Barrie SC

  • Early impact and outcomes of an institutionally aligned, student focussed learning perspective on teaching quality assurance

    Barrie SC, Ginns P and Prosser M, The University of Sydney

    Research paper

    Theme: Implementing and managing change and innovation

    In 1999 The University of Sydney developed a new policy on the quality assurance of teaching and learning. The Institute for Teaching and Learning was charged with supporting the university community in implementing and enacting these policies. This involved a new approach to academic development (Prosser & Barrie 2003) as well as the development of systems to enact the policy in ways that would promote alignment between policy and management directives, faculty strategic initiatives and teaching and learning practices at the level of actual subjects. We have argued elsewhere such alignment is the key to effective quality improvement in higher education (Barrie & Prosser 2002). And that in order to achieve such alignment, a clear theoretical underpinning of the policies and processes is required - it is this theoretical underpinning which can provide the coherence within, and between, policies and processes across an institution.

    Since 1999 the Institute of Teaching and Learning has run an annual survey of students using a modified version of the Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ), called the Student Course Experience Questionnaire (SCEQ). This survey gathers information on students' experiences of teaching and learning in their courses at the university. The data forms the central plank of the university's quality assurance of teaching strategy. Both the survey and the university's quality assurance strategy are based on a view of quality teaching and learning that is firmly anchored in the student learning research literature. The data from the survey has been used both as an indicator of performance and to target and inform faculty wide initiatives to improve teaching and learning. With four years of survey data and some faculties now entering their second year of implementation of strategies to address issues identified in the data, we can now begin to look for evidence of initial change and improvement in students' experiences as a result of such interventions.

    In this paper we will briefly outline the theoretical perspective from which we, and our University, have been working in developing its teaching quality improvement policies and processes - the so-called student learning perspective (Ramsden, 2003, Prosser and Trigwell, 1999). We will then outline the Institute for Teaching and Learning's teaching evaluation and quality assurance systems and the other processes that have been developed to support the university community in implementing this quality assurance policy. We will then examine how effectively these systems and processes have been in facilitating improvements in students learning experiences by considering evaluation data in various areas of the institution in relation to the initiatives that have been implemented. This data includes 1) time series data that shows statistically significant changes in SCEQ survey results at an institutional level; 2) qualitative data showing the impact of the ITL's Evaluation and Quality assurance support processes at a faculty level 3) A case study example of how data is being used to effectively inform and monitor strategic teaching and learning initiatives at a faculty level. In doing so we will present empirical evidence that will begin to address the question of the effectiveness and impact of the Institute's systems to support such a quality assurance and enhancement strategy.


    Barrie & Prosser (2002). Aligning research on student learning with institutional policies and practices on evaluation and quality assurance. Paper presented at ISL conference Brussels, 4-6 September.
    Prosser, M. & Barrie, S. (Accepted for publication). Using a student-focused learning perspective to strategically align academic development with institutional quality assurance. In Blackwell, R. & Blackmore, P. (eds.), Towards Strategic Staff Development in Higher Education. Buckingham: Open University Press.
    Prosser, M. & Trigwell, K. (1999). Understanding learning and teaching: The experience of higher education. Buckingham: SRHE & Open University Press. 
    Ramsden, P. (2003). Learning to Teach in Higher Education. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.