David Hopkins provided a useful summary of educational change approaches in an old (-ish) paper for the Generic Learning and Teaching Subject Network. In an attempt to ‘institutionalise’ inclusive teaching learning and assessment I developed a change initiative in an HEI I worked in recently, which had features built into it that went beyond implementation.
After a small working group was set up to review approaches to government changes to DSA funded support I realised that something much more embedded was required than just another short term task and finish group made up of the already converted.
Having seen many an initiative come and go with little long term impact I tried to utilise as many aspects of Hopkins’ suggestions as possible as changes to beliefs and values require much more than a few champions dotted around the university. And so the ‘Inclusive, learning and teaching framework’ (ILTAF) was born.
Based on previous attempts at ‘auditing’ institutional efforts around disability and equality, I produced a tool which was short and simple enough to ensure completion but complex and broad enough to ensure that some depth of thought was required for departments to complete it. But here’s the rub: the process of filling out the framework (after feedback I stayed away from the dreaded ‘a’ word) had to be built into high level committee structures, sanctioned by high level managers and required an ongoing commitment to embed change.
How was this achieved?
- Persistence – a number of years of change initiatives (HEA change programme; embedding inclusion into PGCert route; membership of an assessment working group in which inclusive practice was discussed).
- Consultation – the framework went through every possible committee available which had some link to student experience and/or teaching and learning. And changes incorporated into the design of the tool.
- Attention to change theory – I wrote an earlier post on Fullan’s work and Hopkins’ paper provides further guidance.
- Innovative tool design. The framework covers many aspects of teaching, learning, assessment and quality assurance. It is also self-rating so academic staff take ownership and do not feel threatened by outside judgement. It would have been pointless getting central services to ‘audit’ current practice.
The framework also worked on all levels of policy implementation as recommended by Fullan for educational change initiatives:
- Ratified by senior management: TOP DOWN
- Academic managers were given responsibility for completion and return of the framework by a deadline. They completed the tool in consultation with course teams but importantly the tool was sent out by the Registrar’s department (not the disability office): MIDDLE OUT
- It is based on actual (not normative) practice: BOTTOM UP
Built into the tool is a scoring system – but a potential problem with the self-assessment is how honest would the departments were going to be (no one wants to create work for themselves or leave themselves open to negative criticism). However, these anxieties were countered by requiring departments to give examples and provide case studies of areas in which they scored themselves the highest grade i.e. a 4 or a 5. And departments were given the responsibility of feeding this practice back to other departments. In this way internal expertise was developed and disseminated from within academic departments. We also developed webpages to support initial thought processes and it was intended to populate these pages with case studies and examples of practice. A national conference was also organised.
If departments scored themselves 3 or under they were required to develop an action plan for the next 2 academic years for improvement.
The tool needed to be completed again after those two years so that upward growth and improvement could be achieved. Changes would be made to the ranking system so that the achievement of the highest scoring became more challenging. It was also intended that students would fill out the framework after the first round to provide the student voice and to compare student experience with academic practice.