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Teaching & Learning highlights: update from Professor Gavin Brooks

Professor Gavin Brooks

Welcome back for the start of the 2019/20 academic year. Over the past few months we have received results from our three main student surveys, and have been working on the annual School Planning and Enhancement of Learning & Teaching (SPELT) process. I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on these and other significant developments in T&L coming this term. 

Improved student satisfaction in annual surveys

We are pleased to see improved student satisfaction in a number of areas following our annual student surveys as follows:

  • National Student Survey (NSS): ‘Overall satisfaction’ rose from 83% to 84% (in line with the sector average), including increases in key areas such as ‘Learning resources’, ‘Organisation and management’ and ‘Academic support’.
  • UK Engagement Survey (UKES): ‘Aggregate experience’ (calculated by Advance HE as an aggregation of responses to the core questions) increased from 54.4% to 56.3%, although this is below the sector average of 60.5%. 
  • Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES): ‘Overall Satisfaction’ (in response to the question ‘Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my course’) rose from 84.7% to 87.1%, above the sector average of 81.9%. 

These results reflect the hard work of colleagues across the Institution, working in partnership with students. I would like to thank you, sincerely, for your commitment.

Feedback from these surveys also highlights further areas for improvement. Together with the Teaching & Learning Deans, I will be working with a number of colleagues as part of the SPELT process to identify how best to address the common themes. At an institutional level, I will work with colleagues on the Teaching & Learning Strategy Board (TLSB) to update last year’s NSS Action Plan in the light of this year’s results. 

Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA)

The EMA Programme is now entering its final stages and is due to finish in January 2020. Over the last three years, considerable work has been undertaken to improve the student and staff assessment experience by enabling:

  • Significantly increased electronic submission, marking and feedback across the University;
  • Sector-leading, automatic transfer of assessment information and marks between RISIS and Blackboard;
  • More consistent assessment processes, with clearer roles and responsibilities;
  • Management of all summative assessment marks and related information in RISIS;
  • More transparent and secure assessment data, with enhanced reporting.

This work has been supported by a wide range of engagement, change and transition activities, including the development of a significant amount of new resources. 

In addition to this, a Student Progress Dashboard will be made available this autumn. This exciting new tool uses the information now available in RISIS to show students (and relevant staff) how much of their summative assessment they have completed, what their progress looks like in a series of graphics and how this attainment compares to the goals that students can (optionally) set for themselves. 

The impact of the EMA Programme has been recognised externally. In June, the Programme was awarded the Blackboard Catalyst Award for Optimising the Student Experience in recognition of the significant and evidenced impact on the learner experience. In July, the SIS team was also awarded the coveted Tribal award for Outstanding Student Learning Experience, recognising the innovative technical changes that have been made to support the EMA Programme. 

For further information please contact Emma Mayhew

Academic Tutor System (ATS)

The evaluation of the first year of the Academic Tutor System (ATS) Project has yielded some rich feedback from colleagues which, together with the feedback received from students, will inform the implementation of the ATS during the second year of the project.  The findings of the evaluation will be reported to the University Board for Teaching, Learning and the Student Experience (UBTLSE) in October. 

As we move into the second year of this project, we look forward to the launch of the new Student Progress Dashboard and the opportunities that this will provide tutors. This year, in addition to CPD sessions offered as part of the CQSD T&L programme, a series of 90-minute workshops for all Academic Tutors will share good practice in academic tutoring skills, as well as providing a comprehensive overview of the new Student Progress Dashboard and how to make best use of this tool. All Academic Tutors are expected to attend one of the available dates between October and December.

A revised and updated edition of The Academic Tutor System – a Guide for Tutors has been published and hard copies will be distributed to all Academic Tutors.  The Academic Tutor Toolkit continues to be developed as a key resource for the ATS, including useful advice and information for Academic Tutors and School Directors of Academic Tutoring, as well as links to a range of useful resources and key policies. 

If you have any queries about the ATS, please contact Cindy Isherwood.

Curriculum Framework

As all undergraduate programmes move into the implementation phase of their Curriculum Framework reviews, adopting positive changes to teaching, learning and assessment, the next logical step is to review taught postgraduate programmes in light of the Curriculum Framework. The PGT Review phase will commence from September 2019 and run for 2 academic years. Programmes in scope include: PGCE, PGCert, PGDip, MA/MSc, MRes, Taught elements of MA/MSc by Research and Professional Doctorates. There will be a ‘PGT Curriculum Review in Practice’ Showcase in the Autumn term, with dates and more information to follow shortly. 

CQSD work alongside Schools to deliver bespoke development opportunities for staff and students, including sessions on the central T&L Programme to support curriculum review activities. Highlights for the Autumn term include: Engaging Students As Partners In Curriculum Enhancement: Challenges And Possibilities and ABC Module Design Workshop.

For support in implementing changes to teaching, learning and assessment following the outcomes of UG review, or to get started on your PGT programme review please contact Nina Brooke who can support you in planning your approach. 

Student Voice & Partnership

Professor Elizabeth McCrum is leading on a strategic project with RUSU to support Institutional and School-level improvements in promoting the student voice and working with students as partners. Four workstreams have been identified as follows:

1. Institutional approach to Student Engagement and Partnership working

To encourage students to work in partnership with staff and students to act as participants, co-creators, evaluators and change agents

2. Student voice, feedback and representation

To enable students to influence, shape and contribute to their University experience through feedback or active involvement of the ‘process’ of engagement, including reviewing our Student Staff Liaison Committee model and considering additional mechanisms for seeking student feedback 

3. Communications for Student Engagement 

To ensure students are aware of how to access our wide range of curricular and co-curricular development opportunities, both within and beyond the classroom

4. Project management

Support from the Planning & Strategy Office (PSO) and Centre for Quality, Support & Development (CQSD) to support the management of the project 

The project team has planned significant consultation with colleagues and students in the autumn term to shape its work and many of you will be contacted in due course with further information about this.

Further to previous work to establish our ‘Principles of Partnership’, these have recently been updated following stakeholder feedback. Please click here to read the updated version.

Please contact Elizabeth McCrum or Emily Hake for more information about this project. 

Additional projects to enhance T&L

In addition to those outlined above, there are also a number of complementary IT and Student Services projects in progress that will make a significant contribution to enhancing the teaching and learning experience for our students.

Learning Capture: Comprising both Personal and Lecture Capture, we will be installing technology to record live lectures and teaching sessions in a range of teaching spaces at our Whiteknights and London Road campuses commencing in the latter half of 2019/20 and beyond. Further details will be shared with colleagues later this term.  

Student Attendance Management & Support: This project will see the installation of appropriate technology and the development of supporting policies to capture, store and report on information relating to student attendance for scheduled teaching and learning activities. With this intelligence, we will be able to more effectively identify students in need of additional welfare support, as well as fulfilling our UKVI Tier 4 compliance requirements. For further information please contact Alison Knightley, Project Manager.

Case Management System: Student Wellbeing Services are at the early stages of building a new Student Case Management System which will allow us to better store student engagement data and communications with our range of welfare support services. For further information please contact Selina Patankar-Owens, Director of Student Wellbeing Services. 

Further information about our Teaching & Learning Strategy and the projects under way to support our ambitions is available on our website

Thank you for your continued commitment to the enhancement of learning and teaching at Reading. I hope you have a productive term.  

Kind regards,


Professor Gavin Brooks

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching & Learning

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