Change Leadership, Management and Strategies to Promote Quality University Teaching and Learning

Change Leadership, Management and Strategies to Promote Quality University Teaching and Learning

Lynne Hunt, Denise Chalmers
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0672-0.ch015
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This chapter provides an overview of change leadership and management strategies to promote the quality of university teaching and learning. It draws attention to the organisational contexts of universities that encompass change leadership processes, emphasizing the need for whole-of-university approaches and ‘joined-up' policies, plans and procedures that support teaching. The discussion is organized in terms of five principles of action (McInnes et al., 2012). These are (1) Shape the strategic vision that puts student learning and student experience at its core; (2) Inspire and enable excellence; (3) Devolve leadership of learning and teaching; (4) Reward, recognize and develop teaching; and (5) Involve students.
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Traditionally, universities have focused attention on the core business of research, leaving faculties and individual teachers to determine teaching practices and programs. However, the massification and globalization of higher education mean that universities must now promote teaching excellence in systematic ways to ensure effective learning experiences for all students. The focus on teaching and learning has been prompted by external and internal pressures. External drivers of change include reduced funding, increasing numbers of students, increased competition from private and public institutions, external quality audits, and developments in communications and information technology that have changed the educational landscape to make online, blended and flexible learning not only viable but necessary (Hunt & Peach, 2009;Scott et al., 2008). Internal pressures for change arise from the strategic vision of each university and locally determined priorities.

University education is now understood by governments to be a significant business opportunity. In Australia, for example, higher education earned a record $17.6 billion in 2014, making it Australia’s fourth largest export (The Department of Education and Training, June 2015). Understandably, the income-earning capacity of higher education has focused the attention of governments around the world. They now want to ensure that they are getting a good outcome from their investment in universities. As a consequence, governmental agencies have emerged to assure and promote quality in university education. Over 200 national and regional quality agencies, many established by government charter, attest to the level of interest in ensuring the quality of national higher education systems and, in particular, university teaching quality (The International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education nd). The leadership and management task is to ensure that each university meets the standards for quality teaching.

Internationally, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports on a range of higher education indicators through their Education at a Glance reports, providing opportunities for national benchmarking. International rankings, such as the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University, use metrics to rank individual institutions. Whilst these rankings are contested in regard to the indicators and weightings used, they are important for the prestige they bestow and their role in attracting students and funding. For example, governments in China and Chile will only fund scholarships for their students in universities with high rankings. So far, rankings are based largely on research metrics but attention is now turning to the identification of metrics to inform international ranking tables associated with the quality of teaching and learning. Benchmarking and ranking against standards assures comparability of university qualifications and student learning outcomes and it facilitates the mobility of students and university teachers between institutions and nations. For example, the capacity to promote such mobility was a key driver in the establishment of the European Bologna Process in 1999.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Quality: Qualitative and quantitative measurement of a range of input, process, output and outcome indicators to inform a reflective cycle of benchmarking and evidence-based action aimed at improvement.

Change Leadership: Processes that facilitate positive change in an organisation. It involves both vision and strategies to enable an organisation to do better things.

Academic Development: Sometimes referred to as educational or professional development, it involves academic and professional staff in planned activities to enhance all dimensions of teaching, learning and scholarship in universities.

Higher Education Teaching Awards: Monetary awards that confer prestige and career enhancement for those who can demonstrate excellence in university teaching in accordance with specified criteria and standards, normally including evidence of peer review.

University Teaching: A range of adult learning strategies to engage students actively in: discipline based studies; the acquisition of graduate attributes; life-long learning; and critical and creative thinking.

Distributed Leadership: Collegial and collaborative approaches to change that build on the expertise and needs of all those involved in advancing the vision of an organisation.

University Learning: Processes through which students demonstrate their mastery of the theories, evidence-base and skills associated with a discipline as well as a university’s required graduate attributes.

Student Learning Journey: A holistic, student-centered, cross-organisational planning framework that ensures connectedness between a university’s responses to students needs at relevant points in their progress towards obtaining a university qualification.

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