Published: February 2006
Editorial: Learning from Audit
In its report of the Institutional Audit of Brookes in 2005, the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) expresses broad confidence in the soundness of our management of the academic quality of our programmes. It identifies particular areas of good practice, citing the support we give to our postgraduate research students, our online Personal Information Portal (PIP), our accessibility and support for students and its underpinning through the information provided to staff by Student Services, and the themed audits undertaken by the Academic Policy and Quality Unit (APQU). The report goes on to recommend a number of areas for action including further development of our approaches to dissemination of good practice across the institution, more strategic approaches to the use and analysis of statistical data within review and decision-making processes, as well as review of assessment procedures.
We hope that BeJLT contributes to meeting some of the concerns raised. It is quickly becoming established as an important vehicle for dissemination of good practice in Brookes and to the world outside, practice for which there is evidence of effectiveness. It also encourages reflection on data that is available to gauge the effectiveness of our practice and to inform future development of our approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.
In this issue, for example, Keith Cooper writes about the development of Personal Development Planning (PDP) nationally and at Brookes, showing the thinking and the development processes that have led to our current approaches in this area. PIP is a core element of our support for PDP.
Kate Williams and Paul Catley describe an approach to supporting students who are required to resit examinations. Its effectiveness should encourage others to devise similar practice. This is a good example of how scrutiny of data available to us can prompt changes in practice and enhancement of the learning experience we offer. We should identify issues both for celebration or concern from the rich source of data that routine monitoring and evaluation of programmes brings and use it as evidence of effective practice or as evidence of improvement when new approaches are adopted in response to concerns.
Alison Le Cornu, Helen Cameron, Emma Catling, Tom Cosgrove and Elaine Langford provide an account of their experiences in developing distance learning approaches that complement the full-time delivery of a programme of study. They reflect on the complexity of the student learning experience and the different facets that contribute to it and offer the knowledge, understanding and skills they have developed to others who may be encouraged to work in this area.
George Roberts provides his personal insights in the complex area of e-portfolios and shares his experiences and outcomes from his research in an area that is of rapidly growing prominence in our thinking about how learning achievements may be demonstrated and assessed. . .for our students and as a record of our own development.
Katy Newell Jones provides insights into the global dimensions of higher education in the 21st century and the challenges and opportunities we face. She shows how the development of communities of practice can be instrumental in facilitating and disseminating understanding. Developing communities of practice is also an important element of the work of Berry O’Donovan, Jude Carrol, Margaret Price and Chris Rust. In this issue, they share the conceptual frameworks which underpinned their successful bid to establish a Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CETL), Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange (ASKe), and the work they are undertaking to promote good practice in developing and raising awareness of assessment standards and ensuring that assessment is ‘for’ learning and not simply ‘of’ learning.
This fourth issue of BeJLT again reflects the diversity of interests and developmental work in learning and teaching at Brookes. It also demonstrates the important role BeJLT can play as a vehicle for disseminating information, sharing insights and raising awareness – and its potential for reporting on lessons learned from evaluation of the data we routinely generate and the impact of consequent actions. It is to this latter area particularly that we should give emphasis – in light of the comments from the QAA audit but also because it provides evidence for our ongoing enhancement of the students’ learning experience.
Chair BeJLT Editorial Committee
Head of Learning and Teaching Development
This paper is an exploration of how policy is enacted through e-portfolio systems. The compilation of a portfolio is essentially dialogic. We talk through them and elaborate our context. All contexts are the products of previous contexts and contain within them echoes of earlier contexts. Portfolios make explicit and facilitate the representation of identity. Not only are we products of our world but we are the products of all the actors that we come into play with. Through e-portfolios there is a struggle going on for our identity. If our identities are artefacts of the use of digital technologies, it is important that we have some choice, maybe largely limited and illusory, over the tools we use to make them.
Distance learning (DL) is now an established mode of delivery within higher education. Nonetheless, given the significantly different use of time and space required for a satisfactory programme infrastructure as compared to its full-time, face-to-face counterpart, institutions have tended to specialise either in one mode or the other. This paper explores some of the organisational challenges presented when a large university such as Oxford Brookes, primarily concerned with face-to-face delivery, also has within it much smaller programmes offered by DL. Using the BA in Theology and Religion by DL offered through the Wesley Centre Oxford (WCO) within Westminster Institute of Education (WIE) as a case study, a range of issues was identified that initially appeared to threaten fundamental dimensions of the programme (such as recruitment and retention) when Brookes’s established systems were applied. These focused on admissions and enrolments, aspects of student-centred learning, student support, finance and fees, and interface with academic staff. Creative thinking, and a willingness to be flexible on both sides, have resulted in the emergence of a variety of procedures offered in the paper as principles of good practice.
This paper explores the early stages in the establishment of a Global Dimension Network (GDN) of academic staff in the field of health and social care. The rationale for selecting a community of practice (Wenger, 1998) as the model for the GDN is discussed, together with the advantages and inherent tensions.
The GDN has raised the profile of the global dimension to learning across the School of Health and Social Care, Oxford Brookes University, through a range of programme-based and more strategic initiatives, including staff development sessions, networking and a focus group with international students.
The GDN has explored examples where the use of materials and the literature from less developed countries has resulted in transformational learning which has impacted on learners’ practice as well as enhanced their understanding of different contexts. Discussing these instances in relation to the concepts of single- and double-loop learning (Argyris and Schon, 1974, 1996) and Illeris’ Tension Triangle (2003, 2005) has begun the process of identifying interventions which will increase the likelihood of deeper learning. This is work in progress that will be taken forward through discussion, programme-based initiatives and pedagogic research.
In the UK, there is growing pressure both within and across higher education institutions to make assessment standards and processes more transparent to students and other stakeholders. What follows is a brief account of our continuing quest to develop student understanding of assessment standards and processes. The evolution of our research and practice, undertaken at The Business School, Oxford Brookes University, is then related to a suggested framework of four generic approaches to developing student understanding of assessment standards and processes, culminating in a community of practice approach.
The historical background to Personal Development Planning (PDP) in the context of Progress Files is briefly outlined, together with an acknowledgement of the way in which the recommendations of the Burgess Review may take it forward in relation to new ways of measuring and recording student achievement. There is consideration of a range of difficulties and questions associated with the introduction of PDP into HEIs. Implementing PDP at Oxford Brookes University and what it can achieve is examined against the background of some of these difficulties and questions. The conclusion is that the limited focus and ambitions of the first stage of the implementation of PDP at Oxford Brookes can provide a sufficient platform for worthwhile work to be done with undergraduates focussing on preparation for and transition to employment whilst further research is undertaken in the sector into some of the more problematical aspects of PDP.
Progression and retention rates do not just matter to universities; they are enormously important to those students in danger of failing their studies. The opportunity to resit a module provides such students with the opportunity to pull themselves back from the brink – but many fail to achieve this. This article examines the success of a project to provide timely, personalised and generic feedback to such students and the impact that this intervention can have in terms of resit results.