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Eagle eye raises lecturers' game

Students at Aberdeen College believe teaching has improved since lecturers began to be put under observation - and the lecturers themselves seem to approve.

In a move which has always been controversial in colleges and schools, all permanent lecturers at Aberdeen have had to undergo scrutiny of their teaching skills every session since 2000.

The first two observations are announced but subsequent visits, at any time from September to July, are not. HMI grades ranging from very good to unsatisfactory are used to score the results. Those judged unsatisfactory are removed from the classroom and given what is called "intensive" continuing professional development.

Bill Rattray, head of quality and staff development at the college, says the number of very goods has increased since unannounced visits began. And student satisfaction with teaching has also gone up.

Last year's survey of 2,959 students found that 92 per cent felt their teaching was effective while 94 per cent said that they had experienced a variety of learning and teaching methods.

Some 99 per cent of lecturers said lesson observations had been conducted in a professional manner, while 93 per cent agreed they had been given an opportunity to discuss their development needs.

Mr Rattray said it was essential for such initiatives that staff are involved in setting the behaviour and performance criteria expected.

Confidence in the process will also be enhanced if removing unsatisfactory staff from the classroom is seen to lead to support.

Among the support measures are "new to FE" courses for beginners and "beyond TQFE" courses for those who already have the teaching qualification in FE but whose classroom theory needs to be strengthened. Good practice guidelines and an observation checklist are published on the college's intranet.

Staff who score "very good" are asked to act as mentors for others. They are also in for a treat - a note of congratulations from Alison Hay, the college's director of human resources.

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