Welcome to the March issue of Teaching Matters, which showcases findings from recent projects that research learning and teaching practices at the University of Edinburgh. To introduce this issue, Daphne Loads, academic lead of the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS), and Emily Salvesen, the CPD Programme Manager (both from the Institute for Academic Development), explain two terms that are often associated with learning and teaching research here at the University: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the acronym, PTAS….
University teaching: What’s changed?
Early in my university teaching career, I remember standing nervously outside a lecture theatre, frantically trying to make sense of my copious notes. “Don’t worry” said a well-meaning colleague, “You’ll soon be able to manage with a few scribbles on the back of an envelope.” He was wrong. Thirty years later, I still plan learning and teaching activities carefully, and I still feel nervous. Thankfully, I get an exhilarating adrenalin rush nowadays, rather than the disabling anxiety of the past. More importantly, such cavalier attitudes to students are nowadays unacceptable.
Ideas about professional development for university teachers have also moved on. We pay more attention to how academics can be supported and challenged in their teaching. While teacher development often takes place through formal programmes or workshops, there are also powerful opportunities for development through the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.
What’s the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)?
SOTL is about:
- University teachers reflecting on their own practice
- Looking closely and critically at teaching
- Looking closely and critically at students’ learning
- Making local improvements
- Sharing insights with other teachers locally and globally
The values that inform these practices include:
- A commitment to sharing knowledge and understanding
- A spirit of inquiry
From this perspective, development is seen not as something that is done to university educators in order to bring them into line with the external demands of political imperatives and changing markets. Rather, it is a way for them to make sense of their own teaching and their students’ learning, drawing on the principles of research.
What’s the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme (PTAS)?
One of the ways of getting people involved in SoTL, is through schemes which provide funding and support for academics to try out and evaluate innovations or to research their students’ learning. Such schemes are now common internationally, but PTAS, initiated at the University of Edinburgh in 2007 by Professor Carolin Kreber, with the support of the then Principal, Professor Timothy O’Shea, is one of the longest-established schemes of its kind.
Financial awards of up to £15,000 help participants to develop research skills and build communities of staff and students with an interest in enhancing teaching and learning. PTAS project teams disseminate their work widely, both within the University of Edinburgh and beyond, through traditional journals and academic conferences, blogs, videos and public events. We’ve come a long way from scribbled notes on the back of an envelope!
We gratefully acknowledge that annual funding for the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme is provided by the University of Edinburgh Development Trust. We are also grateful for the additional funding for projects provided by IS and the Careers Service.
If you are interested in applying for a PTAS grant, you can find information here, or contact Emily or Daphne. If you are interested in meeting with other colleagues to discuss and plan SOTL projects, you can find information about the SOTL network here.
Mini-series: Academic blogging
Each Wednesday throughout March and April, Teaching Matters will publish a blog post from our latest-mini series: Academic Blogging. This mini-series is co-edited by Karen Howie and Lorna M. Campbell from Learning, Teaching and Web Services in ISG, and part of the team that provides the Academic Blogging Service. Posts will include an introduction to the new service and reflections from staff and student on the use of blogs in teaching and learning. We’ll showcase interesting blogs, share examples of how blogs are being used across the University, and look at how you can use blogging to support your professional development. The mini-series will include two podcasts, interviewing bloggers about their experience of blogging in their own fields.