A problem with credentialism around teaching and learning

For at least the last 5 years there has been an increasing drive for university academics to have formal credentials in learning and teaching. The essential argument is that you wouldn’t go to a medical doctor who hadn’t been trained in medicine, so why should you be taught at university by a person who has been trained in teaching.

One problem with this is the assumption that a credential in teaching is the same as being a good, or even capable, teacher. But that’s not the issue I’m thinking about here.

In thinking about the REACT approach to helping staff design courses and elearning I’ve been moving towards a participatory, emergent process through which academics pick up the necessary training while they are developing their courses. Put another way, the learning design process provides the necessary training as part of doing learning design.

This idea has many potential problems and shortcomings. Apart from the fact that it is only in its early days of development. One of those problem could well be the clash with the widespread acceptance of credentialism for university teaching.

Parchoma (2006) writes

While the new economy’s reliance upon a well educated workforce for survival and success suggests a strong role for the academy in the future, cultural and value differences may impede corporate-academic collaboration. Corporate demands for knowledge workers who continually renew their knowledge for the purpose of sustaining innovation—but do not necessarily seek formal credentials for that knowledge—and may not be attuned to traditional university culture and values. The norms of the traditional academy may not well serve the corporate agenda, and may not wish to do so.

Will this be a problem? How might it be overcome?

There’s a bit more. Parchoma (2006) also says

Coping with the ambiguities of work as an experimental arena where there are no fixed processes or procedures will require an adaptable, informed, and innovative workforce, capable of high levels of effective interpersonal communication and collaboration. Members of this workforce will need to continuously renew their knowledge; and therefore, adopt learning as a life-long process. The resultant pressures on existing post-secondary educational institutions to provide continuing personalized education for adult learners via flexible, affordable, distributed learning options may become an increasingly strong driving force for change within the institutions themselves.

The implication is that universities need to change their teaching to keep up with the demands of their students which are created by the knowledge economy. For me, the implication is that universities also need to change how they teach their staff about learning and teaching to keep up with the demands created by the knowledge economy.


Gale Parchoma, A proposed e-learning policy field for the academy, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 18(3): 230-240

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