Should lecturers have to have a formal teaching qualification?

The short answer is “I don’t know” because I haven’t yet taken the time to look at the evidence. It would be hard, though, to argue against lecturers undergoing some sort of ‘teacher’ training since, after all, a major part of our job is ‘teaching’. But what sort of things would it be useful for us to learn?

As readers of this blog will know, I have some difficulty with the whole field of education. I think it is very ideology-driven and occupies a space somewhere between science and philosophy/social science. It seems to me that debate is often impossible for the simple reason that people have fundamental disagreements over the very purpose of education. It can be quite frustrating really.

Take the new (Irish) Junior Cert curriculum where students will take 400 hours of a new subject called ‘Wellbeing’. This compares to 240 hours devoted to Mathematics. You and I can argue all day about whether this makes sense but we will never agree because we probably have expectations of the education system that are fundamentally different. Personally, I would be a traditionalist and would see schooling in predominantly academic terms and this probably reflects my own life experience as much as anything. Traditional education has been good to me. You, on the other hand, might see education as a place where the young person is prepared for living safely and healthily in the modern world. My own view is that by focusing on the immediate relevance of education, you would be setting the bar too low and ultimately denying young people access to a body of knowledge that if they’re not exposed to at school, they never will be. And in my view, acquiring knowledge is life enhancing – but it does require effort and it’s much easier when you have a good teacher.

Anyway, to get back to the point, if we lecturers are to undergo training in education, I believe we should steer well clear of the philosophy or sociology of education or anything that is too worldview-dependent. Teaching at any level is a craft so we need to learn things that will help us understand and improve our craft. So if I were designing a 30-credit postgraduate certificate in Teaching in Higher Education, it would look something like this:

  • Cognitive Science (10 credits)
  • Psychology (5 credits)
  • Developing Online Resources (5 credits)
  • Module Design and Assessment (5 credits)
  • Issues in Contemporary Education (5 credits – mini-thesis)

I’ll expand on this some other day.


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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One Response to Should lecturers have to have a formal teaching qualification?

  1. trionaoc says:

    Surely five credits in “developing online learning” is too few 🙂 My understanding is that all 30 credits could be devoted to it as an independent course…

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