What is pedagogy?
Pedagogy describes how institutions deliver education, how students learn and are assessed, and how quality is assured. It differentiates between institutions now and will determine which universities flourish or fail, since students and staff are mobile but business models are unforgiving.
Large scale integrated pedagogy is in its infancy but the cost of education should halve in time and quality rise sharply, if service and manufacturing are a guide. In those domains, the past 50 years saw high attrition amongst organisations who watched each other, while those who innovated effectively now dominate the landscape.
Pressures on universities
Universities are squeezed for more quality at lower cost as students, employers and society seek value-for-money. Staff, too, are squeezed as governance standards erode their judgement, while paperwork and workloads keep rising.
At the heart of both squeezes is pedagogy.
The government continues to establish new bodies to guarantee quality, the Office for Students being the latest, but little has been done to rationalise the guidance these bodies offer, or the control they exert.
There is thus rising pressure to improve the teaching and learning experience, while reducing cost and meeting the requirements of a growing number of bodies.
Pinch points: where pressure is greatest
To address these pressures, let’s ask 4 questions. Each is harder to address than the one before. :
- What action could improve standards, preserve academic judgement and offer students a more distinctive experience?
- What actions could improve workloads while reducing cost (without unwanted side effects)?
- What actions could reduce workloads while enhancing quality and distinctiveness?
- What actions could reduce cost while enhancing standards and endorsing academic judgement?
Taking action to alleviate the pinch points
Here are four action areas, one for each Pinch-point. That work on their own or in combination.
- Action Area 1: Assessment consumes ever more staff time. A range of approaches is on offer, starting with outcomes-based thresholds and progressive grading.
- Action Area 2: The cost of variation and competing deadlines is both hidden and high. There are ways to help staff as individuals, teams and departments.
- Action Area 3: New delivery modes are needed but face governance and implementation hurdles. Steps exist to re-blend and develop from what exists now.
- Action Area 4: Aligning infrastructure to process is axiomatic for any knowledge industry. Datchet Consulting supports bottom-up alignment as well as campus-wide specification and procurement.
What interventions does Datchet Consulting offer?
Datchet Consulting is flexible and can work with individuals or groups at different levels of the institution. These include:
- Informing workshops, designed to present thinking with practical examples related to a chosen action area.
- Planning seminars: interactive events to blend the experiences of, and evidence provided by, delegates into a new service or delivery. An event might typically take existing module material and recast it in line with the seminar’s goals.
- Coaching individual staff or teams, for instance, plan a department’s entire assessment portfolio, or support a new mode of delivery
- Studies to produce discussion documents or data reports to feed into planning sessions, from departments to the entire institution.
- Senior Management enagement: bespoke strategy or management events.
Datchet Consulting has supported the University of Sunderland to deliver an afternoon of seminars on teaching practice. The process involved conversations with the Head of Teaching and Learning Enhancement to set the remit and review the emerging material. The was followed by a conversation with the DVC (Academic) to set up the strategic aims and review the workshop against the University’s strategy plans. The workshop addressed blended learning methods, assessment methods and ways to analyse attendance metrics and other measures in assessing the course delivery.
Prof Terry Young’s DNA uniquely mixes business, information systems, pedagogy, teamwork, and technology.
As an academic, he experimented consistently with module structure and impact. Where he used to set aside 3 weeks for exam marking, he designed this down to 3-4 days. Innovations in delivery and collection of tracking data resulted in insights that are being prepared for publication.
As a business development director, he learned team facilitation to run strategy and technology events in the UK and the US. As an academic, he undertook a strategic study for the VP as part of a campus-wide re-organisation. The scenarios he modelled provided insight into the mutual dependence of undergraduate teaching, postgraduate teaching and research in the business base of any university.
As a divisional manager at a corporate research centre, he was responsible for raising and managing budgets of £2-4M pa, while line managing a team of 20-25 research scientist, engineers, their leaders, and the technicians supporting them. As an academic, he generated more than £15M and ran research teams of typically 20-60 people over several universities. To manage the different financial systems and to be able to spend industrial support on academic research, he set up and ran a specialist central unit. He believes this to have been well ahead of its time.
His business experience thus spans both industrial and academic practice.