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Centre for Online and Distance Education

What do we mean by the ‘impact’ of a course?


Written by
David Baume

What do we mean by the ‘impact’ of a course to train university teachers? And, having defined impact, how do we measure it? This question was addressed by Dr Linda Amrane Cooper, PG Cert LTHE programme leader, and Dr Gwyneth Hughes, one of the programme authors at this year’s Research in Distance Education (RIDE) conference.

The research literature suggests that training can boost the confidence of university teachers, help them to take a more student-focused approach to their work, and increase the variety of teaching methods they use. But it is not clear from the research which parts of the course make the difference.
The University of London PG Cert Learning and Teaching in HE, and the research, use a five stage model for the development of university teachers proposed by Kugel (1993):

  1. Teachers are primarily concerned with themselves, their appearance, their performance.
  2. Teachers’ focus shifts to the subject, and their transmission of the subject to the students.
  3. Another shift, to students as receivers of what the teacher transmits.
  4. Focus shifts again, to students as active participants in learning.
  5. Finally, the teacher’s attention shifts to the students as increasingly independent learners.              

The research was interested both in changes to the teachers’ teaching plans or practices and in changes to their conceptions of teaching and learning. A detailed analysis was undertaken of the changes to practice and conceptions seen in the work of eight participants on the first module of the course. 
All showed movement along the Kugel spectrum. Some participants made this explicit – the Kugel model is taught on the course. Other participants describe changes to their conception and / or practice in a way that is clearly compatible with Kugel.
Further work will seek to identify relations between changes in participants’ conceptions of teaching and their practice. It will be necessary to remember that teaching context – including national culture, the institution, the discipline, the extent of teacher freedom to change their practice – affects how much movement is possible.  
The University of London PG Cert LTHE is currently studied by some 80 students across all continents.

Kugel, P., 1993. How professors develop as teachers. Studies in Higher Education, 18(3), pp.315-328.