LLAS News Blog

News articles of interest to higher education LLAS subject fields.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The SPEAQ project – where has this first year gone?

What is SPEAQ?
SPEAQ is a project funded by the European Commission to address issues related to quality assurance in HE. It stands for ‘Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality’. It is managed by Alison Dickens, Laurence Georgin and John Canning at the LLAS Centre and involves 9 partners across Europe.

What is it for?
We aim to connect three key quality circles, i.e. teacher, student and quality manager in order to share and enhance quality assurance practice in HE. We want to address a real concern that quality assurance can become ritualised rather than embedded in learning and teaching practice. We are hoping to develop new ideas on how to approach quality assurance within the institution providing evidence of how bringing together stakeholders in the quality process can lead to a wider and more meaningful interpretation of quality assurance.

What have we done so far?
In the first year of the project we have collected data through interactive workshops and focus groups involving students, teachers, administrators and quality managers in all partner institutions. The workshop model has been developed by two of the partners (Universities of Jyväskylä & Deusto) and has been used by all partners. It will be also run at the European Quality Assurance Forum conference in Estonia in November 2012. Following this, a final version will be translated and uploaded to the SPEAQ website. These workshops have been very interactive and have proven to be a useful way of encouraging discussion among staff and/or students.
We have also completed an initial data collection exercise through a series of student focus groups (facilitated by the European Students Union), meetings with institutional quality managers in the partner institutions and discussions with subject teachers in a range of disciplines, using a set of questions devised by the project team. Three synthesis reports, summarising the results from all partners, have been prepared and some key emerging themes have been identified: a need for better communication around quality issues, improvements in the collection and use of feedback, more engagement of students in quality enhancement, increased opportunities for sharing good practice, professional development for teachers, applied learning (including employability), balancing teaching with research agendas, sharing and collaborating with others outside the institution. It has been encouraging to see that some of the core aims of this project are reflected in this data, these being to connect the three quality circles and to give voice to the views of all stakeholders in the quality process.
We have also been busy disseminating our findings at international conferences (Belgrade, Istanbul, Cluj-Napoca) with two more scheduled in November 2012 (Tallinn, Malta). Once the project activities have been completed and the results of the institutional projects evaluated, an academic article will be written and submitted to an international journal.

What next?
Based on our findings, each partner institution will undertake a small project which will explore ways in which a more shared vision of quality assurance can be fostered at institutional and disciplinary level. This has already started and will end in June 2013.

Where can I find out more?
Go to our project blog: http://speaqproject.wordpress.com/

Alison Dickens, SPEAQ project director & Laurence Georgin, SPEAQ project manager

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