Reviewing the Quality of Education
The Aims and Objectives for Education
Summary of the Review
The Quality of Education
Curriculum Design, Content and Organisation
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
Student Progression and Achievement
Student Support and Guidance
Quality Management and Enhancement
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) was established in 1997. It has responsibility for assessing the quality of higher education (HE) in England and Northern Ireland from 1 October 1997 under the terms of a contract with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The purposes of subject review are: to ensure that the public funding provided is supporting education of an acceptable quality, to provide public information on that education through the publication of reports such as this one, and to provide information and insights to encourage improvements in education. The main features of the subject review method are:
Review against Aims and Objectives
The HE sector in England and Northern Ireland is diverse. The HEFCE funds education in over 140 institutions of HE and 75 further education (FE) colleges. These institutions vary greatly in size, subject provision, history and statement of purpose. Each has autonomy to determine its institutional mission, and its specific aims and objectives at subject level. Subject review is carried out in relation to the subject aims and objectives set by each provider. It measures the extent to which each subject provider is successful in achieving its aims and objectives. Readers should be cautious in making comparisons of subject providers solely on the basis of subject review outcomes. Comparisons between providers with substantively different aims and objectives would have little validity.
Review of the Student Learning Experience and Student
Subject review examines the wide range of influences that shape the learning experiences and achievements of students. It covers the full breadth of teaching and learning activities, including: direct observation of classroom/seminar/workshop/ laboratory situations, the methods of reviewing students' work, students' work and achievements, the curriculum, staff and staff development, the application of resources (library, information technology, equipment), and student support and guidance. This range of activities is captured within a core set of six aspects of provision, each of which is graded on a four-point scale (1 to 4), in ascending order of merit. The aspects of provision are:
1. This Report presents the findings of a review in May 2001 of the quality of provision in education provided by King Alfred's College, Winchester.
2. King Alfred's was founded in 1840 by the Church of England to train schoolmasters. Although teacher training is still a significant element of College provision, it now also offers a broad range of modular combined and single honours programmes spanning the humanities, the arts, social sciences, performing arts and business. The College is situated on a wooded hillside overlooking the cathedral city of Winchester. A total of 5,211 students are currently enrolled at the College, of which 3,156 are full-time amounting to 4,127 full-time equivalents (FTEs).
3. The School of Education offers a variety of opportunities for continuing professional development and postgraduate study. The Field of Education Studies is available as a single or combined honours degree and at MA level, validated by the University of Southampton. The University of Portsmouth validates the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching, which is offered as part of a portfolio of professional development courses. A total of 173 students (95 FTEs) follow courses within this provision, taught by 3.4 FTE academic staff and supported by two part-time administrative staff.
4. The following provision forms the basis of the review:
5. The statistical data in this Introduction are provided by the institution itself. The aims and objectives are presented overleaf. These also are provided by the institution
The Aims and Objectives for Education
All three programmes share the following general aims:
These general aims are translated into learning outcomes which are particular to each programme of study and can be summarised in the following ways:
BA Education Studies and BA/BSc Education Studies (Combined Honours)
Students are able to choose single honours, main, joint and subsidiary pathways through the combined honours programme. The objectives are differentiated according to the amount of time a student chooses to spend within Education Studies, and between the different levels of study that are available.
On the successful completion of the degree programme, students will have:
And, for those students who choose Education Studies modules at Level 3
In addition, single honours students and those on a main or joint pathway will have:
In addition, single honours students, main pathways students and those joint pathway students who choose to complete their dissertation wholly within Education Studies, will have:
MA Education Studies: Theory and Practice
On successful completion of this postgraduate degree programme students will have:
Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching
On successful completion of this postgraduate certificate students will show evidence of professional development through:
1 The aims and/or objectives set by the subject provider are not met; there are major shortcomings that must be rectified.
2 This aspect makes an acceptable contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives, but significant improvement could be made. The aims set by the subject provider are broadly met.
3 This aspect makes a substantial contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives; however, there is scope for improvement. The aims set by the subject provider are substantially met.
4 This aspect makes a full contribution to the
attainment of the stated objectives. The aims set by the
subject provider are met.
7. The grades awarded as a result of the review are:
|Aspects of provision||
|Curriculum Design, Content and Organisation||
|Teaching, Learning and Assessment||
|Student Progression and Achievement||
|Student Support and Guidance||
|Quality Management and Enhancement||
8. The quality of provision in education at King Alfred's College, Winchester is approved.
9. The Field of Education Studies successfully achieves its aim to ensure that programmes at all levels do not just teach about education but are in themselves intrinsically educational. The provision is characterised by an extremely clearly articulated philosophy based on an explicit model of learning. Students move through a consideration of their educational experiences, to an exploration of theory and a movement from the particular to the universal, through to the application of theorising as forms of critique. Students are therefore provided with access to thinking and scholarship in the study of education. This model is shared by the whole team. It is effectively translated into overarching aims and objectives that are appropriately further differentiated for each award, level and module and form a framework within which student progression and achievement is facilitated, supported and assessed.
10. Coherence, flexibility, student choice and access to a range of learning opportunities in the undergraduate programme is achieved by the mix of mandatory and optional modules. Within the constraints of staff resources, an appropriate range of optional modules is available at Levels 2 and 3. Students can transfer into the programme at Level 2. MA students exercise choice through entry into the programme at different points, by pace of progression, choice of assessment tasks and selection of dissertation topic. The Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching is built around the notion of reflective practice. A written self-analysis of needs determines the focus of students' development, in consultation with their mentor and the Programme Leader. This programme leads to eligibility for membership of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. The curriculum design, content and organisation are appropriate for the philosophy, aims and objectives for the overall student learning experience and contribute in different ways to their intellectual and professional development.
11. Modules and teaching and learning sessions have clear learning outcomes. At Level 1, these support the development of relevant skills and content through a range of learning experiences to enhance literacy and communication. At Level 2, students are introduced to aspects of core theory. At Level 3 theory is applied as critique. There is considerable evidence that the learning outcomes are consistently achieved. Students on each programme are provided with opportunities to develop appropriate levels of knowledge and understanding, relevant cognitive skills and subject-specific skills. Students' knowledge and understanding of subject specific skills are outstanding.
12. Undergraduates have access to research-methods workshops while a taught Research Methods module is mandatory for MA students. The MA objectives relating to development of knowledge, understanding of issues and theoretical perspectives and their application are clearly achieved. The final objective relates to production of an independent research-based dissertation but no student has yet reached this point in the programme; however, there is no evidence to suggest that this objective will not be achieved. Progression is demonstrated by increasing breadth and/or depth to enable students to pursue their own interests, through assessment and through development of research skills. The postgraduate certificate enables students to develop an understanding of learning styles and teaching skills relevant to their current and future employment. These objectives allow the aims of the provision to be met.
13. Staff research and scholarship informs the content and development of the programme. There is a close match across the provision between teaching and the research interests of staff. Each of the three programmes has been reviewed in the last academic year and the modules and sessions are continually evaluated in the light of staff and student reflection. Changes in staff research interests have provided a further impetus for the revision of the programme. Advances in information and communication technology (ICT) inform the design, organisation and content of the provision. Possible extensions of this use of IT are under consideration.
14. This aspect makes a full contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives. The aims set by the subject provider are met.
Curriculum Design, Content and Organisation:
15. The teaching, learning and assessment strategy is based on a clear learning model that is implemented consistently by tutors. There is much evidence that this unifying strategy is well understood by students.
16. A variety of teaching methods is used including lectures, seminars, workshops, group work and discussion generated through student presentation. Students experience learning through listening and talking to tutors and each other, and independent research from books and journals. This is supplemented by the Field undergraduate web pages and session handouts, from quiet reflection and questioning, and from the thinking and preparation required for the successful completion of assessment. Web pages contain module outlines, bibliographies, source material and assessment details and their use supports the development of ICT skills. The tutors' use of original/primary sources and Socratic questioning enthuse and motivate students towards a high level of engagement. The use of printed and web-based material encourages and expects students to prepare for sessions and adopt a pro-active approach towards their learning. Students work hard and are highly motivated and committed to their own learning.
17. The reviewers observed eight undergraduate teaching and learning sessions and one postgraduate session on the MA programme that provided evidence of the variety of methods used. In all instances the sessions were fully prepared and the quality of teaching was excellent. All sessions exhibited excellent relationships between tutors and students. Sessions were characterised by appropriate pace of delivery, attention to level, and the ability to employ the scholarship of the tutor in ways that engaged and challenged students. Visual aids were effectively used and web pages were used for in-class activities. Observed student presentations used computer-based visual aids with confidence and discrimination.
18. At all levels tutors use their own research as an integral part of the student's learning experience. They display an infectious enthusiasm for their field and the small MA group is regularly augmented by the voluntary involvement of tutors from the team who also join undergraduate sessions. The team's ethos of critical reflection and collegiality permeates and enriches the student learning experience.
19. Assessment strategies include essays, book reviews, visual representation, individual and group presentations, examinations and portfolios. There is some use of peer-assessment in year one of the undergraduate programme and this is a strategy the team has under review. Assessment methods are well matched to the intended learning outcomes and level of courses. There is an institutional requirement that a proportion of student work at Levels 2 and 3 should be assessed by examination and, by agreement with the College, the team has introduced some flexibility so that students can exercise an element of choice about when they conform to this requirement.
20. The reviewers sampled more than 85 items of student work from across all programmes. The assessment strategies were appropriate to the learning outcomes and level, and most required the submission of more than one type of assignment. Assessment points are summative for the modules but are seen by tutors and students as a formative part of the programme-long learning experience. Clear and well communicated generic performance descriptors guide students in how to improve their academic performance. Consistency of marking and sound moderation practices ensure equity of experience for students and is well supported by external examiners.
21. A variety of feedback mechanisms support learning. Tutors engage in dialogue with students beginning with clarification of the intended aims and objectives for assignments. Student assessment texts are annotated and written feedback links to the tutor's prior knowledge of students and their work and stage of development. This is supported by oral feedback that connects current, previous and future performance.
22. Participants on the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching are largely employees of the institution and engage in a range of debates about teaching and learning in HE. Analytical and reflective activities are developed through seminars and independent study supported by workplace mentors. Assessment portfolios display a high degree of critical engagement with professional practice and a growing use of current thinking and theoretical frameworks.
23. This aspect makes a full contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives. The aims set by the subject provider are met.
Teaching, Learning and Assessment:
24. The undergraduate programme attracts applicants from a range of backgrounds and qualifications. The student profile is largely female (81per cent) and from the home region (73 per cent), 34 per cent of students are mature, and 56 per cent of the current intake entered with GCE A-Levels with an average points score of about 13. The majority of students, 85 per cent, are from a white ethnic background and the current ratio of applications to places is 4.2:1.
25. The MA Education Studies recruited a small group of nine students for the first time in 1999. Two thirds of these are female and all are from the home region. All are graduates in subjects that include education or philosophy. The Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching is a staff development provision for College, local government and academic staff of other institutions. The majority hold masters degrees and 63 per cent have doctorates.
26. Progression and completion rates on the undergraduate programme are very good. A large proportion of students transfer in at Level 2, mostly having gained two years' successful experience on a programme of initial teacher training. All are required to complete an entry needs assessment and, as necessary, gain targeted support from the tutor team or central services. Students who had taken this route are very positive about their transition and there is no adverse effect on their progression. If they later wish to gain qualified teacher status, they may apply for PGCE courses. The team has reviewed the experience of students previously entering beyond the start of Level 2 and has concluded that this is not desirable.
27. Progression through the MA programme is less successful with four of the original nine students withdrawing or taking a break from study, all for non-programme related reasons. In the light of this the team have introduced a mandatory interview of all prospective candidates.
28. Of the 2000 graduating cohort, 43 per cent were awarded First or Upper Second class honours degrees with 52 per cent achieving a Lower Second class award. The quality of the work sampled by the reviewers was excellent. Work at each level, supported by wide reading, demonstrated good or excellent levels of knowledge and understanding and the acquisition of subject-related skills. Students display effective development of key skills through their written work, presentations and debates. Former students confirm that these skills are relevant and transfer effectively to the world of work and further study. At all levels, students recognise and respond positively to the demand for intellectual rigour in all forms of student work. The best students exhibit work of outstanding quality. The students' excellent experience of teaching, learning and assessment clearly leads to added-value.
29. Achievement on the MA programme is similarly high, displaying qualities of understanding and analysis, some of which are at a high level of abstraction. MA level programmes have yet to reach completion. postgraduate certificate students' portfolios demonstrated evidence of reflection based on relevant theory and contemporary practice.
30. Graduates enter a range of employment and further study opportunities. It was notable from the reviewer's meeting with former students how many were employed or were seeking employment in professions that reflect the social, political and cultural focus of the provision. Graduates made high claims for the specific and generic benefits of the programme and continue to demonstrate the capacity for critical thinking.
31. This aspect makes a full contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives. The aims set by the subject provider are met.
Student Progression and Achievement:
32. Support and guidance are offered through a combination of academic and pastoral provision by School of Education staff and staff of the college-wide student services. Within the overall strategy the role of the Field and student services is explicit. It is consistent with the student profile and includes an effective admissions and induction process.
33. An academic adviser is the formal point of contact with each student throughout his or her college life from induction to graduation. Students are provided with clear information in user-friendly handbooks that also advise about presentation and submission of work. The Field leader of the undergraduate provision, the postgraduate certificate programme leader and the programme director of the MA have overall responsibility for academic support and guidance. Module tutors are available and see students on a regular basis. In semester one, tutors identify those students who might benefit from courses to further develop academic skills or who have other special needs, and direct them to student services. The Field administrator, who is at the centre of both the formal and informal student support networks, contributes significantly to the high quality of the student learning experience. This was evident through observation of the Field Office and from comments made by current and former students.
34. There is considerable evidence that all staff are approachable and supportive. The high level of student satisfaction with the quality of tutoring bears a direct relationship to the exceptional level of commitment by tutors, and of a tutoring process that emphasises guidance not prescription. Tutorial guidance is helpful and challenging and this enables students to develop the skills of independent learning.
35. Students have access to a good range of additional study skills support provided within the subject and by student services. The liaison between staff and student services is extremely effective. Successful arrangements for pastoral and welfare support centre on student services supplemented by an effective identification and referral system from the subject staff. Extensive information is provided as part of the student induction process and is also advertised on notice boards and the intranet. Details are also included in student handbooks. Welfare advisers provide help on welfare and financial matters. A confidential student counselling service is available and international students have their own adviser.
36. Extensive and effective support is provided for students with disabilities. There is evidence of effective support for dyslexic and visually impaired students based on a speedy and accurate diagnosis of need, although there has been a mismatch between some technical support and computer software.
37. The careers centre provides a comprehensive advice service including sessions on completing applications and compiling curricula vitae. Advice on careers and interviews is provided as part of an extensive programme. This is informed by strengthening links between education studies staff and the careers service.
38. This aspect makes a full contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives. The aims set by the subject provider are met.
Student Support and Guidance:
39. The organisation and management of learning resource support, at an institutional level, is impressive. Services reflect a major level of investment that has, in the last few years, doubled the capacity of the services offered. The information strategy for the College meets the aspiration to provide resources to facilitate teaching, learning and research, and to meet the needs of students and staff. A significant level of further investment is planned for the period up to 2004.
40. The new College library was opened in 1999 and doubled the available space and the number of loans in its first year of operation. It is welcoming with students who are actively engaged in learning and at ease within a secure learning environment. The ICT Centre is open 24 hours a day in direct response to student demands. Students clearly appreciate the work of the staff and the institution in providing and developing this level of support. There is good liaison between the academic, technical and administrative support staff, and the experience and expertise of all staff are a valuable resource for students.
41. Book and journal stocks are well organised and appropriate to the various programmes. A wide range of learning resources is available including collections of readings, core books, photograph collections, montage and videos to support particular elements of the provision. The course team retains copies of books that are out of print to support specific parts of their programmes. The management of learning resources at a subject level reflects the delivery of modules at the various levels of the programme. Students are appreciative that helpful, appropriate and effective materials are available to support the delivery of modules.
42. There are adequate individual workspaces, and a series of printed materials and guides to the various facilities in the library. A well-organised annual induction programme introduces students to the range of facilities available. Library staff have responded to the needs of the subject, and are also clearly aware of the pressure points created by the demands of teachers and learners. Although there are limited copies of some heavily used materials, every effort is made to meet specific demands in a flexible and considered manner. Criticisms by students of the availability of core texts have been addressed in the last two years and they are now better satisfied by the approaches introduced. For example, a variety of loan periods have been introduced as well as the availability of reading rights at the University of Southampton.
43. The investment in ICT has involved the development of an open-access area in the library with a number of PCs with high-specification hardware and a range of appropriate software. Institutional targets set at one computer for each 10 students have been comfortably surpassed. All students are provided with their own area on the network and an email address. Students expressed satisfaction with IT provision. Email is being used effectively as a communication tool to support student learning, for example, in the supervision of final year dissertations.
44. The College is in the process of developing a virtual learning environment (VLE). The Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching has been a part of the pilot project, while a member of the Field has been funded to develop internet-based materials. The development of the VLE will provide additional possibilities for extending the range of teaching and learning opportunities and there is a commitment to evaluate these in the context of the overall aims and objectives of the provision. Staff and students make extensive use of the internet and the Field has a policy that lecture notes are available in advance to students on a weekly basis. A formal learning resources strategy could further add to the quality of the programmes.
45. The campus is a pleasant environment for students. There is appropriate teaching accommodation, well provided with the necessary networked and audiovisual equipment.
46. This aspect makes a full contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives. The aims set by the subject provider are met.
47. The College operates clear and effective quality assurance procedures. The College Academic Standards Committee and a School Quality Committee oversee processes. Within this framework there are systematic and rigorous arrangements for the validation, review and monitoring of programmes. Effective annual monitoring takes place at subject level. Monitoring reports are detailed and reflect constructively critical analyses. A considerable number of issues have been identified through this set of processes that have resulted in module changes in aims and objectives, modification of content to meet those aims, and in module delivery. The common format for monitoring requires reference to the reports of external examiners, and it is clear that course teams correspond with the external examiner on receipt of a report. The Field has clearly demonstrated that it enters into a constructive dialogue with its external examiners, to enhance the provision. Monitoring reports demonstrate the willingness of staff to be self-critical, identify action points and seek continuous improvement and development.
48. The course team consistently considers matters of concern to students and frequently discusses issues that have been identified through module evaluation. They meet on a weekly basis and use informal as well as formal procedures for course enhancement. The reviewers met active and enthusiastic student representatives. There is consistent evidence that students' concerns are taken seriously and acted upon at subject, school and college levels including amendments to the curriculum, changes in delivery arrangements, enhanced student support and guidance, and the development of learning resources including the enhanced provision of core texts. It is clear that modules in education studies are vibrant and vital and operate within a critical community of learners.
49. Newly appointed staff follow induction procedures. The College anticipates newly appointed staff participation in the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching. The staff appraisal system supports individuals in reviewing performance and identifying future goals. Within this framework, staff development needs are identified, and funding is provided to undertake research and to present work at conferences, as well as to support developments leading to the enhancement of the provision. Staff actively engage in a range of staff development opportunities provided inhouse, and through external courses and conferences.
50. The self-assessment document was informative, although it did not reflect the level of commitment to self-analysis and critical reflection that were clearly demonstrated by the subject team during the visit.
51. This aspect makes a full contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives. The aims set by the subject provider are met.
Quality Management and Enhancement:
52. The quality of provision in education at King Alfred's College, Winchester is approved. All aspects make a full contribution to the attainment of the stated objectives and the aims are met. The reviewers come to this conclusion, based upon the review visit together with an analysis of the self-assessment and additional data provided.
53. The positive features of the provision in education in relation to the aspects of provision include the following:
a. The strength of the model that underpins the entire provision, and the commitment to, and ownership of the model by staff and students (paragraph 9).
b. The quality of teaching and the high demand for intellectual rigour this places on staff and students (paragraphs 15 to 18).
c. The manner in which students actively pursue intellectual development through their engagement with tutors and the programme (paragraph 16).
d. The way in which assessment is a continuing and integral part of the learning process (paragraphs 19 to 21).
e. The high level of achievements of students in general and outstanding performance of some in particular (paragraphs 28; 29).
f. The rigorous nature of academic support and the early diagnosis and identification of student needs that lead to effective action in support of student learning, and the significant role in this of the Field Administrator (paragraph 33).
g. Effective deployment of resources to support the specific aims and objectives of the programmes at different levels within the programmes (paragraph 41).
h. The willingness of staff to be self-critical and their continuous engagement with review, evaluation and enhancement of the student and staff experience (paragraphs 47; 48).