Friday, 23 December 2011

HE in FE – Students at the Centre: a question of quality

On 20th December I attended training delivered by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS). I was asked to attend the session as I am responsible for the ensuring the LRC service meets the needs of Higher Education students studying at the College where I work. The objectives of this session were to:
  • identify a variety of definitions of quality
  • identify the key stages in the learner journey and the potential Quality Improvement and Quality Assurance interventions that need to be put in place
  • recognise the importance of learner voice and ientify mechanisms for listening and responding to
  • implement strategies to ensure the learner voice has an impact and informs practice
It was a small group of six people consisting of myself, four teachers and a person from one of our nearby affiliated Universities. Our first task was to consider what the term Quality meant meant to us. I found this a little bit tricky as I know that quality means different things to different people but in terms of an instution this can't be allowed to happen - there needs to be a set definition of quality so people know what to expect. As it happens the trainer, Ann Sykes, agreed and as we went round the table discussing our definitions we all had varying answers which made my point! The place I work in has a clear quality framework so we know what is expected of us each year and the college values (Versatility, Opportunity, Inclusion, Choice and Excellence) give us direction.
Our next task was to chart the learner journey and identify key stages throughout. After a few discussions regarding whether the learner journey started before reaching the institution (which it did) we then quickly came to a consensus regarding the types of things students experienced and when, e.g. assessment and feedback need to continue throughout the course, not just at the end when it can often be too late. There was also a discussion about the lack of study and referencing skills students can often have when they take on their HE courses within the college so this was a fantastic opportunity to remind them of what the Learning Resource Centre (LRC)  staff did and how we are in a prime place to be able to help. Everyone agreed that these skills are essential to develop autonomous learners (and that it was really useful having  a librarian in the room to offer a different perspective!).
We then discussed the new QAA review procedures which have recently been published and how this will affect our institution's utilisation of the learner voice. We quickly realised that as an organisation we knew fairly little of how the QAA was going to affect us, luckily I knew a reasonable enough amount of the review because of my work with CoFHE LASEC and the CILIP Policy team, however, as it is still fairly new I'm sure the information will be sent throughout the college soon enough.
Lastly, we considered how we currently collect and deal with the learner voice and compared it to some case studies. Comparitively, we do really well, especially in the LRC. We use a variety of methods to collect data; focus groups, different types of questionnaires and surveys and I attend staff/student consultative meetings. 'You said, we did' posters are displayed throughout the college and whenever there has been a big change in repsonse to student feedack, e.g. a layout change, it has been widely publicised.
Overall, I found the session interesting in terms of what quality checks need to be put in place throughout the student's time in college studying for their degree. I discovered that people have strong views on whether students should be 'spoon-fed' or not and whether they should have separate spaces or not (these discussions will have to wait for another blog post as they are massive topics to get the teeth into!). Lastly, it was a timely reminder that everything needs to be reviewed consistently and regularly in order to continue improving.

No comments:

Post a Comment