Regulars will know I have little time for the whining dons who pad out the Times Higher. Hardly a week passes without some lecturer objecting even to the idea of having to divert a moment’s time from valuable work on “cultural changes in the conceptualisation of the authoritative and the factual in social life” (or boycotting Israeli universities) to, er, learn how to lecture. Fortunately, this week a couple of letter writers to the THES are on the case:

“It is time that ill-informed and emotional outbursts by Frank Furedi and others criticising programmes to develop the teaching of new lecturers were confronted with some published evidence.

“The largest study of such programmes involved 22 universities in eight countries. I showed significant improvement in trained teachers’ approaches to teaching in students’ ratings of teaching, and in students’ approaches to studying. A control group who received no training got worse over their first year.

“The publication of this research was covered at length in The Times Higher. Let’s have a little more of the scholarship that Furedi et al claim to value. The programme at Oxford University, which is research-informed, is voluntary yet oversubscribed

Graham Gibbs
Oxford University”

“Frank Furedi manages the difficult task of being even more insubstantial and baseless than your original report on Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education programmes (‘Lecturers bored by lessons in teaching’, April 22)

“Furedi’s rant suggests that ‘the very idea of accrediting academics as teachers is fundamentally flawed’. This is apparent because, like all forms of accreditation, the PGCHE involves ‘socialisation’, but unlike courses for doctors and others, these programmes are ‘almost exclusively about socialising academics in to the ethos of the audit culture that dominates the campus [I wish] and… indoctrinates new lecturers into values of a conformist orientation towards teaching.’

“The people who run these courses think they are developing critical reflective thinkers, but Furedi knows better. they are turning out ‘template teachers’ who are changed against their will and without their knowledge in imperceptible ways that fit the needs of managerialism. They are just dupes, unable to see through the rhetoric until they read Furedi’s insights. It is not at least possible that some programmes mean what they say about critical thinking? Might they not embody a view of the teacher as a professional making learning as good as it can be for students along with a critical understanding of the ways in which managerialism, state pressures and the audit culture make this difficult?

“Of course, this kind of critical perspective might also lead colleagues to doubt the credibility of a writer who throws around words such as ‘indoctrination’ so freely but constructs what passes for a serious article around a collection of supercilious assertions, cheap gibes and a piece of unsupported hack work.

John Clarke
Liverpool John Moores University”

The latter letter for some reason reminded me of this uncharacteristically terrible rant from Stumbling and Mumbling. How could such a smart guy miss such an easy target so completely?