€5.57m invested in 107 Teaching and Learning Enhancement Initiatives Across 22 Irish Higher Education Institutions

Maura O'Shea

By Maura O'Shea

Posted: 21 November, 2019

Group photo of 5 people holding up two signs reading

Pictured, L-R: Tim Conlon, Head of Policy and Strategic Planning, HEA; Marie Clarke, Deputy Chair of the National Forum; Minister Mitchell O’Connor; Lorna Fitzpatrick, USI President; Terry Maguire, Director of the National Forum

The Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., today launched 107 teaching and learning enhancement initiatives across 22 Irish higher education institutions, representing an investment of €5.57m in the sector. The initiatives are being funded in partnership with the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education under the Strategic Alignment of Teaching and Learning Enhancement Funding in Higher Education 2019.

The directed funding allocation to each institution from the Fund is designed to enable the development of a strong foundation for future enhancement of teaching and learning within each institution, in line with local priorities. Within their proposals, initiative teams outlined how they were responding to institutional strategies and to national policies and strategies. The Fund complements and supports previous investments made in this area under the Higher Education Innovation and Transformation Fund 2018 and the National Forum’s annual Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund since 2014.

Recognising that disciplines are a key unit of change in higher education, the National Forum’s Disciplinary Excellence in Learning, Teaching and Assessment (DELTA) Framework underpins all funded initiatives, providing a structure for discipline groups and programme teams to take stock of their current strengths and areas for development for teaching and learning enhancement. Initiatives funded under the call vary in size and focus but fall into four focus areas:

  • Each of the 22 higher education institutions will have one initiative which involves seed-funding local projects across the institution. These projects will provide an opportunity to foster innovation and create space for staff and students to work collaboratively to promote positive practices and build foundations for the future. The funding provided through these initiatives is small-scale and they are aimed, in particular, at those who may not previously have engaged with teaching and learning enhancement initiatives. They will thereby build capacity across the whole higher education community.
  • 28 of the funded initiatives are dedicated to discipline groups and programme teams. The department or unit is often considered the academic ‘home’ of students and those who teach and the capacity for positive change at this level is reflected in the fact that it is here that curricula are designed, teaching approaches selected and professional development and a culture of enhancement nurtured. Single discipline initiatives include those intending to enhance practice in programmes as diverse as nursing, communications, social justice, computing, teacher education, and creative arts. Such enhancements include those related to developing graduate attributes, fostering active learning, preparing for professional practice, and embedding digital technology.
  • 45 initiatives will focus across multiple subject areas, with a view to disciplines, and those who learn and teach within them, gaining from the collective knowledge and expertise that exists across disciplines. Initiatives of this type will see broad, cross-cutting topics, such as assessment, digital learning, professional development, academic integrity, creativity, and student success, being addressed across multiple fields of study within institutions.
  • A further 12 initiatives will foster collaborative links with professional bodies and/or industry partners to enhance teaching and learning content and practices and the success of students beyond higher education. Funded initiative teams are planning to collaborate with local industry, as well as professional bodies and industry partners within their fields, such as those in finance, agriculture, childcare and theatre.

Launching the initiatives, the Minister commented: ‘I am delighted to see the wonderful range of initiatives that are about to begin across the sector, building on considerable innovation and investment of time and resources to date. The Fund fulfils the Government’s intention, outlined in Budget 2019, to invest in the professional development of staff and enhance teaching and learning approaches in higher education. It is particularly positive to see the collaborations that will be built with professional bodies and industry.’

The Director of the National Forum, Dr Terry Maguire, added: ‘All initiatives involve meaningful engagement with students, and all are aligned with institutional priorities and national strategies and policy imperatives, creating strengthened links between policy and practice at local and national levels.  We look forward to collaborating with the higher education community to ensure the enormous potential that lies with the initiatives is realised.’

Dr Alan Wall, CEO, Higher Education Authority, said: ‘The HEA, in partnership with the National Forum, welcomes this increasing collaboration which encourages the potential of all higher education staff and leverages the key insights, resources, good practice and impact of these initiatives.’

Click here to view a list of the funding allocations and initiative types within each institution.

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