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Cutting the Gordian Knot: rethinking academic calendars and progression Dr Stephen Bostock Head of the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Assessment Glyndŵr.

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Presentation on theme: "Cutting the Gordian Knot: rethinking academic calendars and progression Dr Stephen Bostock Head of the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Assessment Glyndŵr."— Presentation transcript:

1 Cutting the Gordian Knot: rethinking academic calendars and progression Dr Stephen Bostock Head of the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Assessment Glyndŵr University Wrexham Future Directions Conference, Aberystwyth, April 2014 Boring but important

2 To summarise 2 Need for Equal trimesters No extra resources for assessment boards Must have between-trimester assessment boards Shorter trimesters damage learning and teaching Timing of resit progression decisions Multiple intakes, partners and two- year degrees and -52

3 History The traditional academic year was Oct – June, in 3 terms divided by holidays, with end-of year exams and boards Changed to 2 semesters in the 1990s, with modularisation; assessments each semester, assessment boards at end of year – Often modules 1 semester long, 3 or 4 in parallel – In theory two 15 week semesters at 40 hours p.w. = 1200 hours for 120 credits per annum, full time (Still less than the 1500 which is the minimum in the Bologna Agreement for a third of an honours degree.) 3

4 Glyndŵr: Semesters to trimesters Semesters not suitable for some partner colleges, wanting multiple intakes annually and January starts in UK and overseas Cannot accommodate two-year degrees So how to move from 2 semesters to 3 equal trimesters, so that the same calendar is used across all sites and partners, regardless of cohort start date But no extra resources so all sites must use same dates for assessment boards 4

5 Semesters in weeks – exhibit 1 weeks Induction & enrolment, late Sept 1 Semester 115 …with 3 Christmas weeks holiday 3 Semester 215 … with 2 Easter weeks holiday 2 Assessment boards, June 4 Summer vac 6 Resits 2 Assessment boards 4 52 And start again 5 Note that Christmas and Easter breaks serve a function for learning time before end of semester exams/submission, as does summer for resits.

6 The obvious trimester design A weeks Induction & enrolment (late Sept for a Sept start) 1 Trimester 115 …with 2 Christmas weeks holiday 2 Trimester 215 … with 2 Easter weeks holiday 2 Trimester 315 … with 2 weeks summer holiday 2 52 And start again 12 months later 6 Christmas, Easter, Summer breaks can still be positioned usefully towards the end of trimesters. BUT assessment boards must be 3 times p.a. within every following trimester.

7 The problem with the obvious design Three year courses use 2 trimesters + a fallow trimester for holiday/work/resits, whenever cohort start. Two year courses use 3 trimesters. We need three assessment boards p.a. as somewhere a progression board (between levels) is needed after each trimester. The only space in design A is within trimesters. But if assessment boards are within each following trimester, if a progression decision depends on a resit in the previous trimester, students may have started the next level when resits failed and progression disallowed Could have extra ‘resit boards’ before next-level trimester for small numbers with progression issues but this is extra cost so not done. Possible solutions: A.Keep boards within trimesters, let students waiting on resit results start anyway but maybe then stop them B.Put the assessment boards between trimesters so board decisions are immediately before the next level starts. Exhibit 2B C.Rethink what progression means 7 Not acceptable, visa problems, fees problems

8 Solution B, Exhibit 2B weeks Induction & registration 1 Trimester 1, induction, teaching and assessment12 Marking + Boards 3 Trimester 2, teaching and assessment12 Marking + Boards 4 Trimester 312 Marking + Boards 4 Christmas, Easter T1 exams before Christmas, marking over Christmas 12 weeks for teaching and assessment. Overseas students arriving late especially problematical.

9 A fudge on solution B for traditional courses The bulk of Wrexham students start Sept on three-year courses. They don’t need assessment boards after trimester 1 for progression decisions So reclaim those 3 January weeks for teaching, providing 14 weeks for induction, teaching and assessment in T1 and T2. Have a single set of boards after T2 (but T2 boards now in May not June) plus use T3 boards for resits. – Three boards on fixed dates available globally, so no extra cost, but January boards not used at Wrexham 9

10 Some responses to a review “The current trimester calendar puts great pressure on academic staff to mark, second mark and work to go to externals before assessment boards, it also leaves very little time for extension to deadlines for extenuating circumstances.” “Whilst a two-year degree appeals in principle, what is becoming evident from the business cohort who will be studying three modules during the summer is the child care issue” “the problem of attendance at academic boards and clashes with teaching commitments were experienced in February. As yet I have not solved the issue of being in two places at one time.” “the teaching has in effect been compressed into a shorter timescale, so assignment dates have had to be brought forward. This does put students at a slight disadvantage as they have less time to do directed and private study and to benefit from formative feedback.” 10

11 Does this work? No for solution B – Only 12 weeks for teaching and assessment – Only 1-2 weeks for marking – Late arrivals in T1 especially difficult – Exams before Christmas so no extra revision time. Not well for solution B-fudged – Three weeks in January reclaimed – Effectively 13 weeks + 1 exam week in T1; 12 weeks + 1 week for exams. 11

12 There are not enough weeks to have boards between trimesters Solutions? 1.Could use the whole T1-T2 (of a cohort) for teaching and assessment in larger and/or longer modules. i.e. the traditional academic year but with exams in May 2.Put boards within the following trimesters and tackle the progression problem Put all T1 module resits with T2 exams, not in T3 fallow period (summer). This halves the number of problem resit progression decisions; and for the remainder... Rethink progression decision-making … 12

13 To summarise 13 Need for Equal trimesters No extra resources for assessment boards Must have between-trimester assessment boards Shorter trimesters damage learning and teaching Timing of resit progression decisions Multiple intakes, partners and two- year degrees and -52

14 Crafting assessment regulations for first year students: stringency, academic alignment and equity, Stowell, Marie (2013) https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/2990/https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/2990/ “The research has identified key variations in Higher Education institutional regulatory frameworks relating to the first year of Honours degree programmes, and has demonstrated the potential impact of these variations on student success and progression rates. The findings raise questions about the comparability of academic standards and equity for students.” 14

15 Re-think progression decisions in a student-centred way Currently students can ‘trail’ (carry missing) 20 credits into next level, for resit, but if missing more than 20 must retake the modules in the following year. Instead: if more than 20 credits missing, an extra year will be needed but manage the following years for the benefit of individual students – E.g. starting L5 with failed resits, retake the needed 40 L4 credits but don’t attempt all L5 credits - plan L4 + L5 credits over two years. Programme requirements vary so learning contract between programme leaders and individual students 15

16 Let’s be really student-centred Determine progression by level outcomes not credits. Credits are a proxy for module learning outcomes; which are a proxy for level outcomes; but proxies are not accurate. So make progression decisions on achievement of level outcomes, and need to demonstrate them before or during progression Programme leaders need to decide, rather than a regulation- driven decision using credit numbers Even better, have 120 credit modules where progression determined by level outcomes being demonstrated, with learning contracts to demonstrate over 3 or (if nec) 4 years. 16

17 Conclusions Credit-based progression rules are crude and have effects on board timing and hence fewer teaching weeks available - The tail wags the dog! Equal trimesters mean assessment boards must be within trimesters, raising the progression problem Programme leaders should agree progression details with students, to maximise retention and success, within policy guidelines. Boards are hardly needed, and can be in trimesters. 17

18 What do you think? How does progression work at your university? Does it work well for each student? How do you cope with partners wanting intakes outside Sept/Oct, or multiple intakes annually? Is your university trying two-year degrees? How do you manage the level progression decisions? 18


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