Reviewing your programme / module

Once your programme or module is up and running, it is tempting to see that as the end of the development cycle. However, in order to keep programmes relevant, fit for purpose and interesting both for your students and for yourselves, it might be better to see the development process as an ongoing cycle.

When to review

It is particularly important to review modules and programmes after their first run; and thereafter light reviews every year with more detailed reviews at less frequent intervals or as required. Fortunately, there are a number of established review and reflection processes which help you to keep a check on your programmes.

Annual and periodic reviews

The University helps each academic department to conduct an annual review of its teaching provision (undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes), known as the Annual Developmental Review (ADR).

The University also conducts a rolling 6 year programme of Periodic Developmental Reviews (PDR) to monitor the quality of teaching, learning and the curriculum within academic departments.

Each Review focuses on the quality assurance and assessment mechanisms which underpin student teaching, learning and assessment, and as part of that the review panel interview students as well as staff. The Review touches on all areas of the curriculum, and often provides useful pointers for onward development.

Feedback

The most direct and useful feedback on modules or a portion of the programme can be obtained from your current students and peers:

  • Student module feedback, usually obtained at the end of a module - although there is some evidence that mid-module feedback can be valuable. Paper-based and online feedback forms can be used: response rates are close to 100% for paper-based forms handed out and retrieved in a taught session, although the quality of the response may vary and analysis is difficult; whereas closer to 10% response is obtained through online forms, though often with more considered/usable responses (distance learning courses tend to have higher online response rates). UCL undertook a funded review of student feedback, which provides more detailed guidance on formats and why mid-module feedback and a ‘stop/start/continue’ approach showed particular benefits: UCL Feedback Study.
  • The DL community created a standard module feedback form which departments may wish to use or adapt
  • Student-Staff Committees (SSCs) and course reps. Guidelines and a code of practice cover student-staff committees, where student needs and issues relating to (and surrounding) the programme can be raised and discussed. Course reps represent the wider student body at these meetings and are a useful source of feedback into other activity.
  • Feedback from External Examiners. At the end of each assessment period, each programme or suite of programmes receives a written report from the allocated External Examiner. Many examiners will highlight areas for improvement, or suggest good practice improvements to consider; and some may be happy to discuss curriculum development in general.
  • Focus groups. If you want to focus on a particular aspect of the curriculum, you could extend any of the feedback sources above into targeted focus or working groups. Including students, peers and external examiners in this activity provides a rich source of feedback and development opportunity. Student involvement is an excellent way to engage and involve your students as partners in curriculum redesign. More information about using students as partners.

Always consider the whole curriculum

Any change, no matter how small, needs to be considered in relation to the programme as a whole. Because all aspects of the programme contribute to the overall intended learning outcomes (ILOs), changing even one small assessment can mean that a programme-wide ILO is not adequately supported or tested. On a practical level, shifting the position of a project or practical session in one module may mean that it falls at the same time as a pressure point in another module the student is taking in parallel: another reason why the whole programme should be considered in any change.

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