Issue 8
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Teaching and learning bulletin

A regular termly update for teaching leads across UCL sent on behalf of:
Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education & Student Affairs) 
Dr Sam Smidt, Director, Arena Centre for Research-based Education
UCL Arena Events
UCL Education Strategy
Term One 2018-19 issue: September 2018
The year ahead
Professor Anthony Smith, Vice Provost Education and Student Affairs

I am writing to sketch out the education landscape for the year ahead but before I do let me say thank you to everyone who worked so hard to improve education and the experience for our students.  

You have had to cope with a lot of change (module codes come to mind) but I am confident that the benefits of these changes will come through for students and staff alike.  

Last year, we made progress on:

So were our students more satisfied? In 2018, there has been a small but encouraging improvement in our National Student Survey (NSS) performance: rates of overall satisfaction at UCL increased by 2% to 80%.  

We’re still in the bottom quartile of the Russell Group, and there is still a great deal of work to do, but only UCL and Southampton (+1%) improved on overall satisfaction and as a whole the Russell Group declined by 3%.  

It was good to see continued strong performance from our best-performing departments and a real sense of turnaround and across-the-board improvement in eight departments that had previously struggled with student satisfaction.  

These improvements don’t happen by magic. They are down to hard work and innovation and the willingness of colleagues to talk to students about how they feel, to challenge their own way of working and to seek out and share good practice.

We want the Annual Student Experience Review (ASER) to be a helpful process, assessing the education we offer, to see what’s going right and what needs more development, so that we can work together to get the best possible outcomes for our students.

That’s why we have introduced ASER follow-up meetings, where the teaching leads of each department meet a team drawn from my office, Arena Centre, Careers, Digital Education to discuss your department’s action plan and to give you the resources, staff development and guidance you need to make your teaching and learning even better.

As with last year, our focus will continue to be assessment and feedback and personalised support. Our students tell us that both these areas need work. 

Assessment and feedback
  • The Academic Model Project to fix Portico has gathered valuable data about how and how much we assess our students and the Arena Centre will continue to help departments to explore diversifying assessment and reviewing it holistically at programme level.  
  • The Arena Centre will also continue to develop training and resources, to improve the assessment literacy of our students and to build the capacity of staff to give useful and timely feedback, offering bespoke training for departments. 

Personalising student support
  • We want to make it easier for students to make good choices as they progress through their time at UCL. Module registration will be vastly improved by fixing Portico through the Academic Model Project. Sustained work by departments over the last year to provide accurate data is already bearing fruit. For example, 9,000 students who have no optional or elective modules will not have to complete module registration process. And we aim to produce a comprehensive digital catalogue of all UCL modules in the Spring. 
  • From early 2019, twelve departments will be piloting a new tool to help you manage your conversations with students and give them appropriate support: the student success platform will bring together details of each student’s academic progress, adjustments, extenuating circumstances with their health and wellbeing casework. 
  • To make sure that all students, regardless of background, can participate fully and achieve good degrees at equal rates, we have produced a tool, the inclusive curriculum healthcheck, that helps departments embed inclusivity in all aspects of the academic cycle.  
In the coming year, the ASER process will double as preparation for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) 2020, where the quality of teaching will be judged at subject level.

Each department will be asked to produce a narrative about the education offered and its impact on students’ experience and outcomes, analogous to the environment statements that go into each REF submission. This narrative will be used in the ASER follow-up process to prioritise support, resources and training for departments. And it will be used by faculties to create subject level submissions for a ‘dummy run’ TEF for UCL.

The ASER exercise will help us to build TEF into the existing quality assurance and curriculum review cycle, so that additional bureaucracy is kept to a minimum. The submission deadline for ASERs will be extended by 3 weeks to Wednesday 5 December 2018.

With REF, TEF and possibly KEF approaching, I keep in mind this principle from the Responsible Research Metrics forum:

  "Metrics should always be used to measure what a university values, rather than a university valuing what can be measured."

What we value is intellectual stretch, and developing our students’ skills for their careers. We want our students to be bold about their futures and to make the most of their time at UCL.

Thank you again to you and your teams for all you hard work over the last 12 months and I look forward to working with you during the coming year.

All best,
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