Quality teaching in higher education is reputed to be very relevant for student learning outcomes. For this reason, improving quality teaching is essential and creates varied challenges for higher education institutions, taking into account that recently the educational system has received attention from different forces within it. One of the most common definitions applied to quality teaching is the use of pedagogical techniques to produce learning outcomes for students . Indeed, it comprehends dimensions such as the effective design of curriculum and course content, the learning contexts that should be put into practice, the feedback from the students as well as a proper assessment from students of the learning process.
In this context, Hopkins et al (1997) proposed three dimensions of effective teaching. First of all, we have teaching effects that include a combination of teaching skills and behaviours like the management of time and the promotion of independent working. Secondly, there is the acquisition of effective teaching models in the sense that quality teaching requires creating a suitable learning environment inside the classroom. The third factor puts emphasis on teacher artistry as a way of accounting for the teacher´s personal responsibility for generating all the conditions for effective learning.
Furthermore, quality teaching is nowadays subject to new paradigms, namely concerning the fact that when graduates enter the labour market they face higher uncertainty, risk, complexity and interdisciplinary work than before. As a result, the demand for soft-skills- mainly interpersonal skills- has risen over the past years thus putting pressure in teaching at the higher educational level. Additionally, students value highly equality of teaching and learning opportunities, fair assessments and expect to receive at universities the crucial tools for their career later on. Hence transmitting knowledge and expertise is no longer the only role of higher education teachers; they need to perceive their job as an important part of a dynamic learning community, for example through a more prominent bridge between teaching and research, innovative learning platforms, guiding and tutoring students and implementing assessment models aligned with student-centered learning. Central to this analysis is also the recognition that it is paramount that, at the same time, teaching practices and the degree of commitment to this new paradigm are adequately assessed and documented. Under a scenario of high competition at the high education level, the engagement in national and especially in international networks allows to share and expose the best practices of the quality teaching staff. Similarly, it is up to universities to instigate research-inspired teaching and to distinguish teaching excellence by divulging publicly their accomplishments and using them as role models for the rest. Also, a permanent upgrade of pedagogical skills based on professional development initiatives, training, peer-evaluation and constructive feedback are said to contribute to a “learning community” approach of quality teaching. A good example of how taking all of these aspects into account can lead the way to quality teaching is the Catholic University of Portugal (Porto) which was categorized as having a university-wide teaching-learning approach. Particularly, the University developed a Sistema de Garantia Interna de Qualidade (SGIQ) and a Skills Development Plan for Teachers that envisaged connecting the technological and pedagogical spheres.
All in all, it is expected from institutions to lead the way and instigate the match between the expectations of students and the requirements imposed by employers. Promoting institutions as effective learning communities where leadership and cooperation are regarded as key-determinants might also alleviate the tensions between proponents of innovation and those not as prone to change.
Ana Luísa Correia