4.1 Please comment on any significant issues raised by external examiners at class/course level in their 2007/08 reports and the actions taken in 2008/09 in response to them. Most External Examiner Reports are complimentary and raise only minor points for consideration. Some constructive comments were made in 2007/08 reports which were addressed in 2008/09.
Three External Examiners reminded examiners that they should endeavour to use the full range of marks available, particularly when marking projects, as they seemed reluctant to give very high marks for excellent work. The departments in question asked staff to ensure they use a wider range of marks particularly at the top end.
External Examiners for the BSc Architectural Studies suggested some improvements to the third year curriculum. The department initiated widespread restructuring of all four years of the course including personnel, classes and design projects. Each year cohort has a new head: a practicing architect on a 0.4 FTE post. The academic content has been reviewed and redesigned and new appointments made where necessary. This significant exercise has been key to addressing all the concerns raised by the External Examiner. The department will seek to develop good practice through more careful selection of design tutors and staff responsible for setting the studio agenda each year. This is now in place and is having wide-reaching positive effects on the course and its output.
The External Examiner for the BSc Nautical Science noted that there was some disquiet amongst the student cohort that their views and concerns were not being taken into account. Discussions with the Head of Glasgow College of Nautical Studies (GCNS) and staff at Strathclyde assured the Examiner that this aspect was treated very seriously. The department took steps, in consultation with the EE and the Dean, to improve support and communication for these students with more focussed counselling and encouragement to participate in departmental activities. A new 20 credit second year class was introduced to target more specifically the needs of Nautical Science students and the third year Business class was delivered jointly by NAME and GCNS staff. The Staff-Student Committee Convener encouraged regular attendance and participation by GCNS students. This course was withdrawn in May 2008 and the last cohort will complete in 2010/11.
One NAME External Examiner reported that some materials were not received in time and model answers, marking schemes and assessment arrangements were not clear enough. The department reviewed the schedule of activities relating to exam papers and solutions, including internal checking. Coursework details will be provided for more classes. All students are given the University's guidelines to assessment at the beginning of each year. For the small number of classes assessed solely by coursework and class tests, lecturers were advised to award grades based on published bands of marks. The External Examiner also suggested that the courses would benefit from more industry contact. The curriculum is supported by honorary lecturers from industry and helpful feedback is regularly obtained. A dedicated marine engineering laboratory was being established with the assistance of some industrial funding.
The External Examiner for Environmental Health commented that the discipline was in transition and the knowledge and competence of those involved would need to undergo rapid change in the coming years. The changing role of Environmental Health professional activities is under ongoing scrutiny by the teaching team and the team engages in regular dialogue with the Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland. Strathclyde is represented on a Scottish Government chaired working group to evaluate contemporary issues that relate to evolving environmental health provision in Scotland. The External recognised that staff were succeeding in broadening student perspectives on the wider discipline, as opposed to focusing on specific local authority Environmental Health Officer remits. This effort in broadening perspective continues.
One postgraduate DMEM External Examiner mentioned procedural issues concerning a lack of coursework assignment specifications, marking schemes and criteria, and moderation. In response to these issues, class registrars were reminded to present all assessment specifications and marked coursework before the exam board meetings. The Department established theme leaders who are responsible for explaining and preparing paperwork for External Examiners. The feedback method was standardised and additional feedback sessions were introduced for students. Departmental workshops were organised to create a common understanding of marking criteria and ensure consistent marking in the future.
One postgraduate NAME External Examiner suggested that the project theses should include more mathematical substance and that delivery of raw information from various sources such as the internet should be discouraged. He advocated the promotion of engineering measurement and data analysis in experiment design. In response, the Department revised the course content and produced clearer guidelines on the use of the internet for students. The Department continues efforts to enhance the group project
In his report, one External Examiner for MSc Rehabilitation Studies proposed that the curriculum be reviewed against the needs of the profession every year, and that a further review of practical clinic work be undertaken. The Department engages with the professional body through staff representation on the Education Committee to ensure the course meets industrial requirements.
4.2 Please comment on any significant issues raised through the 2008 National Student Survey, Pyramid discussions and the three First Year questionnaires (Induction (wks 5-6,), Engaging in Learning (before Easter), What’s it like so far? (term 3). Please comment on
actions to be taken
the way in which the Faculty has responded to students.
National Student Survey
A key issue for the Faculty as a whole was assessment and feedback which were criticised in the National Student Survey by students from all departments. Staff believed that one reason for this was that students did not have a good understanding of the different forms of assessment and feedback mechanisms and did not always consider it to include peer feedback, computer-based feedback or feedback without a mark. There was a need for the Faculty to educate them in the different forms that feedback might take.
During 08/09, departments initiated their own responses to try to improve NSS scores. The two departments with the lowest NSS scores (Civil Engineering and DMEM) were additionally required to submit a feedback action plan to the Faculty.
In Architecture, the NSS identified the two weakest areas as being organisation and assessment methods. The department established two formal feedback sessions each year with all students in years 1-3 which focus on topics raised by the NSS. There are new lines of communication in years 1-3 through weekly director surgeries where students can drop in to discuss any matter. It is also a forum for meeting weekly with year representatives. There is now a much clearer distinction between the formative review process and the summative examination process with associated assessment and feedback sheets for each.
Chemical Engineering provides considerable written feedback to full time students and staff try to ensure it is targeted. For distance learning students there is a well-established regime for providing and obtaining student feedback, via (i) written comments/guidance provided on assignments, (ii) anonymous paper/ electronic questionnaires issued in S1 and S2 and (iii) face-to-face ‘course round-up’ sessions at the end of each semester.
In Civil Engineering in the Head of Department now meets with all student cohorts during each term for direct feedback, and along with other staff has weekly student office hours with an 'open door' policy. The Department policy and practice on Feedback for coursework was examined and new forms for submission of coursework (with carbon copy feedback sheets for return to students) and working practice on the return of coursework or feedback sheets was phased in during 08/09. As a pilot, detailed instructions and feedback specifications were produced for implementation in 09/10 of the final year project. There are plans in 09/10 to implement a new mentoring system in level 1 and 2 that will be based on small group tutorials and integration with level 4 and 5 for peer mentoring similar to that which takes place in industry. In 10/11 there will also be mentoring with IAB members from year 3 to provide a mentoring programme for all years.
DMEM set up a Student Experience Group which focused particularly on student feedback. The department introduced a Feedback Week where students could see any of their lecturers and receive feedback on their exam performance, coursework and progress in general. This formalised the structure to ensure best practice and a uniform experience across the department. The outcomes were presented to a special meeting of the Faculty’s AAC. Further initiatives are planned for 09/10. Posters were produced to highlight ways in which the department was engaging with students to provide different kinds of feedback and to explain what the feedback mechanisms were. Results of the NSS carried out in January 2009 showed an improvement in the overall satisfaction score from 58% to 70%. The survey also highlighted the fact that a small subset of students had not appreciated the engineering content of the course when they applied. This has been addressed at Open Days by making the content more explicit, particularly with the Sports Engineering degree. In response to the survey, substantial changes were also made to the nature of the Sports Engineering course to increase the Bioengineering content from 09/10.
There is an ongoing issue of Mechanical Engineering NSS results being aggregated with those of DMEM. There is evidence that this aggregated result caused Mechanical Engineering to drop out of the top 10 in one important league table, with a consequent fall in overseas recruitment. Use of the disaggregated figures would place the department ninth in the UK. The disaggregated result showed 91% overall satisfaction and even in feedback areas the department outperforms the university average.
NAME students felt that feedback from some staff could be improved in range, quality and response time. This has been an ongoing difficulty, and the department has introduced timetabled Adviser of Studies slots is improve student interaction. NAME has also implemented a plan for 09/10 including consolidation weeks, feedback posters, an increase in student representatives, purchase of a web based student feedback system and regular feedback meetings with final year students.
Departmental ‘Feedback Coordinators’ have been identified to take responsibility for overseeing feedback mechanisms in their department and meeting with students to discuss the different forms of feedback they can expect and when. Feedback Coordinators will report to the Associate Dean (Academic) on initiatives that departments implement as a direct result of student feedback. The Associate Dean (Academic) will then meet with fourth and fifth year students towards the end of semester 1 to invite their views on feedback and to inform them of the steps being taken by departments to respond and to manage student expectations. The Vice-Dean (Academic) contacted all students at the start of the academic session to inform them of the proactive approach that the Faculty is taking with respect to student feedback. Feedback Coordinators will also meet to share good practice across the Faculty.
Pyramid discussions took place in Civil Engineering, DMEM, EEE and NAME. Comments from students were generally positive and constructive but discussions raised similar concerns to the NSS. DMEM reported that the discussions influenced the development of the 20 credit structure. EEE staff commented that the discussions may have encouraged complaints from students. Discussions in NAME showed that students weren’t quite sure what University life entailed so the Department ran some additional social events which were helpful in drawing students closer together.
Departments commented that it would have been helpful to receive a report summarising the results from the pyramid discussions rather than a full list of comments spanning twenty pages.
First Year Surveys
All Departments have implemented enhanced student induction programmes and undertaken redesign of the first year teaching as the 20 credit standardisation was introduced in 2009-10. Consequently the 1st year student surveys applied to a first year experience that was different to the one being introduced in 2009-10. All Departments have discussed the surveys in the appropriate committees and have reassured the Faculty that teaching, assessment and pastoral practices will be questioned in light of the responses to the surveys and further changes made in academic year 2010-11.
4.3 Please comment on any significant issues raised through the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) which are relevant to the Faculty’s Departments.
Please comment on
actions to be taken
the way in which the Faculty has responded to students.
4.4 Please comment on any significant issues raised through the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) which are relevant to the Faculty’s Departments.
Please comment on
actions to be taken
the way in which the Faculty has responded to students.
4.5 Please comment on any significant issues raised through the IGrad Survey which are relevant to the Faculty’s Departments.
Please comment on
actions to be taken
the types of feedback and responses to students
Across the whole Faculty there was limited appreciation that the PTES, PRES and IGrad surveys had taken place in academic year 2008-09. Many Heads of Department and Course Directors questioned whether any of their students also knew about these surveys. The publicity for these surveys and the dissemination of the results will have to be improved before Faculties and Departments can meaningfully answer questions 4.3 – 4.5.
4.6 What steps did the Faculty and its Departments take in session 2008/09 to obtain effective student feedback? Did student feedback in the Faculty identify any issues that had implications at University level or areas of good practice which might be applicable elsewhere in the University? If so, please detail. See section 4.2 above.
Students on residential courses during the summer complain that they are unable to access the library for extended hours.
4.7 How did the Faculty monitor issues arising out of Staff/Student committees? How were actions communicated back to the student body? All Staff Student Committee (SSC) minutes for 08/09 were reviewed at the AAC meeting in May 2009. They were also discussed at the Course Review meetings. It is the Faculty policy that minutes of SSC meetings are made available to staff and students electronically. However, feedback from final year students given to the Associate Vice Dean (Academic) in the first semester of 09/10 indicate that this may not be implemented satisfactorily in some instances. The Faculty intends to follow this up and ensure that all students have access to these minutes. The student year representatives also have a role in relating SSC discussions back to their fellow students.
4.8 Please note any specific follow-up action and monitoring arrangements in relation to feedback from students and other stakeholders such as employers. In the current economic climate, not all undergraduate Architecture students were able to secure placements with architecture practices in their year out after third year, and some had to take part time instead of full time placements. The Department made extra effort to counsel students and provide support where necessary. The accrediting body (RIBA) were pragmatic in their interpretation of ‘industrial experience’ and in view of the circumstances are accepting a wide variety of work experience.
Civil Engineering undergraduate student feedback on the development of the new framework led to the redesign of assessments to fit better into the academic year and avoid bunching of assignments at Christmas. Study periods were also set up near to the exam diet to improve access to staff.
There had been some operational problems with the Civil Engineering June PGI Exam Board. To improve procedures, the Department held a pre-Board meeting in September and a member of Faculty Office staff was invited to attend the September Board of Examiners to clarify regulations and procedures. The practice of Faculty Office attendance at PGI Exam Boards will be rolled out across the Faculty in 09/10 to ensure consistency of approach.
In DMEM, the External Examiner who covers design courses reported that assessment was consistent and fair but raised a concern about the project assessment of one part time project where the marking did not take into consideration the level of difficulty and the extent of the project. This was addressed at the Exam Board and was an example of the external examination process working correctly
Several departments have encouraged students to socialise to improve engagement with the course and University and to help the integration of overseas students. In DMEM the department supported students to revitalise the DMEM Society and students organised company visits, social events and designed a DMEM ‘hoody’ jacket. It has been observed that this has improved the esprit de corps of the students. In Civil Engineering the student experience was enhanced by upgrading the social and study facilities in two rooms and increasing student society activities to promote collegiality.
EEE postgraduate students requested a common room and work will be undertaken to ensure that this is addressed in 09/10. Some EEE students complained that they could not always understand lecture notes because of difficulties with the English language. The Department will emphasise the availability of sessional English classes early in semester 09/10. There were complaints about the class on Computer Technology and Modern Programming Concepts because some students did not have sufficient background in programming to cope with the content. This will be addressed in 09/10 by reviewing the module content and the manner of its presentation.
The NAME Course Team had two major concerns in 08/09: the poor performance of first and second year students from Greece, and general disappointment in the second year cohort who showed poor attendance in spite of attempts by staff to overcome this. The background of these students will be investigated and, if appropriate, more stringent entry requirements will be imposed.
NCPO changed the focus of the first year induction to include more on academic matters and increase the Health and Safety content. More role play was also included in the first year curriculum to build the students’ communication skills with patients, and building on the success of this, role play was also introduced to the second year curriculum.
4.9 Has the Faculty introduced any other initiatives for feedback other than the above? The Student Experience Champion in DMEM coordinated a Working Group to identify ways to improve student experience in DMEM. Nine identified priority areas and eighteen agreed actions were addressed by an Implementation Group from Semester 1 in 2008/09. The Group prioritised the recommendations and piloted the simplest, most practical solutions that could be put in place quickly with maximum effect. These included feedback, student workload, PDP, exhibition of student work and the set up of a graduate network (DMEM Reunited) and will be rolled out in 2009/10.
Students did not consider anything other than one-to-one comment on individual performance in each assessment as legitimate feedback. A pilot was run at the end of semester 1 with years 4 and 5. Timetabled over one week after the January exam results were published, each Class Registrar held an optional 1 hour slot where they were available to discuss coursework and assessment feedback sheets and how students could improve. Students were told it was not a forum for negotiating marks but to discuss improvement strategies. The arrangement was popular with students although it was generally the better students who attended.
A general drop-in feedback session was also run for students in years 4 and 5 where several members of staff were available to discuss individual credit totals, average marks from each year and the effect of these on final degree outcome. The session was very well attended and useful in addressing ambiguity and rumours about the calculation of marks.
After these pilot studies and in advance of the NSS, a poster was displayed around the Department to advertise that the sessions had taken place, highlighting that this was feedback, and informing other year groups that the feedback sessions would be rolled out to them next session. The poster was produced by the Academic Office to match the wording and format of the University’s NSS posters.
In both semesters of 2009/10 there will be a one hour drop-in module feedback session for every class in every year group, and a one hour slot for general feedback, advertised as ‘Feedback Week’. Every Module Leader has been asked to include on the MDF the dates when feedback will be provided so that it’s clear when students go over the MDF in class at the start of the semester. As well as this formal mechanism, they get informal feedback in classes, labs, private meetings etc.
The pilot showed that Feedback Week could be timetabled into a teaching week. Feedback slots did not clash with other classes for that year, and students who couldn’t attend session could make a private appointment. There might be scheduling complications if the teaching timetable included options from other departments or faculties.
4.10 Has the Faculty taken any steps to address any generic issues raised by the Departments? The Faculty is working with Estates to mitigate the effects of planning blight which has widely affected departments. Due to the evolving Estates plan, plans for a Bioengineering PGI student study room have been put on hold until the detailed aspects of the Estates Development Framework (EDF) are known. The ongoing uncertainty over the detailed aspects of the EDF has been highlighted by Mechanical Engineering as potentially problematic as this may restrict opportunities for investment in teaching lab infrastructure. Uncertainty about the fate of the Royal College and its possible replacement has led to some disquiet within EEE that future estate issues will be subjected to planning blight.
The Faculty Office met with Registry to discuss the need for the Registry schedules to be adapted to suit PGI Exam Boards. There were considerable problems relating to Exam Board schedules and results processing resulting from the change in Registry from Faculty-facing to team-based working. For example, Mechanical Engineering has assessed many classes by continuous assessment for many years. The formal examination diets in January and May have been used to provide students with a second attempt. Consequently, Mechanical Engineering do not have any resit examinations in August. Some students in June were therefore awarded “Proceed” decisions since they had the appropriate number of credits and no further attempts until academic year 2009-10. Although the exam board schedules were annotated correctly, Registry changed these “Proceed” decisions to “Resit” and caused a considerable panic amongst a sub set of students. The Faculty Office has met with Registry to address these problems and will continue to work with Registry to ensure these difficulties are resolved for the coming diet of Examination Boards.
The Faculty has adopted a set of guidelines for PGI Examination Boards that insists that Registry schedules must be used: this ensures that PGI marks are submitted to Registry in a timely manner. However, unlike undergraduate degrees, it is the September Boards that require the calculation of an overall average mark and this becomes problematic if the marks for January/May exam passes are replaced by a ‘+’ on the September schedules.