What principles guided the Framework's design?

The study overall is focused on developing a new framework for evaluating teaching achievement during academic promotion which both defines a minimum threshold of achievement that increases with career progression, and offers opportunity for the recognition of additional achievement beyond this minimum. Outcomes of the research that underpinned the Framework also made clear that it needs to address a number of additional priorities and challenges. These design principles are summarised below.

The Framework should…

  • Be flexible, portable and commensurable with research criteria
    Across the academic community and within each discipline, the core measures of research achievement are well understood and recognised. Beyond standard measures of scientific excellence, these promotion systems typically have the flexibility to recognise different types of research contribution – for example, to industrial impact or to prestigious publications – and academics would not be required to contribute equally to both domains to meet the promotion criteria. In an equivalent way, the Framework for evaluating teaching achievement must offer flexibility and transparency.

    At the same time, the Framework should be designed to offer a clear set of definitions and criteria that are not bounded by disciplinary, institutional or national conventions, maximising the opportunities for achievements to be transferable between institutions. In this way, teaching achievements would be ‘portable’; recognised by other universities in an equivalent manner to research achievements.
  • Apply to ‘teaching and research’ academics as well as education-focused academics
    Although many universities across the world are reconsidering how they recognise and reward educational contributions, in the majority of cases these discussions are focused exclusively on the institution’s education-focused career pathway – for those in specialist teaching and educational roles.

    At many institutions, the consideration of teaching achievement during the promotion of conventional teaching and research (T&R) academics is confined to ensuring that they meet a minimum threshold of acceptability. In many cases, progressive improvements in educational performance and impact beyond this threshold are not recognised or rewarded by their institutions. In other words, while progressive improvements in research achievement are a fundamental requirement for advancement up each rung of the T&R career ladder, equivalent improvements in teaching achievement are often not expected.

    The Framework is designed to evaluate and recognise teaching achievement amongst both education-focused and T&R staff. It allows universities, should they wish, to embed a progressive increase in the minimum threshold for acceptable teaching. The Framework also accommodates a range of levels of teaching achievement that mark advancement beyond this minimum threshold, allowing T&R academics the opportunity to place a greater weight on these contributions in their promotion cases.
  • Support professional development in teaching and learning
    In contrast to research achievement – where academics engage in a continuous and rigorous process of peer review via routes such as journal publications and research grant capture – ongoing evaluation of individual teaching achievement is not an accepted feature of the academic culture. The design of the Framework must be sensitive to this environment, and the process for evidencing and evaluating teaching achievement should not be overly burdensome for candidates or university promotion committees. The Framework should also inform the design of continuing professional development in teaching and learning, allowing academics to structure their progress towards each step on the university promotion pathway.
  • Recognise contribution to educational practice as well as educational scholarship
    The emergence of teaching and learning career pathways in universities across the world has often brought a reliance on educational scholarship (or pedagogical research) as the primary criterion for advancement to more senior levels, particularly at research-led institutions.

    There is no doubt that contribution to pedagogical knowledge is one important marker of achievement, particularly for those mainstreaming in teaching and learning at more senior levels. However, scholarship-driven rewards processes often fail to recognise contributions made by academics to improving and supporting the teaching and learning environment, despite the wide-reaching impact that such contributions can have within and beyond the candidate’s institution. Examples include driving systemic curricular change or leading institutional teaching and learning strategy development/review.

    The Framework should therefore have the facility to support academic progression on the basis of contributions to educational practice, both in the candidate’s institution and more broadly across the university sector, as well as on the basis of contributions to educational scholarship. The Framework should also recognise contributions to nurturing a collegial and supportive educational culture across teaching staff within the candidate’s group or discipline; an environment shown to support the development of an effective and coherent programme of education (Fisher et al., 2003; Graham, 2012).
    Fisher, P. D., Fairweather, J. S., & Amey, M. (2003). Systemic reform in undergraduate engineering education: the role of collective responsibility. International Journal of Engineering Education, 19(6), 768–776. [link]

    Graham, R. (2012). Achieving excellence in engineering education: the ingredients of successful change. London: The Royal Academy of Engineering. [link]
  • Provide clarity about the forms of evidence that can support a promotion case
    Institutional promotion guidelines often ask candidates to provide, for example, “evidence of how you have improved student learning” or “evidence of innovations in pedagogy”. However, limited advice is typically offered about the forms of evidence that would be considered suitable or how such information could be collected and presented. As a result, many candidates rely heavily on single sources of evidence, typically student evaluation scores. Indeed, the evaluation of promotion guidelines among the world’s leading universities, conducted during Phase 1 of this study, revealed that many institutions do not provide any clear guidance about the forms of evidence that would support the educational elements of a promotion case.

    In addition, there is often a lack of distinction between teaching-based promotion criteria (the characteristics of teaching achievement that the institution would look for in a successful candidate) and teaching-based evidence (the qualitative and quantitative data that are provided to demonstrate the candidate’s achievement of the criteria). Indeed, promotion guidelines at many universities appear to confuse the two, listing sources of evidence (such as peer-reviewed educational publications) within the promotion criteria or listing promotion criteria (such as “demonstrating that good conditions for student learning have been established”) as a suggested form of evidence to include in a promotion case. This lack of clarity appears to add further confusion to the process of identifying and collecting evidence to support a promotion case.

    The Framework should be clear about the types of evidence that promotion candidates could use to demonstrate teaching achievement, with guidance on how this information can be gathered in practice.

Career Framework for University Teaching, 2024