LANQUA Toolkit: Guidance notes

“There are a variety of ‘stakeholders’ in higher education, including students, employers, teaching and non-teaching staff, government and its funding agencies, accreditors, validators, auditors, and assessors (including professional bodies)… Each have a different perspective on quality. This is not a different perspective on the same thing but different perspectives on different things with the same label.”

Harvey, L. & Green, D. (1993). ‘Defining Quality’ Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 18 (1) p10

There is considerable discussion in the literature about the interpretation of quality by a wide range of stakeholders in higher education. The LanQua Toolkit is one such interpretation by teachers/support staff which has been developed through intensive discussions with a network of 60 colleagues across 29 European countries representing a wide range of higher education institutions, faculties, departments and individuals. The network focused on one academic field, languages, and the nature of quality in 5 key areas: language learning, intercultural communication, literary and cultural study, content and language integrated learning (CLIL) and language teacher education. The purpose of this work was to support and engage teachers/support staff with issues of quality through contextualising it in their own practice and disciplinary interests. The outcomes of the research and reflections of this group have contributed to the development of the LanQua Toolkit which comprises a map of the discipline (the Frame of Reference), a model for good practice (the Quality Model) and a set of case studies (Examples of practice). These tools are intended to provide a model of quality which is easy to use and articulate, and is based on practitioner reflection and situated in teaching and learning practice. Much of what is described in the Quality Model might be considered implicit in practice, that which practitioners routinely do because they are good teachers or because they are working in an environment in which this is standard or expected practice. Thus for teachers these tools are a means of making this ‘good practice’ explicit and relevant to the quality processes with which they need to engage and the key stakeholder audiences whose expectations of and perspectives on quality they need to address. Although this Toolkit is contextualised within the teaching and learning of languages in higher education many of the tools can be adapted or transferred to other contexts (sectors and disciplines) and used with other stakeholder groups as the core principles underpinning the Quality Model are one which will be recognised by and embedded in teaching and learning practice in general.

Some examples of its potential applications with different stakeholder groups are as follows:

Academics/subject teachers

The Quality Model can be used by individuals (especially new staff) or course teams to support the planning, delivery and evaluation of the courses, modules and lessons that they teach. It can, therefore, serve as both a good practice aide-mémoire for experienced teachers and as a guide for those new to the profession as to some of the core elements they need to consider in order to facilitate successful learning outcomes for their students. In this spirit it may also serve as a simple checklist or formative tool to help teachers record and learn from their teaching. When it comes to engaging with other stakeholder groups (see below) these tools provide a language for quality which will help academic staff to articulate how, in their daily (reflective) practice they are ensuring and enhancing quality. The case study examples can provide (or be replicated to provide) concrete examples of how these quality processes are embedded in practice.

Students/learners

Clearly the materials in this Toolkit have been written by and for teachers, however, the focus on the learning process that the model provides will help demonstrate to students the ways in which their needs, input and feedback contribute to the cycle described. It has been noted (in responses to institutional and national student surveys) that students are concerned that they do not benefit directly from the feedback they give at the end of a cycle of learning – the key beneficiaries are the students who come after them. However, by using some of the insights from the Quality Model, particularly those in relation to ‘reflection in action’, it should be possible to demonstrate to students some of the ways in which their feedback contributes to the learning process both pre, in and post practice. Also this model demonstrates that quality equates to good teaching and provides examples of what this ‘good teaching’ might be which can be presented in ways and in places where students can access and easily interpret them from their perspective as learners.

Funding bodies, quality auditors etc.

For these stakeholders the Toolkit provides a clear description of an approach to quality that is subject and practitioner-led and which approaches quality from a bottom-up perspective. Although this model does not seek to replace or challenge established frameworks and practices in quality assurance it is intended to present a complementary view of quality for those engaged in more formal, quantitative quality processes. There is clearly concern that quality assurance should form part of the culture of the institution and not become a matter of routine rather than a core part of practice:

“Quality , for it to become part of the lived experience of all stakeholders in higher education, needs to become a fundamental part of what is done in the sector. A genuine culture of quality is necessary. However, there is always a tension between quality as ritual and quality as it is owned by its stakeholders.”

Harvey, L. & Williams, J. (2010). Fifteen Years of Quality in Higher Education, Quality in Higher Education 16(1), p4.

For funding, accrediting and quality assurance bodies these tools, therefore, can provide a useful way of supporting the sharing of ownership of quality assurance and enhancement with other stakeholders.

Other stakeholders: employers, parents, general public

The LanQua Toolkit is not intended as a set of tools for those outside the education context, however, in using and applying it institutions are actively engaging in enhancing the quality of the learning experience for students and thus better equipping them for their future lives. The purpose of the Toolkit is to encourage reflective practice, better alignment between teaching and learning and to make some of these processes more explicit in ways that are meaningful to both internal and external stakeholders. The ways in which this can be achieved fall outside the scope of the Toolkit as it stands but it is hoped that if institutions are more clearly demonstrating how they promote and assure quality at all levels of the institution this will provide reassurance and better understanding of the value and relevance of education to the wider society.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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