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The University of Southampton
Quality HandbookProgrammes and modules

Informed Practice and Expectations

Principles relating to Informed Practice and Expectations

  1. The programme’s pedagogic strategy and design of learning, teaching and assessment activities should demonstrate research informed/evidence based national and international best practices as applied to the subject area.
  2. Programmes should demonstrate awareness of the external environment in which the programme sits.
  3. Programmes should offer a structured support approach for students, appropriate to the level.
  4. Programme Leads/Proposers should check and maintain oversight of the alignment of all modules in terms of dependencies, pre-requisites, co-requisites, learning outcomes, syllabi and assessment in line with programme level requirements.

Articulation and Guidance

Research, innovation and wider developments in learning, teaching and assessment, along with discipline developments means that best practice in Higher Education is continually evolving. Programme developers, leaders and teaching staff need to keep abreast of best practice developments in their discipline and the wider sector at all times.

 It is good practice when the curriculum content and design:

The curriculum should be designed to support student learning and assessment appropriately as learners transition into and journey through the programme. Alongside consideration of curriculum content, programme developers need to carefully consider how, where and when within the programme the required knowledge, understanding, skills and competencies are developed.  It is important that all members of the programme team and students are engaged appropriately in programme and curriculum design discussions and that resulting decisions and reasons for practice and approach are articulated clearly to both staff and students.

Programme leads, with the help of the University’s Quality, Monitoring and Enhancement Framework, will need to continually review the suitability of the curriculum and ensure that any required changes are appropriately and correctly reviewed and approved to ensure the currency, relevance and integrity of the programme. Curriculum drift should be monitored closely by programme leads both for deviation from the required module alignment and also whether the cumulative changes result in a large deviation from the validated programme.

Programme teams should discuss how students will be supported before, upon arrival and throughout the programme. This might, for example, be part of a wider discussion around:

  1. teaching contact hours;
  2. the approach and nature of teaching sessions;
  3. expected provision of resources;
  4. how students are going to be helped to understand the expectations of a HE community (introduce and maintain students’ understanding of academic integrity);
  5. clear articulation of the students own responsibilities around engagement with their programme, for example;

“In general however, teaching should be combined with research as a means of introducing students to an academic community that critically learns from the past to change behaviour in the future. The undergraduate dissertation can be developed to emphasize the contribution that students can make to that continuing conversation as the final degree demonstration of graduatenes” (Ainley,2010)

A discussion with and understanding by the programme team of the approach to student support on the programme should help ensure alignment with the expectations and an appropriate level of consistency. It is important that the nature of student support is clearly articulated to students both from the outset, and continuously reinforced throughout the student learning journey. For example, a programme team for an undergraduate programme might decide, when considering student development of autonomy, to have, amongst other things, decreasing class contact time as students progress through the levels. This might include more structured and extensive formative activities and feedback in Part I of the programme with greater levels of independent study in part III or IV.  Expectations regarding the requirements of the discipline and also the student role in different aspects of the programme should be agreed with staff and students and consistently articulated.

Consideration should be given to reasonable adjustments, which may be defined in the University Guidance on Reasonable Adjustments as "an accommodation or alteration to existing admission arrangements, academic programmes, learning and teaching, student services, examination arrangements and rules relating to qualifications where these contain inherent barriers for students with disabilities".  A review of the University Guidance on Reasonable Adjustments is recommended. The implementation of a reasonable adjustment aims to allow students with disabilities to access higher education without disadvantage within a framework of academic standards. There is however no duty to adjust a ‘competence standard’ to make allowance for a disability. 

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