Bild: KomDiM-Akademie
Bild: Dr. Frances Deepwell
Dr. Frances Deepwell

Dr. Frances Deepwell:
The peer enhancement initiative PETAL and the UKPSF (national framework for learning and teaching in higher education)

Measuring the quality of teaching at UK Universities is under intense debate. The UK Government is designing a new ‘Teaching Excellence Framework’ (TEF) to mirror the Research Excellence Framework (REF) that periodically judges research quality at an institutional level (THES, 2015).


These debates are not new. Graham Gibbs weighed up the international research evidence of what improves university student learning, and the implications, in two excellent reports for the Higher Education Academy between 2010-2012, and the relevance of his ‘Dimensions of Quality’ has recently been summarised on the HEA website (HEA, 2015). The importance of a learning environment where teaching is talked about, valued and rewarded is a central theme in his findings. These findings align with the work that we have been doing at Oxford Brookes in our initiative for peer enhancement of teaching, assessment and learning (PETAL). In this talk, I will outline PETAL which aims to “enhance student learning by creating a culture of consistent, sustained and richly informed attention to key aspects of learning and teaching, marked by collegial collaboration, and collaboration with our students.” (Marshall and Deepwell, 2012).


PETAL requires teaching teams to work together over an extended period of time on a theme chosen by them. The ways in which they explore the theme are not pre-determined, however the members of the team are expected to reflect on implications for their own individual practice. The tenets upon which our local initiative is based are:

  • Teaching enhancement is set within the context of the programme team;
  • Discussions are scholarly and evidence-based;
  • Students are engaged in bringing about, and evaluating, changes.

With the increasing national emphasis on measuring indicators of quality, it is a challenge to support these less easily measurable aims. The measures closely watched include student performance and progression, graduate employment rates, student satisfaction and student engagement. Another key metric is the proportion of academic staff who hold teaching qualifications, which has thrown the spotlight onto the UKPSF, the national framework for professional standards in higher education teaching. Our integration of the UKPSF into our professional development programmes for teaching retains the emphasis on reflecting and improving teaching through peer enhancement methods.

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