TES case studies

Example situations that could form the basis of a Teaching Enhancement Scheme (TES) cycle.

1. Module assessment issue

The majority of students did not perform well on a particular module assessment (relative to other assessments at the same level) and claim the teaching and assessment do not connect well.

Over a year, a group of colleagues spend time looking at how the module information and the teaching input (lectures and seminars) work toward achieving the assessment objectives. This involves:

  • considering the learning outcomes of the module
  • analysing the information provided to students - module handbook, assessment criteria and VLE resources
  • discussing the module with the students
  • discussing seminar input and links between lectures and seminars with the lecturers who provide the lectures and set the assessment and the tutors who provide the seminars
  • observing two lectures and two seminars each to see if the input is coherent
  • analysing the assessment format - questions, instructions and assessment conditions.

2. Practical teaching

There is a difference in the way in which groups of students perform during a series of practical sessions. All students say they enjoy the sessions, but the quality of their written work varies considerably in accuracy and content.

A group of colleagues look at the practical teaching and associated information by:

  • considering the practical handbook and information provided to students before and during the practicals
  • discussing the experience of the practicals with students
  • talking to post-graduate demonstrators about the practicals and their approach to demonstrating
  • observing some practical sessions by visiting the labs at different times
  • analysing the results by student benches, associated demonstrator and primary subject studied.

3. Module taught by a single member of staff

A member of staff has received very good feedback on her taught masters module, which is focused around an interdisciplinary research area she has recently begun to investigate. Her research is requiring her to work with individuals from other disciplines and from the community and she is aware that her students, only being taught by herself, are perhaps not really being exposed to the true interdisciplinary nature of the subject.

The member of staff contacts a colleague from another discipline whose research and teaching intersects with her own in the hope of finding a way of exposing her students more realistically to the interdisciplinary nature of the subject they are studying. This involves:

  • discussing each others' research and teaching and identifying common linkages
  • identifying key points in the curriculum where it would be useful to teach each others' students and bring the students together to discuss issues
  • inviting a guest speaker from outside the University, who would be able to discuss how the subject impacts the community
  • undertaking short student focus groups at the end of the module to explicitly discuss their views on the new format
  • monitoring student learning and assessment scripts for evidence of more informed interdisciplinary thinking.

4. Consistency of project marking

Concern that there are different expectations amongst colleagues who are marking third-year projects.

Colleagues involved in marking third-year projects engage in a blind marking exercise and a follow-up discussion of standards and criteria. This involves:

  • gathering a set of ten past third-year projects
  • each colleague is sent two projects every two weeks, over a ten-week period, and is asked to mark them using a simplified proforma and to note brief comments on their thinking
  • all the marks for each project are collated to show how all colleagues have ranked them overall
  • colleagues meet to discuss the exercise, the standards they share and to examine the criteria for the projects and if they reflect the criteria colleagues actually use and value.

5. Essay feedback

Colleagues are worried that the feedback practice of using detailed written feedback forms for first-year essays is not resulting in any noticeable improvement in performance.

Colleagues decide to investigate the problem with a view to possibly reducing time spent on written feedback and increasing face-to-face feedback sessions. This involves:

  • discussing the written feedback format with student focus groups
  • arranging a session for staff on providing feedback on first-year essays, including examples of written feedback and discussion of providing face-to-face feedback
  • trialling face-to-face feedback sessions in one module
  • observing each other providing face-to-face feedback
  • exploring the use of feed-forward systems, where students comment on how they have used previous feedback in new assessments
  • evaluating the trial through reflection, student evaluation and an evaluation of student performance.

6. Student progress through a programme

Colleagues are concerned about student progress through a series of core and related modules. Significant discrepancies have arisen in the assessment results between modules and students have expressed dissatisfaction about the "jump" in difficulty between the third-year and pre-requisite second- and first-year modules.

Colleagues involved in the delivery of all modules in the programme decide to analyse what is delivered where, and the prior learning and understanding that this assumes, to try and ensure there is coherent development through the module path. This involves:

  • discussing as a group the essential content that needs to be developed through the module pathways, and the learning outcomes of the programme
  • analysing how this content is covered at each stage of the module path and whether this coverage is appropriate in terms of how it is delivered, whether it is delivered at the right level to allow progression to the next stage and whether students are made explicitly aware of the core concepts they need for future modules
  • organising observations by staff between modules to get a sense of how content in dependent modules is delivered
  • analysing as a group all the evaluation results across all stages to identify whether the issues previously identified continue to occur.

7. End of module student feedback issue

A member of staff has become dissatisfied with the quality of feedback provided in their end-of-module student evaluation questionnaires and is finding it difficult to determine whether the comments made are representative of the group as a whole or just the individual making it.

The member of staff works with two other colleagues to explore ways of gaining more meaningful and representative feedback from students across level 1 core modules. This involves:

  • discussing with students the importance of good quality feedback to enable staff to improve the student learning experience
  • providing guidance to students on how to phrase their feedback in a way that is useful and constructive for members of staff
  • trialling a system of student-formulated evaluation whereby each student on a module constructs an evaluative comment about it, to which all other students respond using a 1-5 "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree" Likert scale
  • analysing the results of the trial in terms of the quality of feedback received in comparison to standard end-of-module evaluation questionnaires
  • feeding back to the students the results of the trial and any actions that will be taken as a response.

8. Building on excellent teaching

A member of staff was recently nominated by students for a national teaching award. The students particularly highlighted his lecturing, which they said was always engaging, interesting and covered complex concepts in an accessible way, despite there being over two hundred students in the lecture theatre. Not all the large group modules in the department are as well received.

To try and achieve greater consistency in large first-year modules, the department has decided to explore the member of staff's approach, why it is successful and whether colleagues in the department may be able to adapt elements of it for their own teaching. This involves:

  • first-year module leads discussing with the teaching award nominee the purpose and process of giving a lecture
  • undertaking observations both of lectures and of lecture materials and handouts to further inform discussions on how the lecturing approach might be developed
  • trialling methods of "chunking" lectures, simple student interaction and interactive handouts and use of clicker technology and podcasts
  • undertaking a second round of observations to evaluate the successful implementation of these methods
  • analysing the module feedback to identify any immediate impact.

9. Wider use of blended learning technologies

A module leader is keen to determine whether student engagement and performance can be improved by incorporating new approaches to teaching and feedback.

To explore this they consult a colleague who has broad experience of a range of blended learning approaches. The process involves:

  • an initial module team meeting at which the colleague provides an overview of some approaches, including use of interactive response systems in teaching sessions, videos to support teaching activities, online assessments, podcasts of lectures and video feedback on assessments
  • deciding on the use of interactive systems in teaching sessions and podcasting of lectures
  • the module team considering what they were trying to achieve in terms of learning outcomes and discussing how to collect student information to judge the effectiveness of the new approach(es), for example modifying end of module/programme feedback forms
  • analysing as a group all the evaluation and performance results and student comments to identify whether there was any evidence that there has been an impact
  • agreeing how to proceed with any revisions to elements of the module in future.

10. School-based staff engagement

A Director of Student Education is concerned that staff in their school do not have an overview of the profile and content of programmes, that there is no obvious mechanism for sharing good practice, and that new initiatives are not appropriately discussed or widely consulted on.

Following discussion with the Head of School they decide to explore various schemes with staff to identify those likely to create the greatest staff engagement. This includes:

  • a slot at each monthly staff meeting to inform, consult on and discuss a specific issue or set of related issues, or to present cases of good practice
  • a bi-monthly meeting of staff who teach to discuss and share experiences on teaching-related matters, including reviewing programme content, assessment and teaching approaches
  • a lunchtime seminar series to focus on teaching- and learning-related matters with both internal (faculty) and external (University or outside) speakers
  • making use of the annual school away day to consider strategic developments, course changes, new modules, examples of good practice, assessment approaches, feedback and feed-forward, and new technologies
  • an annual provision of teaching enhancement project funds (£1,000-5,000)
  • introducing annual prizes for good teaching practice within the school.

11. Enhancing employability opportunities in a programme of study

A member of staff has become concerned about the balance of skills and opportunities for professional development available at both programme and module level, which might negatively impact student employability and might have contributed to the recent fall in the Destination of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) statistics for their programme.

The member of staff initiates a TES cycle with the programme team to consider where the programme includes elements or assessments that enhance student employability or professional development and to consider further developments. This involves:

  • creating a skills map for the programme, based on the learning outcomes and opportunities available at module level
  • reconsidering what skills a Leeds graduate in this subject should be able to evidence
  • identifying issues associated with the repetition of particular forms of assessment or skills and where any deficiencies are evident
  • encouraging modifications to module content and/or assessment to diversify the skills portfolio by including elements that challenge and prepare students for the work environment, for example, debating skills, teamwork, leadership, communication and adaptability
  • explicitly adding descriptions of professional development opportunities as part of the outcomes of the programme or module
  • encouraging students to reflect on the personal development opportunities they have taken advantage of, for example through Leeds for Life and the Personal Development Timeline
  • encouraging students to articulate their experiences in preparation for job applications and interviews, for example through personal tutorials or other appropriate sessions
  • gathering information from personal tutors on student engagement with employment opportunities and plans, and analysing students' employability records.