Interactive Discussion: Building capacity for subject quality assurance through peer review; insights to a community of practice in SAHESS

Presenter: Caroline Robinson

Co-presenter(s): Kristen Andrews, Lisa Brown, Michael Chang, Jack Cannon, Kylie Dobson, Victoria Gordon, Helen Harrington, Chris Plant, Linda Wilson, Helen Gorman (DLT)

Faculty / Division: Faculty of Science and Health

School / Unit: SAHESS

Session Type: Interactive Discussion

Session Number: 2

When: Tuesday 15th November at 11:15 am

Zoom link: Passcode: 042341


The core purpose of Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA)1 is to enable quality assurance for higher education and university providers must demonstrate that they meet the requirements of The Higher Education Standards Framework (Threshold Standards) 20212, which is structured to align with the student experience. One of the early experiences for a student commencing university study, is their encounter with subject outlines. These documents provide comprehensive information about a specific subject offering and must comply with Academic Senate regulations to assure consistency; accessibility; integration; usability; and visibility (CSU)3. In practice, however, the quality of published subject outlines is variable within and between disciplines. This discussion will focus on the development of a Community of Practice (CoP) in the School of Allied Health, Exercise and Sports Sciences (SAHESS), with the purpose of enabling subject quality assurance through peer review. SAHESS was launched as a new school in July 2021, comprising six disciplines: exercise and sports science; exercise physiology; occupational therapy; physiotherapy; podiatry; and speech pathology. On average, the school has 105 subject offerings each session (30 and 60) and the time required to undertake an effective review of each of these subject outlines is considerable. Additionally, if only one or two people have responsibility for quality assurance of subject outlines across the school, there is a potential risk for disciplinary bias. A QA team was formed in December 2021 with the intention to enable subject quality assurance through interdisciplinary peer review and build capacity through peer support. Following a trial in 202230 and 202260, all members of the QA team collated notes about their experience in reviewing subject outlines. A thematic analysis of these notes generated eight major themes which the group considered were most relevant to assuring a quality student experience: student-focused language; a manageable assessment load; scaffolding of assessment tasks; rubrics with clear scaffolding; clear, concise and unambiguous level descriptors; interesting and useful assessment items; creative modes of assessment; and secure assessment design. A Digital Media Technologist assisted with the design of an infographic which will be a resource for subject outline authors and QA officers, to focus attention on the presentation and language used in subject outlines. The benefits of this CoP for interdisciplinary learning and professional development, extended beyond the QA role: ‘it’s interesting to see different modes and types of assessment. Peer review enables insight to different L&T approaches and reflection on practice’. ‘a fresh set of eyes on a subject outline and an extra-disciplinary perspective is valuable. There is a risk of subject conveners running with the same old format year after year’. ‘peer review has also enabled connections and an opportunity to network with other staff in the school’. This CoP has provided a safe and supportive environment to improve the quality of subject outlines and the clarity of expectations for students. In turn, this work will build capacity of academic staff to implement best practice in assessment design and ultimately, enhance the student experience. Reference sources: 1. 2. 3.