"Then you get a teacher" - Guidelines for excellence in teaching

18 Dec 2009

Background: Current literature calls for the explicit teaching to health-science educators of the skills, knowledge and dispositions that are required for successful teaching in higher education. Aims: This paper draws on evidence from an Oral Hygiene department at a South African university in order to illustrate these teaching-competency needs. Insights from the evidence are synthesised with current literature regarding best teaching practice, in support of an appropriate framework for the development of teaching competencies to health-science educators. Description: A qualitative approach, using a case study, was adopted. The cohort comprised fifteen students in the first-year Oral Hygiene cohort class and the ten educators who taught their programme. Data was collected through semistructured interviews and open-ended questionnaires. The topics that emerged from the combined analysis of the interviews and the questionnaires were organised into a grid so that common themes could be identified. Current literature regarding teaching and learning was used as a framework for interpreting the empirical evidence, from which three categories emerged. The first category included suggestions from students regarding what to do to teach better. A review of the literature indicates that these competencies can be effectively learnt from self-help guides. The second category included requests for skills development. Literature review suggests that these might effectively be learnt from single-event workshops facilitated by more able peers. Responses in the final category highlighted the need for an underpinning theory of teaching and learning, and signalled the need for a more theoretically grounded and detailed approach to teacher development. Conclusion: The framework developed from the empirical study and current literature makes it possible for individual clinical teachers, and staff developers, to construct teaching-competency development plans that are pertinent to individual teachers’ needs, relevant and practical, educationally sound, and cost-effective in terms of time and effort.