Bond University

Article Title

Improving the Quality of Higher Education: Lessons from Research on Student Learning and Educational Leadership


Paul Ramsden


A few years ago David Minton published a book about teaching skills in adult education.2 To introduce an idea about the importance of the teacher’s experience as a key factor in the quality of learning and teaching, he described his own experience of eating a delicious dish of garlic mushrooms in a restaurant in the Beaujolais. Madame served, and her husband did the cooking. But Minton made a mistake. He asked Madame for the recipe. “Monsieur,” came the withering reply “It is not what, it is who.” Minton realised then that he had asked the wrong question. The difference between one dish of garlic mushrooms and another does not depend on the recipe, but on the person who cooks it. Much the same is true of the quality of university teaching and university courses. There are no certain prescriptions for good teaching. There are no foolproof techniques for guaranteeing quality. There are only teachers, and educational effectiveness depends on their professionalism, their experience, and their commitment. We must ask the right questions in the search for quality. We must emphasise the importance of the “who” in order to achieve quality. What does it take to improve the quality of learning and teaching in higher education? More importantly what will help us, as teachers, to achieve improvement? In this article I would like to illustrate how some of the ideas from student learning research might be used to improve the quality of university education. There are three areas I want to apply these lessons: helping the novice lecturer to become more expert; providing appropriate academic leadership; and using methods of evaluating teaching and courses which combine the need to assure quality with the principal purpose of enhancing it.