Mathematics Teaching in HE

Tuesday 11 July 2006 at 7:46 pm | In Articles | 2 Comments

There’s a fascinating letter in today’s Education Guardian which I’ll reproduce here. It is a reply to a previous article by Jonathan Wolff which claims that current university teaching is poor and that lecturers need time for training.

    The training is wrong
    Jonathan Wolff may be speaking from his own experience with his anecdotes about poor university teaching (Comment, July 4), but in my career, teaching mathematics at four of the UK’s leading universities, I have come across very little of it.

    At the London Mathematical Society we recently surveyed mathematics departments on the issue of training for new lecturers. We can confirm, with Wolff, that “barely anyone claims to having profited from it”. However, we would certainly not argue that “training is just an additional, unwelcome, burden”. Almost all our respondents agree that we need high-quality, fit-for-purpose training – but very few feel the current system provides it.
    Niall MacKay
    University of York

That’s precisely my experience in both HE and FE. Teacher/lecturer training in the UK is pretty awful and absolutely abysmal in mathematics, since the vast majority of trainers know very little about the subject and tend to assume that it is taught like any other subject. The word quality is over-used these days but fit-for-purpose training is exactly what is needed, but trying to explain the problem to non-mathematicians is like banging one’s head against a brick wall, so I’ve stopped trying 😕


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  1. Yes, mathematics teaching training in British HE is abysmal. We have to actively defend our profession against the onslaught of the staff development mafia imposing on mathematicians the burden of “generic”, content-free teaching training, which, as a rule, is absolutely inappropriate for mathematics.

    Comment by Alexandre Borovik — Sunday 8 October 2006 12:37 pm #

  2. In FE the government has imposed a requirement for compulsory ‘development’ for all teaching staff – around 30 hours a year I think.

    I know from bitter experience that the training will be complete and utter crap and led by people who have no idea what it is like to teach mathematics. Its only effect will be to drive people away from the profession.

    Comment by Steve — Sunday 8 October 2006 1:18 pm #

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