities was to open the minds of students and then industry would mould these graduates into what they wanted once they were employed. However, Tabulawa explains, tertiary education is increasingly being seen as a subsector of the national economy.
Nonetheless, this was only a background note and the meat of Tabulawa’s presentation focused on how quality tertiary education can be achieved in this context through the concept of constructive alignment. The concept dictates that the processes of curriculum development, teaching and assessment must be inextricably intertwined in order to create consistency between the three. However we currently have a situation in Botswana in which these are separate processes conducted by different entities.
Tabulawa speculated that this might be one of the reasons the failure rate in schools, from primary to university, is as high as it is. The beauty of constructive alignment is that it helps to ensure that the desired outcomes of teaching are never divorced from the development of programmes and the process of teaching.
This concept of constructive alignment is amongst the reasons it is considered best practice at universities internationally for lecturers to gain postgraduate qualifications in teaching. This is so that they can be actively involved in all three stages of the education process and not just the teaching. BU offers a postgraduate diploma in teaching and many members of the institution’s academic staff have earned teaching qualifications through this programme; a degree is currently under development. During discussions, attendants of the conference, many of them lecturers from BU and other tertiary institutions, were almost unanimous in their agreement that postgraduate teaching qualifications are crucial for anyone involved in university instruction.The presentation and the discussions that followed were highly engaging and made everyone in attendance think deeply about how the process of education, from course conception to student graduation, can be designed to maximise graduate employability.