By Eloise Tan
In January of this year I started in my position as Educational Developer for the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. The Forum was established by Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills with the mission to enhance teaching and learning in the higher education sector, inclusive of universities, institutes of technologies, and private colleges. Ireland’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (often referred to as the Hunt Report) identified teaching and learning as a core mission for higher education and made concrete recommendations for enhancing teaching in the sector.
Starting a new role is always an adventure, but it’s not often that one gets the opportunity to start in a new role in a relatively new organisation. In the past when I started new roles in various universities it was a learning process to figure out how the departments work and communicate. Talking to established colleagues and following existing practice usually helped me make the transition smoothly. However I started alongside the existing Forum team in January so for the past few months we have been paving our own way and making the most of the opportunity to work in the context of a national mandate to enhance teaching. Previously I worked for the now formally inactive DRHEA (Dublin Region Higher Education Alliance) so I was no stranger to a regional approach, however when you have to think on a national level there’s an added dimension of complexity.
My role in the Forum focuses primarily on the development of a national professional development framework. The Hunt Report takes a strong position on professional development, “All higher education institutions must ensure that all teaching staff are both qualified and competent in teaching and learning, and should support ongoing development and improvement of their skills” (Department of Education and Skills, 2011, p.88). But what constitutes ‘qualified’? Who decides how to define ‘competent’? Do we aim for competence or excellence? These are the questions that occupy my days and conversations with fellow Forum team members.
In the absence of established Forum colleagues to turn to, I’ve looked to colleagues in Ireland with expertise in teaching and learning. Ireland has numerous communities involved in this area such as EDIN, AISHE, and LIN. I’ve also looked to international colleagues in Australia, the UK, the US, and Spain to provide insights on national approaches to enhancing teaching and learning. I am finding that there is a global community of national organisations that face similar challenges and exciting opportunities.
It is early days for the Forum but in the past months the team have been working on national consultations for a Digital Roadmap for the sector, initiated Partnership Dialogues with key partners in the sector, launched the Teaching Heroes Awards and have begun exploring what a national professional development framework might look like. Every day is a new opportunity to work with colleagues across Ireland and while at first it was daunting to start a new job in a new organisation, now I find myself embracing the opportunity to work alongside colleagues to create a new voice for teaching and learning in Ireland.
I hope to write more about developments in the Irish higher education sector, looking at relevant policy documents, reporting on events, and providing my personal experiences working in this area. I felt for my first post I would introduce readers to the National Forum. I’m always interested on what others think, so leave a comment below.
You can see more about the Forum team here.
Dr. Eloise Tan is the Educational Developer for the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, based in Dublin, Ireland.