Programme leadership: What’s the point of quality assurance anyways?!

Continuous programme improvement has been historically based on providing documentation and fixing gaps in how a programme satisfies its learning outcomes, based on data and input from multiple stakeholders (Brodeur & Crawley, 2009). How many times have you been invited to a meeting to discuss quality assurance, only to be asked to provide support on how to get through the bare minimum and avoid bureaucratic processes? While those of us in educational support roles feel it is more valuable to focus on the spirit and intention of quality assurance initiatives, how do we create a culture that focuses on quality enhancement rather than bureaucratic milestones?

We feel strongly that genuine strategic engagement with a range of stakeholders across an institution allows us to work collaboratively on continually improving our programmes for future generations of students. It is important for our internal quality assurance practices to include the shared basic values, purposes and directions of an institution (Daromes & NG, 2015). 

In our chapter we discuss how a reconceptualized role, referred to as academic managers at our institutions, support this shift in quality assurance culture. These roles sit within an academic unit (usually a Faculty or College) and support pedagogical innovation and curriculum development while being an active member of the disciplinary unit. We believe that it is unfair to expect faculty to act as disciplinary experts in both education and their respective discipline. If the last two years have taught us nothing else, it is that pedagogical innovation takes time and care, and that burnout in academia is a significant concern, especially in the wake of the pandemic (Gewin, 2021).

Academic managers play a critical role in supporting both these areas. Not only do they provide educational expertise in pedagogy and curriculum, but they also serve to take on a share of the service load from faculty members when it comes to quality assurance. By providing this support in project management, logistics, and stakeholder engagement, it allows faculty members to focus on curricular improvements without the same burden of navigating institutional resources and requirements. Through partnerships, and removing some of these workload barriers, we have seen increased excitement and engagement, and less complaints and concerns related to quality assurance. When the focus is on meaningful conversations about curriculum improvement, and not the ins and outs of procedures and reporting logistics, the culture begins to shift. 

We enjoyed taking the time to reflect on our roles and present the evidence for our approach in our chapter. We would love to hear from colleagues about what has worked well in their roles when it comes to quality assurance!

Inspired by Hamilton, J and Donaldson, C (2022) In pursuit of excellence: A collaborative and interdisciplinary framework for reconceptualising programme leaders in Lawrence, J Moron-Garcia, S and Senior, R (2022) Supporting Course and Programme Leaders in HE: Practical wisdom for leaders, educational developers and programme leaders. Routledge: UK


Jackie Hamilton (MEd) is passionate about learner-centred education and is the Director, Accreditation, Curriculum, and Learning Innovation at the Lang School of Business and Economics at the University of Guelph (Ontario, Canada). In her role, she is responsible for the School’s accreditation, quality assurance, and teaching and learning strategic operations. She works collaboratively with faculty and other stakeholders to meet quality assurance requirements, by leading people through efficient and meaningful processes. She has given invited talks on the importance of providing intentional faculty support and presented on creative curriculum solutions. Jackie also instructs in the first-year seminar program, where she provides active learning opportunities to her students.

Chris Donaldson (MBA, MES, BEd) is an innovative leader in quality assurance and teaching and learning excellence. He is currently the Manager of Quality Assurance and Accreditation at the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University (Ontario, Canada), where he leads a dynamic team in support of continuous program improvement and academic excellence in program design and curriculum development. In addition to being a first-year seminar instructor, he teaches courses on quality assurance and instructional design in the Ontario College system, and was formerly the Manager, Academic Programs at the University of Guelph. Throughout his career, Chris has led several successful faculty retreats focused on curriculum change and development and brings a strong emphasis on the importance of the learner experience to his work.

References

Brodeur, D.R., & Crawley, E.F. (2009) CDIO and Quality Assurance: Using the Standards for Continuous Program Improvement. In: Patil A. & Gray P. (eds) Engineering Education Quality Assurance. Springer, Boston, MA

Daromes, F.E., & NG, S. (2015) Embedding Core Value into the Internal Quality Assurance Systems in Higher Education. Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences, 211, pp. 660–664.

Gewin, V. (2021). Pandemic burnout is rampant in academia. Nature.

1 thought on “Programme leadership: What’s the point of quality assurance anyways?!

  1. Agreed! Academic managers can improve the quality of education by supporting faculty through the quality assurance process and by implementing pedagogical best practices.

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