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Monday, 10 March 2014

Stringency, standards and the bigger picture

Recently I was given the opportunity to sit on a Periodic Review panel, as part of the university's wide-ranging quality assurance programme.

This took place over four intensive days, and featured a series of meetings and visits to review the academic provision of one particular school. Of the nine members of the panel, three had a direct connection with the field, and the rest of us were a range of other subjects and roles.

The chair and head of quality assurance impressed me through their professional, efficient and good-humoured approach to a very demanding programme. All meetings kept to time, and were highly focussed on the task in hand, namely, to assess the academic, practical and organisational provision of courses in the department. The end result, using the expertise of the whole panel, was a thoughtful analysis of the four days' investigation.

My perspective was that of a student of Bath Spa University, and drew on the past few years of my experience at this institution. This has included undergraduate and postgraduate work, and covers multi-site and cross-disciplinary study, as well as an appreciation of the needs of many ages and types of students.

The experience of working on the panel has been invaluable, as well as serving to contextualise my own work and knowledge. I've been able to reflect on my own practice, whether that includes studying, researching, mentoring or teaching, and to appreciate where this all fits into the bigger picture of university life as a whole.

Academics are often accused of working too much within their own fields; of 'silo' mentality. Working as I do across the spectrum of History and Heritage (I have a degree in each) this has been a frustration to me on several occasions, and I continue to include myself in both camps. I find this useful, as it widens my perspective in a number of ways. These four days on the panel have shown me more reasons why this introversion might occur, why it is difficult to change, and also why it should change. Academics have a lot to offer one another, not least the opportunity to reflect on excellent practice. We need to know what works, why, and how it could be even better.

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