Looking at the MOOC through the UKPSF prism: a few notes

UKPSF-summarySo how does my MOOC map onto the UKPSF? The UKPSF, or UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education (2011) to give it’s full title, has been developed by The Higher Education Academy on behalf of the UK higher education sector, Guild HE and Universities UK. The material and content is jointly owned by The Higher Education Academy, Guild HE and Universities UK.

It defines best practice in teaching and how it is supported and sustained, written from the perspective of the practitioner.

The UKPSF outlines three Dimensions of Practice, which are used to construct four  Descriptors (one might say levels or intensities) that are intended to comprehensively cover all teaching and learning support roles within the HE environment.

These Dimensions are Areas of Activity that teachers occupy, the Core Knowledge that needs to be evidenced, and the Professional Values that are exuded. These dimensions are interdependent.

There’s a worry that this neat diagram can spawn a tick box culture- yep, done that, now move on. More crucially for me, it also suggests teachers are free agents. Look at Activity A4 “Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance” This is something that is increasingly difficult to achieve, as the teacher > learner relationship is increasingly mediated by technicians and managers. For instance today, software became uninstalled in the media lab, so a technician was sought, and the lesson had to be modified at short notice. There is no Flipchart or Whiteboard available, and putting work on the walls is not allowed. The role of the teacher here is often to ensure a Plan B is ready, rather than being able to create the effective learning environment. The effective learning environment can only exist as a shared conceptual construct. Or online.


That’s the irony- online I am master of my realm. I can, to use a metaphor, put pictures on the wall. I can use a whiteboard or a flipchart at will. Or moving images. I can develop effective learning environments, and even have a range of approaches to student support and guidance. I’m no DL evangelist- but I do see this as one area where the tutor has more freedom to scaffold the learning experience, albeit with one caveat- being allowed the time to develop the necessary paths and content. I am not talking here about the proprietary walled gardens of a VLE here, but the open prairies of the web.

My second observation from a MOOC standpoint is that the UKPSF Core Knowledge dimension states “The use and value of appropriate learning technologies” (K4) but this seems vague and unqualified. Appropriate for who- the institution or the learner? It implies a static position the teacher occupies, as opposed to a process of always learning, testing, choosing and discarding technologies. By technologies I am thinking any tool the teacher may use- a blackboard and chalk is a technology, as is a photocopier. Both promote one-to-many broadcast modes of teaching. Appropriate technologies are not always within the teacher’s ambit. When the server broke down today I taught with very inappropriate technology (YouTube in this case). Whilst a useful lodestone for the aspiring teacher, the Core Knowledge as it is represented seems devoid of some of the attributes we demand of our own students- negotiation, teamwork, compromise. It seems to see teaching as operating in a perfect vacuum.


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