University teaching is the sole discretion of a teacher irrespective of his/her professional and social development, ability to deliver, and capability to comprehend class dynamics. Despite exceptional qualifications, there are still several aspects in teaching, learning and assessment process in higher education institutions (HEIs) which need attention. Curriculum development attracts major devotion probably in every university as a main task right from conception of the course to the development of contents. Guidelines from Higher Education Commission (HEC) are followed in every HEI to determine numbers and types of courses, credit hours, eligibility criteria etc. Both evolving and established accreditation bodies add to the exercise to strengthen almost every degree program in their domains through evaluation of course outlines and records in the form of folders. In some cases program and course level objectives have also been integrated in degree programs. These bodies have extended their influence to look into the classroom resources, student teacher ratio, departmental budgets and so on to enrich teaching and learning experience at university level.
However, university teachers by and large remain at their will for actual delivery and evaluation. These are two most important components which still remain out of the scope of even accreditation bodies. During their visit for periodic accreditation, members of the team do visit classrooms according to the protocols, but this is probably not enough for continuous quality improvement.
A huge gap exists in classroom teaching and evaluation mechanism of HEIs which deters quality of higher education in the country. Despite developing strong course handbooks there is no established mechanism in our universities to determine that appropriate content is delivered or not, either resource person is developed enough to extend his knowledge in a meaningful manner to the students, if s/he is capable of creating a conducive learning environment in a class.
A teacher may try to teach intricacies of business studies to a student, but whether the student learns something depends on many factors within and outside the teacher’s control: Is the student motivated? Did the teacher use the appropriate instructional strategy? Is the student interested? Are the classroom and university conditions conducive to learning? Are the student’s parents supportive? Is there enough time to digest the ideas and practice new skills? Is there any peer pressure? The list goes on.
Perhaps the most significant implication of these ideas about learning and knowledge is that they imply that thoughtful teachers are those who think both about subject matter and students, constructing bridges between the two. According to Wilson S. M. and Peterson P. L. from National Education Association USA, “Yet widespread belief persists that teaching is a straightforward enterprise. Using textbooks, teachers follow each page, directing students in what they should read and do. If the materials are good, and everyone behaves himself or herself, so the logic goes, students will learn. That is simply not true.”
According to Graham S. Maxwell from The University of Queensland, “Moderation is the process of teachers sharing their expectations and understandings of standards with each other in order to improve the consistency of their decisions about students’ learning and achievement. Moderation helps teachers to either confirm or adjust their initial judgments. The process involves teachers sharing evidence of learning and collaborating to establish a shared understanding of what quality of evidence looks like. Universities use moderation to increase dependability of teacher judgments. Moderation is concerned with the consistency, comparability and fairness of professional judgements about the levels demonstrated by students.”
Moderation is most effective when both internal and external moderators are involved and conducted in a spirit of professional learning and quality improvement. It is important that moderation is carried out regularly and moderators have appropriate knowledge of the content area, assessment practices, and policies & procedures. Moderation brings together collective wisdom, resulting in greater consistency of judgment, and focused teaching. It provides greater confidence in teacher judgments and assurance that judgments are consistent with other professionals.
One of the ironies of higher education is that while peer review of research is a firmly established and internationally recognised cornerstone of academic scholarship, peer review of teaching has little or no prominence in university policies and does not feature strongly in academic cultures and practices. Peer review can significantly improve classroom teaching in HEIs if conducted with respect and support for the development of both faculty and students.
According to Prof. Graham Webb from University of Melbourne, “Education should be about the contest of ideas and the means by which judgments are challenged. Alternative views are its life blood, and the ability to marshal arguments for and against propositions and positions, its stock in trade. The power of truth should continually be forged in every classroom. It should not be so easily confined to what is accepted.” Our existence at this point in the history of nations demands significant endeavour in every discipline of life from social to business, political to economics, scientific to technological arenas. Higher education is the backbone of every progress. New ideas, theories, philosophies, technologies, and paradigms all emerge from higher education institutions. Therefore, moderation and peer review, proven global practices, can serve as valuable interventions to enhance quality of higher education in the country.