Teviotdale, Wilma and Clancy, David (2014) Implementing a change initiative within a university department of accountancy and finance to improve teacher practice and student learning. In: Higher Education Close Up Research Making a Difference, 21st - 23rd July 2014, Lancaster University.

This paper describes a module review research project undertaken within a university Department of Accountancy and Finance. It is based on a policy and change practice approach to help staff in the ‘Scholarship of Teaching and Learning’ (SoTL) so that they develop and adopt new practices or enhance existing practices.
The reason for this initiative has its foundations in the review of the university strategic direction (macro level), which was undertaken in the summer of 2013. This resulted in a five year strategy map covering the period 2013-2018. Within the strategy map are a number of ‘key performance indicators’ (KPIs) that will be used to evaluate progress over the coming years. One of the KPIs is that 70% of undergraduate students by 2018 will be attaining a first or upper second class degree. To reach this target requires a period of change to teaching, learning and assessment practices and processes; there was a need to encourage staff to change their practices, given that entry tariff points for undergraduates had been raised already as one contributory factor.
However, data to identify ‘issues’ was insufficient to support staff in diagnosing areas of apparent under performance across the range of modules in undergraduate study, in addition to identifying areas of good practice where performance was higher. The department therefore took the initiative to investigate staff and student views on a number of modules where a crude measure of average performance was used in the absence of more detailed data (either below or well above average for a cohort of students). This would allow comparisons to be made and permit aspects of best practice to be utilised in areas that required an intervention while making sure that staff leading the identified modules were closely involved in the change practice to ensure commitment and sustainability of changes.

If we look at the literature, one can sympathise with the argument put forward by Delpit (as cited in Heimens, 2012) that there is a push for educators to raise test scores rather than emphasising the development of people; that is, teachers and learners in higher education. However, teachers can circumvent the system by acting as ‘street level bureaucrats’ (Lipsky, as cited in Heimans, 2012). Here there is an ongoing interplay between micro and macro level education, whereby actors influence the environment in a ‘bottom-up’ process (Archer, 2010). Thus, policies and procedures are re-interpreted for implementation below macro level. This research project aims to bring about real change and improvement including developing staff ability to engage in future improvement projects.

Lancaster_HECU7_Conference_Paper_2014.pdf - Accepted Version

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