Media Release – A Performance-Based Accountability System In Higher Education: How to Improve Undergraduate Teaching in Canada

This backgrounder describes how improved performance measurement for professors can promote transparency and accountability in Canadian universities while improving the quality of undergraduate education.
Published on May 31, 2012

Winnipeg: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy today released How to Improve Undergraduate Teaching: A Performance-based Accountability System. The author of the paper is Rodney A. Clifton, a Senior Scholar at the University of Manitoba and a leading expert on post-secondary education policy reform. 

Clifton writes that the quality of undergraduate education in Canada has deteriorated in recent years. He cites a number of studies showing that students are often short-changed by indifferent instruction, large classes, and an absence of academic rigour.  Clifton argues that more should be done to measure the quality of undergraduate education to strengthen accountability, and to ensure high quality instruction.

Specifically, Clifton calls for the development of a performance-based accountability system in Canadian universities to ensure that the best undergraduate teachers are recognized and rewarded for their success.

The performance-based accountability system proposed by Clifton would use course evaluation data provided by students to identify and reward good professors and teaching departments. The author proposes an accountability program under which excellent teaching departments would be rewarded with additional resources while underperforming departments would receive fewer resources. Over time, this would lead to a transfer of resources from departments with below average teachers to departments with excellent teachers.

This type of accountability system would ensure departments would be evaluated based on readily available, reliable, valid and easily interpretable data. As a result, decisions by senior administrators surrounding resource allocation would become more transparent to students and taxpayers.

 Clifton notes that providing excellent undergraduate instruction is undervalued in Canadian universities, and that research contributions receive more recognition and prestige than sustained excellence in teaching. As a result, professors face few incentives to devote scarce time and energy to improving the quality of their own teaching. A performance-based accountability system based on teaching evaluations would strengthen the link between excellent teaching and career advancement for university professors, while providing recognition and rewards for the best teaching professors and departments.

Download a copy of How to Improve Undergraduate Teaching HERE.

For more information and to arrange an interview with the study's author, media (only) should contact:

Dr. Rodney A. Clifton, PhD

Tel: (204) 261-8895

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