Taking Notes: Eye on Education – University Teaching Quality Criticized

Taking Notes: Eye on Education – University Teaching Quality Criticized

This column focuses on a wide range of issues affecting post-secondary students. Students are encouraged to submit suggestions and educational topics they are concerned about, or personal experiences with courses or university situations they feel other students should know about. If suggest a topic or a course alert for taking notes, contact voice@ausu.org, attn: Debbie Jabbour


A Canadian authority on teaching and learning claims that universities tend to “approach undergraduate teaching in an amateur fashion,” using “trivial and inauthentic methods” (Schmidt, 2005). Christopher Knapper, professor emeritus of psychology at Queen’s University in Toronto and past president of the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, made these charges at the recent Canadian Summit on the Integration of Teaching and Research hosted by the University of Alberta. Knapper challenged university administrators and professors to respond to the need for urgent change, stating that “university teaching is one of the very few professions where practitioners receive almost no formal preparation for their work, where there is no process for accreditation of minimum competence, and where involvement in continuing professional education is uncommon” (Ibid.).

In response to negative student feedback regarding poor quality of the learning experience, many Canadian universities have already taken steps to revamp undergraduate programs. Teaching resource offices are opening on some campuses to conduct research on instructional practices and provide support for professors. Teaching workshops are being offered and several universities have set up research institutes and projects designed to enhance teaching and learning. Knapper, however, contends “there is a great deal about university teaching that remains problematic” (Ibid.). He points to “overwhelmingly didactic teaching; over-reliance on traditional lectures; trivial and inauthentic assessment methods; curriculum development that relies far too much in disciplinary tradition and faculty interests rather than student and societal needs and often superficial evaluation of teaching effectiveness and learning outcomes” (Ibid.).

Schmidt, S. (2005, August 5). Universities teaching in ‘amateur fashion’: Ontario prof issues challenge for ‘urgent change’. Edmonton Journal. http://www.canada.com/edmonton/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=6f02b106-8d00-41f7-9887-f80312156c16