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F. Diez

Universidad Antonio de Nebrija (SPAIN)
All the Bologna-process is paying close attention to many important things regarding University teaching, such as skills, competences, new research trends, TICs, accreditation and quality assurance, etc. However –to our understanding- is overlooking one crucial issue: how to measure quality of faculty’s performance. We propose in this paper some qualitative proposals to achieve that goal, based basically in students’ own perception about University, and some methods by which professors can improve the way the conduct their classes and lectures.

As to the first topic, although the students are to play a key role in the new European Higher Education Area, and are supposed to be placed at the very centre of the teaching-learning process, however, no schemes are developed yet to hear them, and –whenever necessary or convenient- take their opinions into account. The starting point is asking what makes college an academically and personally successful time for some students but not others. The methodology is conducting interviews and visiting various campuses. The results are, to say the least, pretty counter-intuitive, and to some point somehow astonishing. For example, we learn that students are more enthusiastic about learning in courses that have some relevance to their personal lives or interests outside the classroom, instead of just fulfilling a graduation requirement. Or that students learn more when they collaborate on challenging homework rather than performing their assigned tasks individually.

As to the second topic, closely linked to the previous one, much has been said about quality in research, few –in anything- has been written about what makes a class, a team-work, a group discussion or a lecture given by a professor a unique experience. Basically, the point here is, simply, what makes a great teacher great? Who are the professors students remember long after graduation? Drawing on the experiences and techniques of a number of college and university professors who are commonly known as “good professors”, the short answer it’s not what teachers do, it’s what they understand. Lesson plans and lecture notes matter less than the special way teachers comprehend the subject and value human learning. It doesn’t matter whether they’re historians or physicists, or whether they teach in Harvard or somewhere else, the best teachers know their subjects inside and out. But they also know how to engage and challenge students and to provoke impassioned responses. Most of all, they believe two things fervently: that teaching matters and that students can learn.