Developing student achievement by promoting a culture of high expectation and bespoke interventions
The Teaching and Learning Institute is running a series of events to share the expertise, knowledge and reflections on practice of our National Teaching Fellows and University Teaching Fellows.
The first event was led by University Teaching Fellow Jonathan Glazzard from the School of Education and Professional Development. At this session Jonathan shared some of the strategies which resulted in all of the BA Primary Education Undergraduates achieving either a first or 2:1 classification in 2013. Jonathan explained how the students’ exceptional work had been confirmed in terms of quality and criticality by the external examiners.
A work integrated course design
It was fascinating to hear how the BA course had been radically redesigned to be a School-led model of teacher training, with ALL work placement activities informing the course. The teacher trainees benefitted by spending more time in school and their modules were partly delivered by school teachers both in school and at the university. All modules and assessments were adapted to relate directly to the work placement activities the students were doing in school; with a strong assessment focus being on exploring the application of theory to practice in relation to these activities. A wide range of inclusive assessment formats were used including presentation, role play, essay and group work.
Tracking students to support performance
Jonathan outlined how the teaching team had developed a system for tracking student performance in a number of areas in order to be able to intervene early on and offer a student the bespoke support they needed in order to move their achievements from, for example, a 2.2 to a 2.1 and from 2.1 to a first.
They developed careful tracking for monitoring performance in teaching and of assignment grades to determine the specific aspect of professional practice or academic performance that the student required support to improve.
Jonathan outlined the importance of:
- Clear writing frames for assessment
- Clear success criteria so students know what to do
- Sharing student work, ‘what a good one looks like’, so they can see what they are aiming for
- Listening to the students
- Being accessible and supportive
- Translating academic marking criteria – what does excellent critical analysis mean to a student? And what does it look like?
- Getting students to engage with feedback by including reflections on how they addressed the feedback in subsequent assignments
This system was supplemented by lots of student engagement activities, such as monthly meetings with students, informal meetings to collect views and feedback. This was then followed up on and action taken. They also involved students, teachers in school and former students to develop a vision for ‘what is an outstanding course’. In this way students really had a say in shaping the course and the vision was owned by all involved.
A supportive culture of high expectations
Jonathan described the importance of a supportive culture which included being prepared to challenge underperformance but offer support to address areas for development. It was key to communicate high expectations that ‘satisfactory’ was not good enough and all students were aware that they needed to push themselves to achieve. This message ran through the course from pre-course info to students to posters with comments from external examiners and OFSTED reports, all of which celebrate the success of the course and students.
Jonathan also talked about the rigorous evaluation and improvement processes put in place, to ensure that students’ are supported to achieve the best possible results. There is an annual course improvement plan with termly actions, broken down into weekly action plans. This maintains a focus on constant development and evaluation which means the course is flexible, fluid and always up for revalidation.
As part of developing transparency with students and promoting an ethos of joint responsibility, students have access to all external examiners report and they are involved in OFSTED reporting. They see all the improvement and action plans. In this way they are partners in the learning process.
Developing supportive student-centered teaching and research
The seminar ended with a few comments on the – at times – competing agendas of supporting students and undertaking high level research. The requirements of OFSTED needing to be balanced against the University requirement whilst all the time taking into account the needs of the students. There was also discussion about the work and time involved in monitoring, tracking and offering interventions to enable students to improve in specific areas.
Sue Folley, Academic Development Advisor, commented that by using rubrics within GradeMark and setting up re-usable comments, it is possible to identify common and specific areas in within written assignments. Sue Folley has done some research into using rubrics with students. Using scoring rubrics is a way to break down the final grade and is useful when identifying specific areas that can be developed and for student to be able to see more clearly in which areas they are already achieving marks that would give them a first and where improvements could give them a better overall score. This method identified areas where interventions could be made to improve problem areas that affected a number of students. It also gave aspirations to students, clearly articulating where improvements could be made. Using scoring rubrics, although not applicable to all learning contexts also provide transparency for students in terms of detailing exactly how their final mark is made up, which students in the research really appreciated.
See Ellis, Cath and Folley, Susan (2009) The use of scoring rubrics to assist in the management of increased student assessment choice. In: ALT-C 2009, 8-10 September 2009, Manchester, UK.