Crossfields Institute Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy

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1 Crossfields Institute Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy Were all instructors to realise that the quality of the mental process not the production of correct answers, is the measure of educative growth, something hardly less that a revolution would be worked. John Dewey, Education and Democracy (1916). In developing this strategy and considering our approach to learning, teaching and assessment the words of John Dewey are relevant because we ask our students to engage with new questions and to be faced with problems that they think are important and relevant to their own lives; this, we believe, encourages participation which goes beyond just gaining credit and passing exams. Introduction. Crossfields Institute Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy is inspired by a Holistic and Integrative approach to education with the aim of engaging a diversity of learners to develop their inherent capacities within an environment of mutual respect, safety and support. Teaching and Learning at Crossfields Institute is not just a process of the transmission and transaction of knowledge, but recognises the distinctive abilities of every student for self guided, intelligent and creative thinking and we strive to foster a less materialistic and a more spiritual worldview along with more dynamic and holistic views of reality. We also cultivate an educational experience that promotes a more balanced development of the different aspects of the individual from an intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional, social and aesthetic perspective. The diagram below encapsulates our approach and provides an orientation or a lens through which we can look at three continua that demonstrate the connection between: - (Horizontal) teaching, assessment and learning integrative education where there are permeable, rather than fixed boundaries between different levels of engagement. - (Vertical) cognition, reflection / reflexivity and action the integration of the whole human being in the teaching, learning and assessment process. - Past, present and future, where the human being is at the moment in their biography and (cognitive, reflective and active) development. Looking at each element in isolation will only create fragmented engagement and a fragmented result. Looking at all of the elements as related parts of a whole, taking into account the relationships between them, whilst being able to acknowledge their different characteristics and expressions, will create an holistic and integrative approach. In the teaching, learning and assessment processes, we are striving for the recognition of each person in context of where the person is at any given time. This, then, has to be considered in the context of where the person has placed himself or herself in that moment in their biography, i.e. in the learning process of a qualification or programme. 1

2 As well as being conscious of the teaching, learning and assessment continuum, we are also required to be conscious of the interrelationship between the different abilities of cognition, reflection and action and their potential. An integrative and holistic approach to teaching, learning and assessment as outlined above, acknowledges the diverse needs, gifts, qualities and talents of each individual. We thereby recognise each individual s intellectual, emotional, social, physical, artistic, creative and spiritual potentials and in doing so we embrace a rich diversity of students, learners and their different learning styles. Teaching and learning are the key areas in which the unique Crossfields Institute approach finds its full expression. In teaching it is recognizes that you, as an individual are an autonomous learner with varying degrees of skills, knowledge and experience, so we strive to recognize the context of where you are at any given time and of where you have placed yourself in that moment in your biography. It is, therefore, our intention to integrate your life experience with the course content so that it becomes more embedded knowledge. A key aspect of this is the recognition of individual freedom and personal autonomy as one way to educate each individual s sense of social, cultural and environmental responsibility. 2

3 This means for you that more emphasis is placed on the relationship between teacher and student that recognises you as an individual to enable your development as a critical, confident, independent person with the critical faculties that enable action in real life situations. Research, reflective and reflexive practice. All members of Faculty provide you with the knowledge, skills and tools to undertake academic research. You will be invited to take an active role in contextual research activities and work closely with the faculty to understand how academic research is performed, organized and disseminated in your relevant profession. You will gain the skills to deal with complex issues, demonstrate sound judgement and act autonomously in planning and implementing your own research. Faculty works to ensure that you develop a range of reflective and reflexive capacities. It is important that such capacities can lead to academic achievement and offer a foundation for professional success. The creative, artistic, critical, reflective and reflexive skills base are assessed using a range of methodologies and modes. Therefore, reflective practice and action research is central to our teaching and learning strategy so we are all reflective practitioners who continuously engage in critical reflection to remain fluid in our teaching methods in the dynamic and changing environment of each teaching and learning space. With the challenges of a rapidly evolving society, reflective practice informs and underpins our teaching styles to meet all your social, academic and emotional needs. This means for you that we encourage an honest self-awareness based on reflective practice which will enable you to be self-motivated, to take personal responsibility for you own actions and embrace opportunities for self-development. This will further your intellectual capacity to be independent and creative in your thinking and to be effective in the way you approach and begin to solve problems. We take the student-centered model of learning that encourages teachers to view their students as academic partners who work together to produce relevant and meaningful learning experiences. Teaching is therefore a facilitated learning partnership based on a reciprocal exchange of skills and knowledge where you as the learner are guided to your own knowledge rather than feeding you facts. Central to the philosophy of student learning is the idea that each individual has the potential to do things beyond the range of their current performance; our teaching is therefore aligned to the level of potential development than to your actual level of development. On this basis you will be encouraged to reflect on your experiences and on the responses of others so that your aims for the future remain in our mutual consciousness enabling the desired successful outcome. This means for you that you are actively involved in your own learning with the interaction of your own peers. This enables a reciprocal exchange of skills knowledge to give you the ability to engage with learning on a deeper level leading to the acquirement of a range of learning strategies and the building of confidence. 3

4 The Learning Environment. In the creation of our learning spaces we promote the idea that students should feel safe to bring their whole selves, including their dreams and vulnerabilities, into the learning spaces; they should find a welcoming space that honors their individuality and their struggles yet still encourages personal and collective responsibility. We therefore aim to provide a learning environment that inspires collaboration, dialogue and appropriate social responsibility. Our conviction is that learning experiences can be gained in many different forms including virtual learning forums and is not limited to lecture halls, seminar rooms or classrooms but that learning happens in a range of environments. Sustainable Education. We are committed to an education for sustainable development as outlined in the recently published guidelines by the QAA. Our learning, teaching and assessment strategy is aligned with many of the principles discussed in their findings. Our strategy will therefore equip you with the knowledge understanding, skills and attributes needed to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic well-being, both in the present and future generations. This also involves the idea of personal responsibility, individual autonomy and conscious action to effectively promote your involvement and engagement as a learner, the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility. This means you will be encouraged to consider the concepts of global citizenship and environmental stewardship and to think about issues of social justice, well being and ethics. You will be asked to develop the ability to recognise the connections and interactions between factors and understand that actions have multiple consequences. Assessment. The Crossfields Institute approach to assessment has to be considered within the broad framework of teaching and learning. Teaching and learning are the key areas in which the distinctive Crossfields Institute approach finds its full expression. Assessment is an integral and central part of this, however, it should also be recognized as holding a slightly different status due to the function that assessment carries out within teaching and learning. To clarify this, there are two things to consider: Assessment is the means by which a teaching and learning programme finds parity with other programmes. It is also the means through which students can progress from the programme into other programmes or institutions. For that reason assessment has to be part of commonly agreed standards and criteria, otherwise the programme would have no 'currency'. Whereas teaching and learning can rightly engage with the 'whole' human being (ie, it connects with deep intention and what we are as human beings at the most essential level), assessment is much more bounded. For example, it would be wrong to assess the level that someone has reached as a human being, or assess moral/spiritual/ethical development. This means that assessment - at least in the formal 'qualification' sense - has a more limited reach than teaching and learning. This is not changed by the fact that 4

5 assessment also plays a 'formative' role in that it supports teaching and learning. Assessment strategy Given the above, the Crossfields Institute strategy for assessment is not 'holistic' in the sense of holistic teaching and learning. The whole human being cannot and should not be assessed in the formal sense. This does not mean that Crossfields Institute does not have a holistic approach to teaching learning and assessment; it means that within the practice of holistic teaching and learning, assessment holds a specific place. The key term that can describe the role that assessment plays within the Crossfields Institute LTA strategy is appropriate. This is an innocuous little word but it contains a lot. Something is appropriate when it matches the context. In assessment, the learner, the subject, the level, and the external requirements define this context. What has to be matched to this is the assessment method. The approach that Crossfields Institute takes towards assessment is to empower the assessor to select and use the right assessment method(s) for the context. This is a skilled and subtle task that requires real practical familiarity with the full range of accepted and recognised assessment methods, and the ability to apply these in a creative way to meet the demands of the context while also supporting the learning process. At Crossfields Institute there are two key steps to ensuring 'appropriate' assessment within a given programme. This first is to be clear about the assessment strategy from the very beginning and include this in the programme development process. The second is to provide in-depth training in the full range of assessment methods for everyone involved in the assessment process. This means for you that we employ appropriate and inclusive assessment methods that provide clear marking criteria that are both equitable and manageable. We ensure a variety of formative and summative assessment methods are utilised and strive to provide prompt and speedy feedback is prompt so you can reflect on your work in a timely way to effectively measure your own progress. Enhancing Academic Quality. To support the LTA Strategy we have developed rigorous and innovative internal and external quality systems that align with, and are guided by, the QAA UK Quality Code that states we should actively promote the inclusion and participation of students in quality enhancement and quality assurance processes to improve educational experiences. These comprise of: The monitoring of the quality of our LTA by conducting regular feedback and discussion sessions with our students that includes the aim of building trust between faculty and students and developing a reciprocal relationship that empowers students to shape their learning experience. On-going staff training through a range of development opportunities such as conferences, workshops with experts and the creation of communities of practice, the content of which inform our curriculum development and our learning, teaching and 5

6 assessment strategies. Summary Sufficient and appropriate external involvement that exists to monitor, maintain and enhance academic standards and the quality of learning opportunities for all students. In alignment with the overarching values of the QAA s Quality Code and Crossfields Institute Mission Statement we: Ensure all students are treated fairly and with dignity, courtesy and respect and are given opportunities to actively shape their learning experience. Ensure all policies, procedures and processes relating to study are clear and transparent and are regularly and effectively monitored reviewed and improved. Review date: July

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