ANU Lunch VOX #4 – Wrap up Promoting Academics: Where does teaching fit?

ANU Lunch Vox series started with a rich conversation on the role of teaching in academic promotion. The session was chaired by Associate Professor Wayne Morgan (ANU College of Law), alongside panellists Professor Paul Francis (ANU College of Science), Dr Chris Browne (ANU Colleges of Science, and Health & Medicine) and Professor Rae Frances (ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences). Each has considerable experience of academic promotion as both an applicant and committee member.

Wayne’s opening remarks

Panellists candidly shared positive and painful experiences from both sides of the promotion process. It was acknowledged that there are differences in the promotion culture and practices between ANU colleges and schools. Wayne posited that it is the culture, rather than policy, that can downplay the value of teaching. Valuable advice was provided to support academics facing the challenge of emphasising teaching, alongside research, in promotion applications. It was a hopeful conversation, with a hint of change towards a higher valuing of the role of teaching in academic promotion.  

Challenges of highlighting good teaching practice in promotions were identified, including limited awareness about teaching practice among promotion committee members, lack of recognition of teaching awards, difficulty sourcing evidence of teaching practice, and the low value placed on good teaching and teaching leadership. Panellists agreed that not enough weighting is allocated to the scholarship of teaching in promotion criteria. Paul commented that most promotion applications focus on research, which makes it difficult for committees to compare an application with a strong weighting on teaching. The ANU Educational Fellowship Scheme (EFS) was identified as a qualification that could contribute to promotion criteria but there is work to be done on making it more prominent in the process.  

Paul’s opening remarks

The panel also discussed the way in which the confidentiality of promotions processes can be isolating, how panel feedback is not always helpful, the gender differences in promotion readiness and dealing with the emotional fallout after an unsuccessful application. The panel argued that the university would have to contend with the loss of good teachers if good teaching was not being recognised and rewarded.  

Chris consulted members of the ANU Network of Early Career Academics (NECTAR) to include their voices in the conversation. Mixed experiences were reported, from describing academic promotion as a hazing process to a rite of passage. A particular challenge for early-career academics is teaching-only positions being offered, making it difficult to progress when research is valued over teaching.   

Chris’s opening remarks

Positive experiences were shared, even in the face of unsuccessful promotion applications. Paul and Chris revealed that despite painful setbacks, career progression and opportunities were forthcoming. Value was identified in participating in the promotion process for the exposure it provided, leading to connections between colleagues and opportunities stemming from these networks. Rae noted there has been greater awareness and informed analysis of teaching practice on ANU promotion committees over the past four years. Under Rae’s leadership, the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences (CASS) recognises the importance of teaching in academic promotion.  

Rae’s opening remarks

Constructive advice was provided to encourage academics to champion teaching during academic promotion, as well as support wellbeing:  

  • develop a mentor relationship with a colleague  
  • build a narrative around your teaching practice – how and why  
  • seek opportunities to team teach  
  • involve education designers in course review and support  
  • participate in teaching leadership, such as program reviews   
  • seek validation from students, peers and other good teachers  
  • apply for recognition of teaching in higher education through the ANU EFS scheme  
  • practice the promotion interview with someone who has been on a committee – there are many formal processes to meet  
  • highlight the qualitative and quantitative value of teaching for ANU  
  • address low SELTs; explain how these will be addressed in the future  
  • seek support when unsuccessful, such as through mentors, Nectar or the Employee Assistance Program.  

The conversation was described as “cathartic” and “therapeutic” by Wayne and Chris. Some uncomfortable topics were discussed, with a disparity between individual experiences. Chris hopes for a more nuanced approach to the development of human capital. Paul reflected on the difficulty of changing the culture when there is a strong emphasis on research, while Rae affirmed that there are many promotion opportunities for both great teachers and researchers. Collectively, the panellists presented a broad perspective on the topic, with a passion for supporting the recognition of good teaching. 

We’d love for you to join the conversation in the Padlet which has already seen some great conversations. Please feel free to respond to the questions and comments, whether you attended the panel or are exploring it for the first time now.

You can view each panellist’s opening remarks in the videos above, and the entire session below:

See upcoming ANU Lunch Vox Session here and catch up in previous session below:

April 2021

Melinda Drummond is an Education Designer in the Education Design (ED) team – one of three teams within the ANU Centre for Learning and Teaching