Mar 21 2014

Happy break and news of Teaching Symposium

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As this is the last day of term, we’ll be taking a rest from our usual posting schedule and bringing you only news and events information for the next few weeks.

The first of these is about LSE Teaching Symposium 2014, which takes place on Tuesday 27 May in NAB. Bookings are now open for a range of events – a breakfast café, a plenary on assessment and learning, and a networking lunch – designed to facilitate discussion on teaching and learning at the School.

Meantime, our best wishes for a happy and restful break.

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Mar 20 2014

Managing quality assurance at LSE

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In our latest interview for the blog, LSE Assistant Registrar Mark Thomson, who heads the School’s Teaching Quality Assurance and Review Office and is the primary contact for all quality assurance activity at LSE, speaks about the evolution of quality assurance processes and the challenge of balancing the demands of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) with the strong tradition of departmental independence at LSE.

First of all, Mark, how has the quality assurance landscape changed over recent years?

I suppose the sound bite is “the landscape is stabilising after a long period of instability and uncertainty”. The story begins in the bad old days of Subject Review, a deeply invasive process that soured relationships between the QAA and institutions.[1] This led to the Academic Board voting in 2001 to secede from the QAA. Under the Higher Education Act it couldn’t legally do this, of course, but the point was clear and attracted a lot of media attention at the time, and led the QAA to review its activity.

The QAA’s approach receded from the high watermark of Subject Review into Institutional Audit, which was a much more process-driven approach to quality assurance.[2] That worked much better for the School, because it allowed for some flexibility for institutions like LSE to choose which sections of the infrastructure it was going to use.

Then there was the great conflagration of 2008 when there were lots of lurid media Continue reading

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Mar 17 2014

Resource of the week

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In advance of an interview with the head of LSE’s Teaching Quality Assurance and Review Office that we’ll be posting on Thursday, this week’s resource looks at the ways in which academic standards in universities are changing. Designing the framework conditions for assuring academic standards: lessons learned about professional, market, and government regulation of academic quality, by David D. Dill and Maarja Beerkens, uses analyses of 14 national instruments of regulation to outline what the authors see as the essential components of a framework for assuring academic standards.

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Mar 14 2014

Formative assessment: an easy win-win

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As Monday’s resource, the HEA report A Marked Improvement: Transforming assessment in higher education, made clear, the issue of assessment is likely to remain a key concern amongst higher education institutions for years to come. In this post, we focus on one of the recommendations put forward by the authors of A Marked Improvement and propose that the current mix between summative and formative assessment be reconsidered, with more importance to the latter being granted. We also argue that more formative assessment, and the feedback that should accompany it, does not automatically translate into more work for teachers but rather that several of the teaching activities already used in lectures and classes could in fact be repurposed to that end.

As A Marked Improvement also makes clear, assessment and feedback remain a constant source of dissatisfaction for students. In particular, students are asking for more and more productive interactions with their tutors. Formative assessment and feedback provide an excellent platform from which to build a dialogue between tutors and students and thus to encourage the latter to improve the amount and quality of learning they achieve (see Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick (2006) on the need for and benefits of such a dialogue). Fluckiger and her colleagues (2010: 3) talk about the need to “engage students as partners in providing formative feedback in time for students to modify their own thinking or behaviour to improve learning.”

Indeed, a useful distinction can be made between assessment of learning, achieved through summative assignments, and assessment for learning, done through formative assignments. Thanks to its emphasis on the provision of feedback, formative assessment, if Continue reading

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Mar 10 2014

Resource of the week

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The issue of assessment in higher education continues to generate much interest amongst academics and in the educational literature. The assessment policies adopted on specific courses and programmes will have a significant impact on the quality and amount of student learning and major implications in terms of time and resources required from teaching staff. In addition, as noted in our recent resource on using real world examples in teaching, increasing the relevance of our courses and programmes can improve students’ motivation and innovative types of assessment that promote skills and learning relevant to students’ future professional lives may contribute to this.

The Higher Education Authority’s report A Marked Improvement: Transforming assessment in higher education captures some of the reasons why we should pay more attention to assessment issues. Building on the work previously done by the Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange based at Oxford Brookes University, it also includes an ‘assessment review tool’ that can be used at departmental and programme level.

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