The Creative Education team have been talking to UCA courses with 90% or above in the National Student Survey. The idea of the conversations has been to explore some of the creative pedagogies used to keep students satisfied with their course experiences.
We capture the first of these here, with an interview with Mark O’Connor, Course Leader for Music Journalism.
What approaches to learning, teaching and student engagement did you take last year?
We monitor everything unit by unit and always close the feedback loop at Course Boards. This helps us to improve practice year on year. Students are encouraged to feed back on the experience of doing the unit through a Unit Evaluation Form. These are then gathered up by our Course Administrator in Campus Registry. She minutes them and puts them into an action plan to form negative and positive feedback.
What do you think was distinctive about your approaches last year? How do you think this might have helped with NSS scores?
Last year we identified some student anxieties around placements and piloted peer mentoring between 2nd and 3rd years. To relax students into the placement, we encouraged 3rd years to speak to them about their experiences of placement. We always follow this up with the students afterwards to gather their feedback on the experience. We will introduce this again this January.
We have also introduced a Core Lecture programme on a Wednesday, where alumni come in and talk about their experiences of being on the course and what they are doing now. This also provides great networking opportunities for the students. We encourage our first years to come to this and always try and run these on a Wednesday.
If you have made any changes this year, particularly in relation to ‘teaching on the course’ or ‘assessment and feedback’, can you tell me about them?
We now use the LSS service, Scan to Teach to scan articles for our students. This works especially well for our Year 1 students.
We have a 2-week turnaround on assessment and feedback. We give clear and directional summative feedback. This is supported by a lead up of formative feedback where our students are encouraged to see this as an active dialogue. In their tutorials, we ask them how they think they compared to their first assignment. This gives them a direction of travel.
We have introduced peer to peer assessment for all our students. We give them the assessment and feedback form and a copy of the Grading Descriptors. This goes on their final assessment.
At Course Boards, we now invite key people to respond to key student issues (ie staff from IT, LSS and Technical Resources). We always speak to our Course Reps a month before to see how everything is going and to see if we can iron out any problems before the Course Board. By getting in before problems flare up, this helps to minimize impact on the student experience.
In Year 2, we have created a Career Surgery as a more bespoke service for our students. This is not to dismiss the service provided by our Careers team at UCA, but we feel that it is important to utilize all the industry centred experience we have on the team. We are able to give our students ‘insider’ knowledge of which organisations might fit their interests in terms of placements and who best to contact (ie Fashion Editor or Fashion Assistant). We feel this is all about enabling our students to be ahead of the game.
For those students who cannot get on to a placement, we run an Alternative Project, simulating industry experience, where the students have to complete a case study.
If you had to recommend one thing to course teams struggling with student satisfaction, what would it be?
We find that going the extra mile for students really helps. On a small course, we do this by having an Open Door policy and making every effort to ensure our students feel valued. We believe that enhancement activities are what a student remembers and we build in enough time for students and staff to engage in these experiences. It is easy to forget that some of our students need to be reminded that they can ask for help. We celebrate tutorials as 2 way dialogues on our course. We ask our students how they feel about things and try and iron out small problems before they turn into big anxieties. Day to day corridor conversations really help.
Annamarie McKie interviewed Mark O’Connor 13 October 2018