October 2012

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Looking back on my year in the CUTL Programme, I am amazed by the complete transformation of my attitude towards this training. My enrolment was reluctant. I felt it was unnecessary as I produced fairly successful students. I had completed the Diploma in Education while I was still in the secondary school system. I did not have the time for the Thursday classes and the online assignments, and I was annoyed by the implication that the programme questioned my competence as a lecturer. Initially, the only reason I signed up was because personnel in administration advised me that successful completion of CUTL was tied to securing tenure at the institution.

Now, I am almost ashamed of the mental and affective opposition I had staged. I am not exaggerating when I say that CUTL was the greatest boost I could have given my teaching career. I enjoyed it thoroughly and its benefits cannot be overstated.

Perhaps chief among the advantages of pursuing CUTL was the opportunity to craft my personal teaching philosophy. I can’t imagine now how I operated for over 20 years in education without consciously considering my perspectives on teaching and learning styles and methods, about the manner in which the classroom space was utilized and about the different characteristics of my learners. Developing my teaching philosophy over the year was an empowering and enriching experience that gave purposeful direction to the path I plotted to meet the needs of my learners.

Reflecting on teaching and learning was another valuable dimension of the CUTL journey. Through videotaping classroom activities, through peer observation sessions and through critical analysis of the events that both videotaping and peer observing revealed, I became more cognizant of the learning needs of my students as well as of the strengths and weaknesses of teaching and was able to make the necessary adjustments to bring about the desirable outcomes.

CUTL catapulted me from being lecturer centred to being a student centred facilitator. It was my belief that I was fully responsible for all the teaching that took place in my classroom. I insisted on assessing only what I have taught and in marking all my scripts by a rubric unknown to my students and without any input from them. I now appreciate the value of collaborative teaching and learning and of students participating in think-and-share group activities. The more open the assessment method and the more responsibility that students are allowed to take for their own learning, the more liberating, meaningful and lasting will be the quality of their education.

Yet another feature of the CUTL programme that I must mention was the high premium it placed on outlining for students learning objectives and tailoring lesson presentations in keeping with these objectives as well as ensuring that assessments were aligned to the stated learning objectives. This strategy streamlined the teaching and learning experience, furnishing it with focus both for the teacher and the student.

Finally, CUTL has created a community of practitioners in education who, through their common training in teaching and learning at the university level, are now willing and able to support their colleagues. It has brought isolation to an end for we are now able to draw on our collective strength in areas such as education and technology, assessment and pedagogy.


The Instructional Development Unit (IDU), at UWI St. Augustine piloted the Postgraduate Certificate in University Teaching and Learning (CUTL) in 2008. Since then the four-course, 15-credit programme has been offered annually to new teaching staff, and is now a contractual requirement. New teaching staff must show that they have started the programme before the end of their first contract with The UWI. Currently, there are 73 graduates of the CUTL programme and 34 staff members are enrolled this year.

The programme aims to provide staff who are well-versed in content knowledge and skill in their respective disciplines, with a broad foundational set of teaching knowledge and skills to enhance their teaching effectiveness. It can improve face-to-face and online teaching skills and techniques, and it works to develop a community which focuses on learner-centred teaching.

It introduces the jargon and terminology of teaching and learning, and opportunities to build knowledge and skills in the primary areas of effective teaching.

The four courses of the programme are as follows:

  • Teaching and Learning: Theory-practice, which focuses on instructional design and delivery for higher education. The course also allows participants to consider their personal philosophies of teaching and learning as well as what it means to be an educator in the postmodern era, especially in the Anglophone Caribbean.
  • Assessment in Higher Education. This course considers the questions of accuracy and appropriateness of assessment in the context of issues such as power, diminished student self-esteem and conditions of testing.
  • Advancing Teaching and Learning with Technology. This course focuses on the use of innovative and learner-centred techniques in approaching teaching and learning by incorporating a variety of online instructional uses of appropriate technologies.
  • Reflective Teaching for Learning. This is perhaps the most innovative of the courses in the programme and is designed to allow participants to develop a critically reflective teaching practice which empowers and aids them in applying acquired knowledge and skill in responding to various learning contexts. Reflective practice in this course includes investigating one’s own biography, and reflecting on learning to teach and personal teaching philosophies.