“SLICE” is Supporting Lecturers’ Innovation in Curriculum Enhancement. SLICE comprises groups of 5-7 academic and related staff working in small ‘special interest groups’ and independently using an ‘action learning’ approach (see below). It aims to encourage and support staff to research into specific areas of concern in teaching, learning and assessment as preparation for the implementation and evaluation of innovative solutions. The approach is being conducted as a pilot, funded under the VC's Education Innovation Fund (EIF) and facilitated by the Centre for Academic & Professional Development (CAPD).
The SLICE groups’ activities aim to give direction to curriculum enhancements and encourage evaluation of pedagogic practice related to innovation in teaching and learning. The Centre will provide facilitation and professional support for these collaborative, research-led approaches, which may offer a viable model for aspects of the University’s Learning and Teaching strategy.
There is much research undertaken within and beyond Warwick that explores and develops understanding of ‘good’ practice in the wider higher education environment. For example, evidence regarding students’ overall experience at Warwick is available through SSLCs, course evaluations, academic satisfaction surveys and a national student survey. Academic staff needs and pedagogic issues are identified and addressed as part of CAPD’s remit, and student skills development is the remit of the Warwick Skills Programme and Graduate School. CAPD and Skills team advisers are available for the individuals and the groups to draw on this expertise and assistance as required.
The group will utilise and contribute to this body of knowledge whilst considering issues and solutions within their own disciplinary context. The University regularly gathers feedback from students and staff on various aspects of teaching, learning and assessment.
The work seeks to identify issues and opportunities ‘beyond the normal frames of reference’ and identify possible new approaches as appropriate in a particular area of academic need or concern.
In this initial pilot, two groups will be supported to identify possible educational innovation that may address issues of institutional priority, which impact potentially upon student satisfaction, retention and progression. Each group will deal with one of the following:
EMPLOYABILITY group are looking at:
How can the development of student employability skills best be supported?
Research the nature of professional expertise and graduate capability to identify innovative support mechanisms for the development of students’ vocational, research and transferable skills within and beside the formal curriculum, including but not restricted to skills in self-management, communication and collaboration.
ASSESSMENT group are looking at:
In what ways can assessment be made more transparent and feedback on students’ performance in assessment can be prompt and effective?
Evaluation of current practices and strategies and opportunities to implement innovative methods that offer cost-effective feedback to students on their performance as an integral part of formative and summative assessment processes.
There is scope to revise the focus and scope to suit the specific interests and needs of individuals and the group.
The action learning sets will be groups of 6-7 individuals, who meet several times within a specific timeframe, to research into these issues within and between group meetings, to problem solve and to contribute to identifying effective and sustainable new practices. (These may be piloted within the period if appropriate or form the basis for proposals for internally or externally funded projects.)
The groups are designed to provide staff who participate with a positive and worthwhile experience, to develop their knowledge and skills, to have the chance to communicate and debate ideas, and to contribute to the changing environments that are currently taking place in Higher Education.
This initiative will bring together colleagues from different departments across the University who may not normally meet to discuss curriculum strategies or new practices. A CAPD academic adviser will facilitate the groups. Several staff have already expressed a commitment to working in one of the groups to problem-solve the above challenges. Each group can support around 6 staff.
The groups will draw on their different disciplinary and general HE knowledge and experience, and utilise CAPD’s expertise, as required, to facilitate and advise as required. Lecturers will exchange ideas for educational innovation in each of the areas, problem-solve, develop and implement plans to pilot possible new approaches. In so doing, they will enhance their own skills in ways that have otherwise been left to develop more implicitly, and less reflectively, ‘on-the-job’.
CAPD advisers can support the groups in various ways, including as:
co-ordinators – setting up groups and meetings;
enablers - allowing each participant in a set to work on and with their own issues;
- advisers – assisting staff to undertake literature reviews and collate existing practice and survey data;
- facilitators - attending to the underlying processes that affect the functioning of the group; and
- evaluators – documenting and analysing the process of the approach as a whole.
Over the course of their work, the groups may draw on CAPD Academic Advisers and Student Skills Team (CSDE) Advisers to support them individually or collectively within or outside the group meetings. It is likely that participants/groups will also draw on relevant others who can contribute specialised expertise for example, if there were matters relating to technology support (Elab adviser team) or QA requirements (Teaching Quality team). Main contacts will be given in the final participant list.
CAPD will evaluate the process as a whole. Formative evaluation will happen ‘naturally’ as an inherent part of the action learning process and we will endeavour to capture the experiences in a non-intrusive manner. A summative evaluation will be conducted as the work is completed through the final review meeting and short individual interviews with participants. Together, this will help us to identify the extent to which the action learning set approach appears to support the process of innovation and curriculum enhancement.
If successful as a method of staff development, the SLICE approach can be reapplied to different projects or to deepen issues arising from the above areas. We believe it provides effective support for lecturers’ innovation in curriculum enhancement through collaboration across the University. The outcomes of each “SLICE” group will be a set of research-informed guiding principles and methodologies together with practical solutions for their implementation and evaluation.
- To support the planning and integration of purposeful innovation to enhance aspects of teaching and learning that relate to student satisfaction, retention and progression;
- To enhance the current opportunities available for researching educational ‘problems’ and learning more about other departmental and institutional practices;
- To enable participants to develop their own professional capabilities and to deal with the kind of management and curriculum leadership problems that cannot easily be resolved through courses and seminars;
- To foster active communities of practice and facilitate peer support.
- An overall briefing paper setting the findings and suggestions within the wider context of higher education policy, strategy and practice in research-led institutions.
A set of specific problems and approaches that map against ‘real world’ challenges at Warwick. These will be the fruits of the labour of each action learning set or “SLICE” and will offer guiding principles and methodologies together with practical solutions for their implementation and evaluation.
While each action learning set or “group” will have a focus - assessment or employability, respectively, the meetings will be based on a facilitated discussion. Participants will explore how they have developed their thinking around the topic, how they have got on in trying to implement something (new) and how they intend to identify and implement possible (innovative) solutions.
Each group member thus has two roles - to present their own ideas or reflections on their own or their department’s practice, and to offer a mixture of support and challenge to the other members.
We shall expect people to produce a considered piece of writing during the course of their participation – a critical analysis, if you like. The topic will be of their choosing within the overall theme. We will prescribe only an indicative length. The work will be self, peer and facilitator reviewed and may also be a document that can be used to stimulate departmental and institutional thinking and inform planning.
Groups are likely to meet once a month for a half day across February to May. The initial half day will include lunch. A final two hour meeting will be to review outputs and draw conclusions as a whole. For the half day group meetings, we propose to adopt the same slot each time - e.g. a Tuesday afternoon (1-5 pm) or a Thursday morning (9am – 1pm) depending on the group’s preferences.
Bob Thomson, Management Development Adviser in CAPD will facilitate the sets in a non-directive style. We will specify clearly that the approach is not didactic, that participants have to be open to working in this non-directive environment and that they need to take responsibility for their own learning and productive outcomes. They also need to be willing to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings with other set members, and to support the learning of others. Group meetings must be confidential. A mundane but vital point - participants must commit to attending all of the sessions (emergencies accepting), not dipping in and out.
There will be an evaluation of the experience. Dr Jay Dempster, Deputy Director in CAPD, will oversee the project as a whole, review the experiences throughout the process and produce an evaluative report overall on the action learning set approach.
We expect that the process will initially be messy and perhaps even confusing or frustrating for participants. We will stay with this, and not attempt to rescue or go for safe territory by putting in lots of input. The facilitator will provide more structure in earlier sessions.
Design & discussion
- Identify existing action learning approaches to curriculum enhancement and extract best practice.
- Discussions with departments & current project leaders around roles, priorities, challenges, support needs in each area to identify participants in each set
|Orientation & exchange
- Confirmation and individual consultation with participants
- First group session for participants and advisory staff to confirm and agree the purpose of the groups, the process of action learning and to brainstorm the areas of interest.
|Curriculum planning & development
- Each group of participants will come together monthly to exchange philosophies, practices and challenges in their innovation work around the common ‘theme’ and to work on individual areas of interest and need.
- Syndicates meet for½ day three more times over this period to work through the issues and develop plans for implementing curriculum enhancements in the context of their area.
|Jun –Sep 07
|Review, evaluation & dissemination
- Final review meeting (~1-2 hours)/ Evaluation
- Faculty events/further dissemination.
(one page PDF)