News from the university of Jyväskylä, Finland

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The first three months of the ongoing year have been marked by two main activities related to the SPEAQ project, namely, a self-assessment of our language centre teaching with students, teachers, and quality managers, and the start of the institutional project with reflective practices by teachers and students. The former was done as a preliminary step for the national audit of teaching at HE level to be conducted in January 2015. Strengths, weaknesses, and development areas were identified in the interactive workshop, to be followed by a more detailed strategic development plan for the time before the audit. What was particularly interesting were the comments by students – at first some of them were not quite sure what they might have to contribute to such a task, but in the end commented on how much they had learnt about how our centre operates and pursues the quality of teaching and learning. As some of you might know, our main mission is to cater for the discipline-specific and scientific language and communication skills training to students of non-language disciplines, required for all degrees in the mother tongue, second domestic language, and one-two foreign languages. This requires close co-operation with subject departments, as much of the teaching is integrated with discipline studies.

As regards our institutional project within SPEAQ, then, it is being implemented along our staff development programme in teaching academic content through English (TACE), i.e. a university pedagogical in-service programme for staff involved in English-medium teaching of their disciplines. We offer this training to promote the quality of internationalisation, which is the second main mission of our language centre. Last year’s  participants – both international and Finnish members of staff – are in the process of writing their reflective reports on their teaching experiments, using the LANQUA Quality Model as the framework.  We are eagerly waiting for these reports, due in early May.

Dr Anne Räsanen
Senior Lecturer in English
University of Jyväskylä Language Centre

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News from the University of Deusto, Spain

Deusto univWe have been busy in Deusto since January.  Our idea for our project relates to Modern Language students’ participation in enhancing the quality of their own degree. We wanted to see why the students’ dissatisfaction with a number of aspects of their Bologna degree had not been detected by the feedback questionnaires sent to them at the end of the first and second semesters of the first two years of their studies. In order to do this we decided we would look into the various feedback questionnaires sent to different stakeholders and see the quality issues covered as well as those uncovered. Comparing these questionnaires with the questionnaires a group of students had produced themselves to get feedback from their classmates regarding the weaknesses of their degree would give us interesting information about the different meanings/dimensions of quality.  Accordingly, at the end of January we had a meeting with members of the quality unit to share with them the objectives of the project, ask for their approval and require a copy of all questionnaires sent to the different stakeholders. To our surprise we found out that the quality unit members had no objection to the project and to providing a copy of the various questionnaires. In February and March we analysed the different official questionnaires looking for the different quality dimensions and contrasted them with the unofficial questionnaire designed by the students; we also had several meetings with some students and with the head of department.   We are now contrasting the different dimensions on quality with the different stakeholders. The project is generating interesting interaction dynamics.

Mariluz Suárez Castiñeira,
Director of the Institute of European Studies, University of Deusto

Welcome to the SPEAQ project!

SPEAQ stands for ‘Sharing Practice in Enhancing and Assuring Quality.’ We are a team of partners from various universities across Europe who have been funded by the European Commission to address issues related to quality assurance. Our project team is:

Alison Dickens (director), Laurence Georgin (manager), John Canning (adviser) and Sue Nash (administrator) at LLAS Centre for languages, linguistics and area studies

and partners: Anca Greere (Babes-Bolyai University), Ole Helmersen (Copenhagen Business School), Mariluz Suárez Castiñeira (Deusto University), Christine Lechner (Innsbruck University), Fiona Crozier (QAA England), Klára Szabó (Szeged University), Natalia Tarachiu and Allan Päll (the European Students’ Union),Gillian Moreira (University of Aveiro), Anne Räsänen (University of Jyväskylä) and Kate Riley (University of Trento).

Under the Lifelong Learning Programme, we have been funded to:

connect three key quality circles: teacher, student and quality manager in order to share and enhance quality assurance practice in higher education. This project sets out to address a real concern that quality assurance can become ritualised rather than embedded in learning and teaching practice. The outcomes from this project will seed 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. It will collect data on different stakeholder perspectives on quality assurance and undertake small projects at institutional level which will explore ways in which a more shared vision of quality assurance can be fostered at institutional and disciplinary level. SPEAQ will be building on the work of the LanQua (Language Network for Quality Assurance) which explored issues of quality in the context of the discipline of languages. It developed a toolkit (The LanQua Toolkit) to support frontline (academic/academic support) staff in conceptualising and describing quality from their practice perspective.

So over the next 19 months, we are going to set up interactive workshops to facilitate discussion between teachers, quality managers and students, collect data on stakeholder views of quality assurance and enhancement, disseminate the project outcomes and more.

To find out more, keep reading our posts!