As I’ve mentioned before I am a “critical friend” to four of the HE Academy pathfinder projects. I had a really interesting day with the Reading team this week.
It was great to see how much their project had progressed. The DIRECT project’s approach is to focus the pathfinder work on institutional embedding and their strategy to achieve this is to link into the periodic review process. So in a sense there is a mixture of carrot and stick: stick in terms of the fact that departments have to do periodic review anyway and carrot in terms of providing support and guidance to make the process useful and easier.They have developed a framework to fit into the periodic review process. This consists of a number of focii and for each the team have developed a set of tools. The process begins with a consultation exercise with the department to clarify what they want from the process and what they feel are their key defining characteristics. The next stage is to undertake a detailed review of where the department is in terms of teaching and learning and comparison with the external environment, the next key milestone is a departmental away day where they consider the findings and formulate an action plan.The framework provides the overall guidance for the process and clarity on the stages involved. Whereas the tools the project have produced help the department complete the process.
We spent a useful morning going through the framework they have developed and clarifying what the associated tools were. (Picture is of Maria Papaefthimiou, Clare McCullagh and Ryan Bird). They have recently completed a pilot working with the Politics department. The steering committee met in the afternoon and it was great to hear from the Director of Research in Politics, who oversaw the pilot, just how successful and useful a process it had been. I was really impressed and felt that the team were making good process. Some of success factors evident to me include:
- linking the pathfinder to existing, established pattern of activity which has to be completed as part of the academic lifecycle (i.e. periodic review)
- developing an overarching framework and useful tools to guide the process (and hence evidencing the value of this approach to the departments involved),
- getting buy in from appropriate stakeholders across the university (through composition of the steering group) [As an aside Pete Jeffries from the Student Union is on the committee - not as the ‘token student rep’ but very evidently as a respected and valued member of the committee],
- effective useful of external reps ;-),
- departmental ownership of the process (the framework is an enabler but is flexible enough to be adapted to different departments’ needs, and
- effective choice of champions.
More info on the project is available from their blog.