The Quality Model: Stage 1. Planning : overview and process

Effective teaching and learning reflects good planning which considers the essential questions of the purpose (aims and objectives), subject content, and delivery mode of any learning activity together with a consideration of the context/learning environment and of the key actors/stakeholders which might include employers, parents, policy makers as well as students. Planning is an iterative process as it informs and is informed by practice and the evaluation of practice, thus may undergo revisions in response to active teacher reflection (in and on action) and learner feedback.

The practicalities of planning may be undertaken in a variety of ways but most will need to begin with a consideration of who the learners are, at what level of the HE cycle they are operating, what subject area(s) is/are to be covered and what resources might be needed. Some examples of such considerations are as course entry requirements and pre‐requisites; learner expectations and prior learning; time available for learning; staff resources and competencies.

Much planning occurs in informal settings such as discussions with colleagues or individual teacher reflection, but it is important to have evidence of the planning process to contribute to formal quality assurance but most importantly for providing key information on the proposed activity for the target audience.

QA question: What are you trying to do?

Areas to consider Quality questions

Subject area(s)

What is the main focus/topic of the course/module/initiative?

Is it single, multi- or interdisciplinary?


Who is the course/module/initiative aimed at (this could be teachers if it is a professional development initiative)?

What skills and competences do the learners already have?
What competences do the learners need to have?

Are there any entry requirements?

What reasons do learners have for taking the course, e.g. is it compulsory?

Teaching staff

Who will be engaged in delivering the course/module/initiative?
What teacher competences are required?

Do the teachers require support for professional development to deliver the course/module/initiative?


How many learning hours (face-to-face or self-study) are required?

How much contact time for teaching will be needed/available?

What is the duration of the course/module/activity?

When will assessment take place?


What teaching and learning materials (published or in house) will be used/available?

Are there any copyright issues to be considered, e.g. rights clearance for use of published materials and/or issues around protecting intellectual property rights of teachers who produce their own materials)?

What use of technologies (computers and media) will be made?

How will these be accessed by learners?

Will blended or distance learning be used?

What support systems for staff and students are in place?

Learning environment

Where will the teaching/learning take place?

Are the teaching spaces appropriately equipped?

Will the course/module/initiative use a virtual learning environment or other similar online platform?

What opportunities are there for exposure to the target language outside classroom, e.g. foreign language assistants.

Quality context

What requirements need to be met at national, institutional or departmental level?

Are any external bodies involved (e.g. professional bodies, businesses)?

Quality management

What processes are already in place to manage quality within the institution and/or externally?

Who proposes the implementation of the course/module/initiative (e.g. students, teaching staff, department, faculty, university policy)?

At what level of administration is the decision made (faculty, department, degree committee, individual course lecturer etc)?


How will the course/module/initiative be evaluated, e.g. through student feedback, peer evaluation of teaching?

Advice for practitioners

  • There is value in keeping records of your planning process (if you are not already required to do this as part of internal or external quality processes) as it will provide useful information that could feed into future quality requirements, evidence of quality for students, colleagues and external examiners and will help you to avoid use it as an ongoing tool to structure and guide your practice rather than as a tick box exercise (to satisfy institutional requirements or external quality regulations).
  • It is advisable to see your plan as flexible, as part of an iterative process (e.g. the Quality Model described here) to which you will make adaptations in response to ongoing evaluation.

Case study example: Intercultural Communication

Lancaster University, UK: Cross-cultural student project

This case study extract illustrates how planning at programme level takes account of the need to prepare for and integrate a period of study abroad (undertaken, in this case, during the third year of study).

Many second year British modern language students have little if any experience of working and studying in another country and are unfamiliar with the national cultural environments in which they are to spend the third year of their four year degree undergraduate (first cycle) programmes. The ‘cross-cultural project’ is a component of their second year language course at Lancaster University. It falls at the end of the academic year and immediately precedes an intensive 4-day course which prepares them for the year abroad experience. It is designed to cultivate a personal awareness of the issues confronted by students when they arrive in the UK which they can then transfer to their own situation while studying or working abroad.

Download full case study (pdf)

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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