St Helens College developed a Higher Education Strategy in 1990 which has subsequently been subject to three revisions and which clearly correlates with the institution’s overall mission and strategic plan. A developmental feature of the Higher Education Strategy is the recent introduction of an institution wide Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy that reflects the value placed by the College on being learner-centred, on widening participation, on work-based learning and on employability skills. In conforming to the College’s broad objectives regarding Learning, Teaching and Assessment in Higher Education, the Programme’s Teaching and Learning Strategy is founded therefore upon the following core values:
· That students’ prior knowledge and experience should be utilised in the learning process at every opportunity
· That students are enabled to develop from relatively dependent to more independent learners as the programme progresses
· That teaching and learning methods clearly reflect the transition from dependence to independence and are balanced accordingly at each phase of the programme
· That variety in teaching and learning stimulus is crucial to the promotion of effective learning
· That students are provided with appropriate levels of support throughout their programme to enable them to evolve into autonomous learners
As such, teaching and learning methods employed by the Programme Team will be balanced between tutor-centred and student-centred activities that enable conformity to the above core values.
The very nature of individual module aims and outcomes serve to inform teaching and learning methodology, as will the preferred learning styles of individual students.
The following range of teaching and learning methods will be employed:
Lecture – This is used to impart a specific body of knowledge to students. In most cases, theoretical concepts generated by lectures will be developed through supporting seminars (including use of multi-media presentations, video presentations and, where appropriate, guest speakers)·
Laboratory Work – This is where the students acquire laboratory skills, and appreciate the importance of aseptic techniques and the risk assessment process.
Seminars - This functions as a forum for the presentation and dissemination of microbiological topics. This is student focussed where students will present information on a selected topic to the students.
Self-Directed Learning - The concept of independent study is an integral part of the programme. It refers to the idea of student centred learning, whereby the student takes responsibility for setting his or her own goals and creating his or her own pathway of study within the framework of the course. With this in mind, the programme team will act more as facilitators, enabling and encouraging learning by developing study skills, suggesting areas of investigation and research, and providing academic advice and counselling.
Written Work – The course involves a range of written assignments. These include essays, laboratory assignments, data handling assignment and projects.
Group Work – The QAA subject benchmark (2007) document lists teamwork as one of the six categories of graduate transferable skills that needs to be demonstrated on a higher education programme. Throughout the programme, teamwork has been incorporated with progression incorporated from one level to the next. In many modules, particularly in practical work in the laboratory or poster and seminar presentations, students are encouraged to work in groups and to share ideas. The assessment in certain modules is based on group assignments.
Visiting Lectures – Students benefit from contact with a wide range of professional activities through direct contact with industrial specialists to introduce students to up to date laboratory techniques. In some insistances the students will be acting as visiting lecturers to demonstrate laboratory techniques acquired from their work place.
Individual Tutorials – This system is an extremely important element linked to the rationale of teaching, learning and assessment at St Helens College. The individual needs of the student are effectively analysed with the aim to provide a clear pathway of learning to incorporate the style which most suits the student. These tutorials can be activated at the request of the tutor or individual student, and can be utilised in addition to the mandatory tutorials afforded to each and every individual student on the course. This process has also been informed by feedback from past and current students who have identified how advice relating to achieving learning outcomes and utilising appropriate study techniques has been invaluable in supporting them towards achieving independent study and the results associated with this.
Learning and Teaching Activities A scheme of planned teaching and learning activities for each module is issued to all students at the beginning of each Semester. Assignment briefs are issued and discussed at the beginning of each Semester in order to allow maximum planning time prior to prepare. These are detailed in each Module Handbook. All pieces of practical coursework contain an element of objective evaluation and to encourage students to investigate and examine their work. The time allocation for the programme reflects Higher Education practice in that 10 Credits = 100 hours of learning activity. The individual time allocation given to each module per week reflects the credit rating and scheduling for that Semester. Tutor contact is in the form of lectures, laboratory work, workshops, seminars and tutorials. In addition to this, students are expected to spend the identified amounts of time in research activities such as literature reviews, book reviews, and researching microbiology journals and maintaining current knowledge of contemporary issues in microbiology. The Programme is, for the most part, delivered via six sessions per week. How these sessions are used varies according to the requirements of the module content and the pedagogic strategies of the individual lecturers. There is good accessibility of staff and this helps to ensure close co-operation between students and tutors in the development of individual learning strategies and the promotion of autonomous learning.
In addition to tutorial support students are allocated a Personal Tutorial Group and a Personal Tutor with pastoral responsibility. Further learning needs are identified and supported by this system. Established practice requires students to action plan; undertake evaluation of each assignment and to identify areas of personal strength and weakness. In addition to the tutorial systems, further learning needs, where appropriate, are supported within the Learning Centre Facility.
Systems established within the programme area to support individual learning needs include:
- Extra support and guidance for students with dyslexia
Additional support for any student finding difficulty in coping with assessments
It is St Helens College policy to give full and part time students an Induction at the start of the Programme. As part of this, students will receive a timetable, Student Handbook and introduction to the support provided by the College's Student Services Unit. This details the appropriate personnel to approach for a variety of support services. Students will also receive a Learning Resources Induction.
All methods of assessment will follow current University of Chester assessment regulations.
All students are introduced to the methods of assessment and assessment deadlines during the induction programme.
All work to be assessed must be submitted to the administrative staff and this should happen before the deadline indicated upon the assignment brief. It is the responsibility of the individual student to ensure they obtain a signed and dated receipt for this submission. This then acts as their proof should a dispute arise over meeting a deadline.
The programme is modular in design, with each module having a credit value based upon taught hours and expected hours of independent private study, practical and research work necessary to complete the module.
The programme is divided into two levels of study. Each level represents study to the value of 120 credits, giving a total of 240 credits for the full award.
The basic functions for assessment are as follows:
- Achievement against learning outcomes
- Written & verbal feedback to students on progress
- Measure achievement against specified assessment criteria
- Identify student strengths and weaknesses
- Ensure national academic standards are met in comparison to other awards
Two methods of assessment are employed throughout the two levels of the programme. They are as follows:
Formative Assessment – This is conducted through feedback in workshop and laboratory sessions. This allows the programme team to offer on-going feedback to students according to standards commensurate with the requirements of the programme. Students will be provided with both written and verbal feedback in relation to their performance at this stage of their studies.
Summative Assessment – This is conducted through formal assessment records containing individual grades for specific individually weighted assessment criteria and written feedback. This form of assessment happens after work has been submitted to deadline and provides the students with a clear indication of their strengths and weaknesses, detailing how they might improve their performance.
Formative assessments are varied and may include:
- case studies
- essay plans
- question and answer sessions
Summative assessments are varied and include:
- PowerPoint presentations
- Poster presentations
- Laboratory assignments
- Research proposal
- Portfolio of work.