Sunday, February 10, 2013

Teaching in Further and Higher Education

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Sir Hugh Owen, Pioneer of Welsh Education (Wikipedia)
by Elizabeth Farrow

'Casualisation' in Further Education

According to Norman Lucas (Vol.28, 2004) in his article The 'FENTO fandango'; national standards, compulsory teaching qualifications and the growing regulation of FE college teachers, further education has moved from a sector characterised as being "in a state of benign neglect" by central government to one, which is increasingly becoming more important and regulated during the last decade.

The article critically analyses the developmental changes taking place in initial teacher training and continuing professional development in accordance with FENTO, together with the introduction of compulsory teaching qualifications amongst other initiatives implemented by DfES.

The article illustrates the positive elements of the developments, but conversely argues of the potential danger of over regulation in an area which is largely concerned with the diversity of learners and learning contexts.

The writer of this article feels that, seeking policy direction for the next decade or so may prove precarious as it is difficult to embrace the concerns of those who appear to have little opportunity to voice opinion - the teaching academics and the students. Oftentimes, the debate focuses on funding, which inevitably colours the final policies.

The NATFHE (2006) was working towards the ending of 'casualisation' in further and higher education. It would seem that they were negotiating to ensure those employed temporarily or paid hourly were offered contracts for full time or fractional posts, and aimed to recruit college employed staff as opposed to agency staff.

Although colleges may have their own employment policies it may be useful to examine the 'generic' nature of how colleges function to see how all of this impacts on those involved in teaching and learning.

Further Education relies heavily on part-time staff, which can involve just an hour or teaching as many hours as those in full time positions.

However, part-time staff will not enjoy the same benefits as those with a contract of employment such as holiday pay, sick leave and are not protected by rights in respect of unfair dismissal or redundancy, although new legislation has recently come into being, which creates similar rights to those who have been employed for six months.

However, teachers are only paid for the hours they are actually teaching, they will not receive financial remuneration for the preparation of lessons nor will they be supported in the marking of work or any other additional duties required of them such as completing essential documents for the college and the students and attending meetings.

The offer of any work remains precarious and largely depends on the numbers of those enrolling on courses illuminating the lack of security in the profession.

It does not take too much imagination to visualise how valuable this way of working is 'deemed to be by the colleges in terms of balancing the books and making use of 'limited resources', but perhaps little focus is being placed on the long term effect on the profession and how this way of being filters through to the student's learning experience.

The 'NATFHE' continues to strive towards full rights for agency staff and legal cases are being pursued for their members. The Institute for learning now requires that all teachers and lecturers are registered, but this has not been embraced by those in the sector and the ongoing take up is poor due to the costs. Many professionals see this registration as "yet another way of making money".

The reader of this article undertook a literary review and discovered that tertiary education is one of the most casualised sectors in Australia. The recent and significant expansion in casual staff numbers is reflective of the trends, noted in many American and United Kingdom Universities in the last decade.

Universities make use of enthusiastic and talented part-time academics to provide delivery of their resource intensive programmes including the teaching of first year students, and as a result has become a 'prominent management issue' in terms of the quality of this experience for both the teacher and the student.

For example, how does the sector recruit and support casual staff and ensure a quality experience for all concerned? What are the processes in staff development and enhancement opportunities?

A weighted emphasis is oftentimes placed on casual staff to deliver complex programmes to students with complex and diverse needs, many from overseas or whose first language is not English, creating dynamics which may be construed as increasingly exploitative.

Underpinning these issues are concerns in respect of the undervaluing of both teaching and learning, which is where industrial and pedagogical concerns converge. There are deep concerns around the professional and economic status of the casual lecturer, in particular the 'gendered nature of the issue as in many areas of teaching, women account for a disproportionate number of casual teachers.

It would appear that there is great value in bringing in lecturers who are practising professionals in their field of expertise who often add fresh insights and other dimensions to the student's learning experience.

For example, the writer of this article can bring invaluable vignettes of her experiences of the 'real' world to her students, which breathes life into the subject, which whilst appreciated by the student is not always acknowledged or rewarded within the college.

Casual lecturers within adult education often complain about being isolated in their work, unsupported in their role and unable to participate in decision making. Moreover having little or no access to support facilities or development opportunities and being subjected to fluctuations in market forces.

Casual staff are 'casual' for all sort of reasons. For example, to fit in with family life, those who have dual caring roles, responsibilities and commitments, or perhaps to fit in with other professional work.

However, there are a number of casual staff who are not casual through choice and as McAlpine, (2002) stated "very little casual work has anything casual about it". The writers return to teaching has been an organic process worthy of the description, 'teaching by 'default rather than design'.

In contrast to the recent initiatives launched by the DfES, such as introducing compulsory qualifications in adult education, it would seem some part time tutors are still being offered fragmented hours teaching in spite of not having QTS, working towards their Certificates of Education or PGCE.

Other tutors working towards such qualifications are not necessarily being valued or rewarded for their commitment to teaching, which could be considered as oppressive practice. Ultimately, the colleges main focus is finding a lecturer to cover the timetable, irrespective of political rhetoric.

In an article written by Frances Rothwell (2002) titled 'Your flexible friends' the research examines how part time lecturers in further and higher education are utilised and the impact this has on the quality of service delivery.

The paper is based on qualitative and quantitative research methods in a longitudinal study of a sample of forty two 'sessional' lecturers geographically based in the east Midlands.

The article considers the reality of professionals working in this way illuminating the obvious benefits of a flexible workforce to the organisation, but equally, considers the main issues in terms of commitment, quality and service delivery.

How does the academic sector take on the training and support of such a diverse casual workforce, with all of its varying motivations and legitimate expectations, against the management reality of casualisation and the use of 'part time agency staff' as a cheaper alternative for program delivery in a climate of reduced funding, larger student numbers and increasing complexity?"

Casual tutors fall into many different categories with an equal number of different reasons for being casual depending on the circumstances and aspirations of the employee.

In the writers opinion, there is difficulty in defining 'casual' staff as their 'casualness' implies they do not have 'tenure'. At many educational establishments those employed on a casual basis may be post graduates gaining post graduate work experience.

They could be research fellows, or external people from industry or professions. They may include part-time tutors and clinical tutors or people who are simply regularly employed on a 'fixed term contract' on a course by course basis often over a number of years.

In terms of career development this way of working does not provide stability let alone continuing professional development opportunities. The issue of quality is a key factor in casual teaching, which includes ongoing professional development, that is; encouraging staff to evaluate, reflect and improve teaching practice, however this is only achievable if adequate support is provided.

Access to appropriate resources and answer guides, study guides, copies of set reading materials and the provision of marking guides. Implementing team teaching strategies and communication mechanisms with large student populations and or casual tutors.

The avoidance of any mismatch between complex first year teaching and inexperienced casual tutors who have not been adequately trained. Addressing the difference between the levels of teaching e.g. Stage 1,2 3 etc. undergraduate and postgraduate. Having clear expectations, avoiding students complaints and finally, the lack of access to casual staff outside of lectures.

When the writer studied the article by Kift (2003) she struggled to comprehend how she had actually managed to teach for years without having access to any such recommendations, indeed it made her acutely aware of how hard it had been and how hard she had actually worked outside of her remit to fulfil the expectations of the college with no resources, little support and guidance; and this matched the experience of her peers.

In an environment, which aims to embrace difference and diversity and has an ethos of all inclusive and anti-oppressive practice, all those in that environment should 'thrive and shine'. According to the educationalist Rogers, (1988) "to prize others is an essential element in forging good relationships", Rogers, (1988) believes that providing any individual with the optimum conditions for growth is all that is needed to become fully functioning organisms, moving towards self actualisation.

Lecturers are the obvious 'role models' for their students, which make is more crucial to demonstrate good practice. For example; students need to feel listened to, valued and supported, on all levels if they are to succeed in their endeavours, which is a bit difficult if the work force themselves feel they are not listened to, valued and supported.

There is a need to support all teaching staff in their role, which becomes apparent at Ofstead inspection. The support, which is 'usually' offered to staff at this time perhaps, highlights an important factor that most of the time support simply is not integral to the role of teaching.

For 'contracted' members of staff, any additional work caused by the inspection is prioritised with the 'usual' work load and spread out over a period of time. In contrast to this, casual staff may find that they are being pressurised to attend meetings outside of their contracted hours and lack information and resources at this time.

Although some dedicated professionals may stay late or take work home it is more likely that most will not. Those who do may even justify that it is an accepted part of the work. All of this becomes quite difficult to bear if juggling other careers at the same time. The stress involved can be immense, and illuminates the obvious difference between having a contract and not having one.

The writers vision for the future of education is in service provision throughout the day from 8am-10pm including weekends. It makes sense to maximise professionals, buildings and all the resources available in education to those who want and need to learn throughout the week.

Staff should be able to choose their preferred working style to fit around other working and caring commitments male and female alike. Given that we have an increasing ageing population it is a fact that some individuals have dual caring roles, which needs to be considered.

There are also the individual needs of the student to consider who may be working towards a career change, whilst fulfilling existing working commitments, whilst in a caring role themselves. There are many professionals in a variety of settings who are committed to ongoing professional practice and would value weekend courses to fit around their work.

In other situations we often pay additional fees to those involved in evening work or what is considered to be anti-social hours and yet in education there is a trend for contractual staff to work office hours and for agency staff to cover the remainder of the work. This results in 'casual' staff working mainly in the evenings, which is archaic and maybe not the best use of talented professionals.

In conclusion, the cultural and economic influences and pressures on teachers' work are likely to persist well into the future. The predominantly feminised fragmented workforce will continue.

A critical analysis of both community and institutional needs is required to negotiate better working conditions, career paths and the social relationships within the classroom and staff room.


Barrington E. (2001) Catching Academic staff at the start: Professional development for University Tutors.

Kift Sally (2003) Assuring Quality in the Casualisation of Teaching, learning and assessment: Towards best practice for the first year experience. University of Canterbury

Lucas Norman (Vol.28, 2004) The FENTO Fandango: National standards, compulsory teaching qualifications and the growing regulation of FE college teachers: Volume 28, number 1/February 2004 Pages 35 -51 University of London

McAlpine (2002) The regulation of casual employment in higher education, What's ahead? Identifying challenges managing responses, AHEIA Conference

Rogers, Carl (1988) Rogers Carl Teaching Adults 1988 The Open University Press England

Rothwell Frances (2002) Your Flexible Friends Volume 26, Number 4 November 01, 2002 pages, 363-375 London Routledge (Taylor & Frances group)

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