Saturday, August 02, 2008

Want to work in a University City on the Atlantic coast?

Learning Outcomes. ECTS, Bologna, Constructive Alignment - key terms that for some academic staff (mainly those on the 'traditionalist' wing of the community!) cause foaming at the mouth and general apoplexy. However, the unfortunate aspect of so much of the 'debate' about trends in higher education (as seen across the water in the UK) is that so often ideas which might be pretty sensible in their own right are labeled as being part of the broader managerialist/neo-liberal commodification process. There are strong reasons for such suspicions of course and often such ideas are presented in the context of change which favours 'flexibility' and a mix and match approach to constructing degree programmes from interchangeable modules.

However, the basic concept of being clear in our own minds as to what we expect that students should be able to achieve as a result of actively engaging in a particular course or module, and communicating those expectations to students is surely just an application of basic common sense. Indeed, it might be argued that by doing so explicitly (though not robotically in long, bland lists of over-mechanistic, low level objectives) and ensuring that our assessments really do match our intentions then we are making our own work more manageable as well as bringing the students' responsibilities to engage and take responsibility for their own progress more to the fore. Of course, many academics have long being doing this on educational rather than bureaucratic grounds and have a pragmatic approach towards matching the ideal to the practicalities of large class sizes, etc. It seems perhaps part of the problem is in the labelling and the application of jargon that raises suspicion?

Anyway, as part of a project with a nearby institution (GMIT) we here in NUI Galway will be exploring many of these issues and running a series of workshops, assisting course leaders and others in looking at aims, objectives and practical approaches to assessment. We currently have a vacancy for a two year post for an "Educational Developer" to take responsibility for this work as part of a roll-out of a broader institutional strategy. It'll be a stimulating but ultimately rewarding and enjoyable post, working with an enthusiastic team of colleagues in a small but vibrant university environment in a lovely, culturally rich city! Anyone interested can get more details and application information from our formal website. The deadline is August 15th, so hurry! The position would be suitable for candidates from a range of backgrounds including academic staff who fancy a secondment or others with experience of learning outcomes and curriculum development.

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