Supporting the transition from HND social sciences into BPS accredited second year psychology degrees.

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1 Supporting the transition from HND social sciences into BPS accredited second year psychology degrees. Report from a joint Further Education and Higher Education psychology working group, facilitated by the Higher Education Academy Psychology Network and supported by the Scottish Funding Council (October 2006) A project funded by

2 Supporting the transition from HND social sciences into BPS accredited second year psychology degrees Report from a joint Further Education and Higher Education psychology working group, facilitated by the Higher Education Academy Psychology Network and supported by the Scottish Funding Council (October 2006) Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, it does not constitute legal or other professional advice. The Higher Education Academy does not accept any legal responsibility for any errors, omissions or misleading statements (caused by negligence or otherwise). The Higher Education Academy does not assume any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in this guide. This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the Higher Education Academy Psychology Network.

3 Contents Executive summary 3 Background 4 Introduction 5 Part 1: Mapping and comparing psychology content in first year HEIs with relevant provision in the 6 HND social sciences curriculum in Scotland Part 2: A comparison of the quality assurance processes used in HEIs and Scotland s colleges 18 Part 3: Recommendations to institutions and students to facilitate second year undergraduate admission for HND social sciences students 20 Conclusions and recommendations 22 Appendix 1 Appendix 2 Appendix 3 Appendix 4 BPS regulations with regard to second and third year entry to psychology degrees 23 Details of survey sent to all Scottish universities currently offering an undergraduate degree in psychology 24 Content of the first year (SCQF Level 7) and second year (SCQF Level 8) psychology curriculum in Scotland s colleges 25 Relevant topics and subtopics studied in the HND social sciences between years one and two 31 Appendix 5 Comparative quality assurance processes for Level 8 psychology in HEIs and Scottish colleges 32 Appendix 6 Appendix 7 Appendix 8 Advice to students and Scotland s colleges regarding the UCAS application 38 Ten FAQs from HND students interested in studying psychology at university 40 Recommendations to HND tutors: writing a good academic reference for the UCAS form 43 2

4 Executive summary Under the auspices of the Higher Education Academy Psychology Network, and supported by the Scottish Funding Council, a small working group with representatives from Scottish colleges and higher education institutions was set up with the objective of investigating any pedagogical objections which could be a barrier to transition for students with an Higher National Diploma (HND) in social sciences articulating to second year British Psychological Society (BPS) accredited degrees in psychology. To investigate possible gaps in psychological content between the newly-validated HND social sciences and that of first year undergraduate courses in higher education institutions (HEIs), a survey of the course content, delivery and assessment methodology of undergraduate psychology courses was undertaken. The findings were then compared with those in the psychology component delivered in the newly validated (May 2006) HND social sciences. The survey showed that there was a communality of content between the psychology curricula of the HND and first year undergraduate courses in Scottish HEIs, and that the delivery and assessment methods needed for the successful completion of the HND were comparable. To assess the likely consistency of delivery between the HEI sector and Scotland s colleges a comparison of the main quality assurance procedures determined by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and HM Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) were undertaken. Information from the following four areas was examined: resource review; content review; assignments setting, undertaking and grading; and recording processes. The exercise showed clearly that there were rigorous quality assurance mechanisms in place in Scottish colleges which compared well to those present in HEIs. The report concludes that, within Scotland, there are no pedagogical barriers to second year entry to psychology courses for HND social science students qualified under the newly validated format. Several recommendations emerged to improve HND/HEI transition into second year psychology degrees, including: provision of SPSS licences and tutor training across Scotland s colleges; matching of optional topics by course leaders in colleges to those widely used in universities; and wide distribution of this report to all interested parties. A number of short advice and recommendation documents aimed at students, college tutors and HEI admission officers are included in this document to assist greater transparency and clarity with regard to Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) applications and admission to HEIs (see appendices). 3

5 Background The Higher Education Academy was established in 2004 with the aim of enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in higher education. The Higher Education Academy Psychology Network 1 works across the UK to improve the learning experience of psychology students in higher education and has a Scottish presence to provide regional support. Recognising that the institutional landscape for education in Scotland is considerably different from the rest of the UK, the Psychology Network carried out a review of access to psychology in Scotland s colleges with the aim of extending its support for psychology taught in the Social Science HNC/D 2. This review established there were issues around the transition of HND qualified Social Science students entering second year undergraduate study with a number of universities not permitting direct entry into second year. The blockage appears to be where the HND social science students wish to articulate to single honours/bps accredited degrees in psychology. In addition it was recognised that the structure of the SQA HNC/HND was changing, with many subjects, including social sciences being restructured and re-validated. This restructuring designed around the principle of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) credit points, makes comparison between subjects taught in Scotland s colleges and HEIs more apparent, removing at least some of the difficulties in transition from HND courses to HEI courses. Whilst it is acknowledged that there are many factors which influence university admission policies, a major issue for universities is parity of curriculum, both in course and level content. In order to look at this issue within psychology, a small working group made up of representatives from Scotland s colleges and HEIs was set up with the objective of investigating pedagogical objections which may be a barrier to transition for students with an HND in social sciences articulating to BPS accredited degrees in psychology. This report details the findings of this group, along with recommendations for change. It has been facilitated by the Psychology Network and funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Members of the working group Psychology Network representatives Scottish HEI representatives Scotland s colleges representatives Dr Deirdre Kelly (Project Co-ordinator) Dr Siobhan MacAndrew (Scottish Co-ordinator) DrTony Anderson (Strathclyde University) Dr Maire Brennan (Napier University) Ms Carolyn Laird (Motherwell College) Mr Gerry Keegan (Kilmarnock College) 1 2 HEAPN Survey July 2005 (unpublished). 4

6 Introduction Objectives The primary objective of the group was to produce a report which investigates any pedagogical objections which could be a barrier to qualified HND applicants obtaining second year undergraduate entry to psychology degrees and to make recommendations for change where appropriate. The group focused on two potential factors mitigating against entry to university with advanced standing. These were differences in curriculum content between universities and colleges and a potential inconsistency of delivery among Scotland s colleges. During the course of the workgroup review, a secondary objective emerged which was to make the content and assessment methodologies of the first year Scottish undergraduate psychology courses and HND courses more transparent. The dissemination of this information will enable mutual understanding of both the capability of HND qualified students and the HEI requirements for second year entry. There are three separate, but related, elements to this document: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Mapping and comparing psychology content in first year HEIs with relevant provision in the HND social sciences curriculum A comparison of the quality assurance processes used in HEIs and Scotland s colleges Recommendations and advice to institutions and students to facilitate admission for HND social science students to second year degree courses 5

7 Part 1: Mapping and comparing psychology content in first year HEIs with relevant provision in the HND social sciences curriculum in Scotland Background: the role of the British Psychological Society in degree accreditation The BPS is the representative body for psychology and psychologists in the UK. The Society s main aims are: to encourage the development of psychology as a scientific discipline and as an applied profession; to raise standards of training and practice in the application of psychology; and to raise public awareness of psychology and increase the influence of psychological practice in society. As such, the society sets and monitors the standards of training and qualification in the UK. There appears to be some confusion around the requirements for BPS accreditation, with some universities citing the BPS accreditation rules as a reason for not offering entry with advanced standing to qualified HND students. However, the BPS gives very explicit guidelines on this issue. Appendix 1 (page 23) outlines the extracts from the BPS undergraduate accreditation documents which stipulate relevant conditions, it can be seen that accreditation is possible for all students gaining direct entry into university with HNDs up to the third year (SCQF level 09). The working group determined that as the majority of students tend to apply for second year entry (SCQF level 08) with applications for entry at third year (SCQF level 09) occurring by exception only this document should focus only on barriers that inhibit second year entry. Mapping HEI curriculum content An on-line questionnaire was sent out to all accredited undergraduate psychology courses in Scotland to ascertain what they deliver in year one of the university course (SCQF level 07). This exercise identified subject-based knowledge and generic skills possessed by the typical university student directly entering the second year of study. This was compared with the content in the HND in social sciences. The details requested in the questionnaire included: teaching time per topic (lectures, tutorials,); depth of topic coverage; practical work per topic; and assessment methodology. Since many universities have different course descriptors for similar curriculum content, it was decided to map Scottish first year course content by the main cognate areas of the BPS core areas, and to ask respondents to describe the delivery under each category. The BPS core areas comprise six main categories: research design and statistical analysis, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, personality and individual differences, and psychobiology. The survey asked for a breakdown of sub-topics within each broad subject heading, as well as details about the subject content, nature and duration of teaching and assessment methods. 6

8 A total of 14 institutions were contacted by and asked to complete the curriculum pro-forma for first year undergraduate (SCFQ level 07). These were; University of Aberdeen, University of Abertay, University of Dundee, University of Strathclyde, University of St. Andrews, Glasgow Caledonian University, Heriot-Watt University, University of Stirling, Napier University, Paisley University, Queen Margaret University College, Open University, University of Edinburgh and the University of Glasgow. Of those universities contacted 13 responded, 10 returned the questionnaire in full, and 3 universities were unable to fill in the questionnaire reasoning that their first year psychology was of a very general introductory nature. The ten universities who filled in the questionnaire reported delivering a range of topics and subtopics. This information is detailed in Appendix 2 (page 24) and summarised in Tables 1 and 2. 7

9 Table 1. Summary of university survey of psychology topic and sub-topic delivery in Year 1 Topic delivery Number delivering topic / Number of responses Research design and statistical analysis Cognitive psychology Developmental psychology Social psychology Personality and individual differences 10/10 Basic experiment design and control Confirmed Sub-topic delivery Number delivering subtopic / Number delivering main topic 10/10 Concept of statistical significance 10/10 Descriptive statistics 10/10 Inferential statistics 10/10 Introduction to SPSS Additional subtopic delivery 6/10 Philosophy of social science, Qualitative research, APA report writing, Ethics, 10/10 Attention 10/10 Memory 10/10 Perception 9/10 Language 7/10 Learning 8/10 Thinking 8/10 Biological dev. and genetics 10/10 Attitudes and attitude change 9/10 Theories of personality Psychobiology 8/10 Foundations psychobiology 8/8 Cognitive development 8/10 Social perception 8/9 Theories of intelligence 8/8 Biological. aspects psychobiology 8/8 Social development 9/10 Social influence 7/9 Theoretical approaches to individual differences 8/8 Animal cognition 8/8 Moral development, Emotional development, Development psychopathology, Adulthood and ageing 8/10 Prosocial behaviour, Small group processes, Self perception, Attitude measurement, Interpersonal attraction, Social exchange 8/9 Emotion, Motivation, Personality and assessment, Reliability and validity, Cultural differences 4/8 Neuropsychology 8

10 Table 2. Average delivery duration and assessment types for first year (SCQF level 07) psychology topics Lectures or tutorials (mean hours per year) Laboratory classes (mean hours per year) Research design and statistical analysis Cognitive psychology Developmental psychology Social psychology Personality and individual differences Psychobiology 14.4 (19%) 15.6 (21%) 9.7 (13%) 11.9 (16%) 10.4 (14%) 13.4 (17 %) (61%) 2.9 (12%) 0.75 (3%) 1.9 (8%) 1.6 (7%) 2.1 (9%) Average total (hours per year) Assessment type Laboratory report 5/10 5/10 2/8 6/10 4/9 4/8 26/55 (47%) Essay 4/10 4/10 3/8 4/10 6/9 2/8 23/55 (42%) Exam 6/10 10/10 8/8 9/10 8/9 8/8 49/55 (89%) 9

11 Analysis and discussion Variation in topics delivered There was considerable communality across the universities in the topics delivered in first year. Of the six topics outlined in the questionnaire, all universities delivered research design and statistical analysis, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Two universities did not cover developmental psychology, two did not cover psychobiology, and one university did not cover personality and individual differences. Within-topic variation As might be expected there were differences in topic content across the universities, but in general there were no significant discrepancies. Of all the topics, the content of the research design and statistical analysis was most similar with all universities delivering all of the sub-topics outlined. In contrast, the sub-topic covered least was animal cognition with only four out of eight universities delivering this content. Some universities have also outlined additional areas of sub-topic content. Variation in delivery time There are considerable differences in time spent on delivery and on laboratory work for each subtopic as well as assessment method adopted. These are illustrated in Table 2. Cognitive psychology and research design and statistics average 21% and 19% respectively on lecture and tutorial time, whilst the subjects with least time spent on delivery were developmental psychology and personality and individual differences which averaged between 13% and 14% respectively. It can be seen also that research design and statistics (as might be expected) had the highest laboratory time devoted to it (61%), whilst laboratory time recorded for the other topics ranged between 3-12%. It must be acknowledged, however, that the survey left some ambiguity about how these data were recorded, with some universities taking the approach that research design and statistics were intrinsic to all laboratory classes, and others that these were taught as separate topics in their own right. Variation in assessment method In terms of assessment methods there was considerable variation both between topics and between institutions. In general most topics were assessed using examinations (89%), with 47% using labs and 42% using essays. Laboratory assessments were used most for social psychology (60%), and least for developmental psychology (25%), whilst essays were used most for personality and individual differences (88%) and least for psychobiology (25%). Summary In summary, it can be seen that course topics in the first year of study in undergraduate psychology degrees are broadly similar, and whilst there are some differences in topic content, there is a broad degree of similarity across the HEIs. There was an emphasis on lectures and tutorial delivery both in research design and statistics and cognitive psychology which together averaged 40% of first year delivery, with 61% of all laboratory classes being in research design and statistics, in general and 12% in cognitive psychology. Most institutions favoured examinations in assessment (89%) but there was considerable variation in the use of essays and laboratory reports, both across topic areas and between institutions. 10

12 Mapping of the Relevant HND social sciences content Background: design principles for HND in social sciences The new design principles that govern the design of the HND social sciences were established by SQA in April Colleges have worked with SQA to design an award that is comparable in content and rigour to similar levels in HEIs. The current award was validated in May 2006 and was available for colleges to begin teaching in August The award is set at level 8 of the Scottish and Credit Qualifications Framework (SCQF) and uses units at levels 7 and 8 across the two years. In year 2 of the HND delivery the majority of (if not all) units are at level 8. The previous versions of the award will continue to be available to teach in Scotland s colleges until the last cohort finishes in June Currently, 18 colleges are offering HND in Social sciences. An online survey 3 was carried out to see when colleges would be switching to the new format. Of the 11 respondees the majority of colleges will have the first new format HND students graduating in 2009 (7/11), with students from the remaining four completing in The SQA social sciences award allows for psychology to be studied during the two years with one year at level 7 (SCQF) and one year at level 8 (SCQF). Graded units A key element in the recently revised HND social sciences is the inclusion of Graded units (an essential part of the SQA Design Principles). These are units designed to integrate the main aims of the award, which carry a grade of A, B or C on achievement of the unit. In HNC social sciences the Graded unit is an examination (at level 7 of SCQF). In HND social sciences there are three Graded units. One in year one an examination (at level 7 of SCQF) and two in year two one is an examination and one is a project (both at level 8 of SCQF). Within the three hour Graded unit examination in year one, students will be asked to answer a question on Research and Methodology and another two questions relating to disciplines studied during the course 4. The student will be able to choose which disciplines to answer (the opportunity is there for psychology). In the three hour examination in year two, students will be asked to answer a question on Research Issues and another two questions relating to disciplines studied during the second year of the course. The student will again be able to choose which disciplines to answer (the opportunity is there again for psychology). Within the project in year two, students will be given an opportunity to carry out research on a topic relating to one discipline. They may choose to research a topic relating to psychology. Graded units add a rigorous testing element to HNDs. Each one has specific criteria for judging grade (e.g., different aspects for an A grade compared to a C grade are made clear in the unit specifications and exemplars published by SQA). This clarity reduces the criticism of subjectivity often targeted at merits given for unit achievement over and above minimum required in previous versions of the awards. Comparative mapping with HEI curriculum content For practical comparison, the psychology subject content of the HND social sciences was also mapped out in the same format as that used to analyse the HEI first year curriculum. We examined HND coverage of the six main categories as defined by the 3 HEAPN on-line survey August Social science disciplines available within HND social sciences: economics, geography, history, philosophy, politics, psychology and sociology many students will study 3 or 4. 11

13 BPS as well as the sub-topic details and assessment types. The results are detailed in Appendix 3 (page 25) and summarised in Tables 3 and 4. It should be noted that there is a common strategy for social science units within this award to which the psychology units will adhere. This strategy sets out the compulsory requirements for examinations which must comprise closed book 4 assessments of unseen questions for the 40 hour units, with an examination and an essay or report for the 80 hour units. Students will have studied other subject areas as well as psychology, which will also have exams and essays/reports as core assessments as per strategy. Closed book assessments are undertaken under exam conditions. All essays/reports will be authenticated as the student s own work as part of the quality assurance process. 4 This term describes examinations in which HND candidates are not permitted to consult notes or texts during the examination. 12

14 Table 3 Summary of psychology topic and sub-topic delivery in HNDs in colleges Topic delivery Confirmed Subtopic delivery Additional subtopic delivery C indicates core all colleges will deliver this, O indicates option that may be covered depending on topic choices within units Research design and statistical analysis Cognitive psychology Developmental psychology C Basic exper. design and control C Concept of statistical significance C Descriptive statistics C Inferential statistics C Introduction to SPSS * Philosophy of social science, Qualitative research, Report writing, Ethics C Attention O Memory O Perception O Language O Learning C Problem-solving O Biological dev. and genetics Social psychology O Attitudes and attitude change Personality and individual differences Psychobiology (Biological psychology) O C Theories of personality Foundations psychobiology C Cognitive development C Social development O Moral development, Lifespan Development, Adolescence and adulthood, Ageing O Social perception O Social influence O Prosocial and anti social behaviour, Group processes, Interpersonal attraction O C Theories of intelligence Biological. aspects psychobiology O Theoretical approaches to individual. differences O Abnormal behaviour C Animal cognition Emotion, Motivation, Consciousness and awareness, Reproductive behaviour, Addiction Some colleges may introduce a statistical package such as Stat-tutor or Excel rather than SPSS due to costs of licence. Additional topics covered include: Nature/Nurture Debate; Ethical Issues in Psychological Research; Reductionist/Holistic debate; psychology as a science; Freewill/determinism; and Idiographic/Nomothetic. These are taught in the context of the topics chosen above 13

15 Table 4 delivery duration and assessment in SQA units within HND social sciences Unit Name Hrs taught SQCF points 5 Psychology A: 40 hours 8 SCQF history and SCQF Level 7 points development of psychology Psychology B: explanation and research of psychological topics Psychology C: analysis and evaluation of psychological topics. Psychology D: the research process Compulsory units Research and methodology Research issues 80 hours SCQF Level 7 80 hours SCQF Level 8 40 hours SCQF Level 8 40 hours SCQF Level 7 40 hours SCQF Level 8 16 SCQF points 16 SCQF points 8 SCQF points 8 SCQF points 8 SCQF points Assessment methodology Units will be assessed by an exam style single instrument of assessment covering all unit outcomes. This will take the form of one essay or one structured assessment with stem, broken down into no more than two questions. The candidate response will be approximately 1,500 words. Candidates will not know the questions in advance. The use of notes, textbooks, handouts and other materials will not be permitted. This is undertaken in one sitting of two-three hours duration Units will be assessed using two instruments of assessment as follows: One closed-book exercise of unseen questions (exam) requiring a response of approximately 1,000 1,500 words. The use of notes, textbooks, handouts and other materials will not be permitted. This is undertaken in one sitting of two-three hours duration. One essay or report of approximately 2,000 words. Units will be assessed using two instruments of assessment as follows: One closed-book exercise of unseen questions (exam) requiring a response of approximately 1,000 1,500 words. The use of notes, textbooks, handouts and other materials will not be permitted. This is undertaken in one sitting of two-three hours duration. One essay/report of approximately 2,000 words. Units will be holistically assessed by a single instrument of assessment covering all unit outcomes. This will take the form of one essay or report of 2,000 3,000 words. This unit will be assessed by an exam style single instrument of assessment covering all unit outcomes. This will take the form of structured questions and stimuli. The candidate response will be approximately 1,500 words. Candidates will not know the questions in advance. The use of notes, textbooks, handouts and other materials will not be permitted with the exception of mathematical formulae which the tutor will give at start of the exam. This is undertaken in one two-three hours sitting. This unit is assessed by one single instrument of assessment This will take the form of one essay/report/project of 2,000 2,500 words. 5 SQA units have an allowance for taught hours and for additional Study. 1 SCQF credit point equates to 10 hours study (both taught and self-study). Therefore 8 SCQF points = 80 hours of study. 14

16 Analysis and discussion Variation in topics delivered Within the psychology units there is a choice of topics to allow Scotland s colleges flexibility to teach what is of most interest to students and what topics best match the specialities of staff. All colleges will cover the five major schools of thought in psychology, (psychoanalytic, behaviourist, humanistic, biological and cognitive). Colleges then look to choose options within the psychology units offered on the HND syllabus. There are five general topic areas covering: cognitive processes; individual differences; developmental processes; social behaviour; and biological basis of behaviour. Within each of these areas is a further choice each year (See Appendix 4 on page 31). All colleges deliver Research and methodology and Research issues as individual units. research design and statistical analysis are developed further within the psychology B and psychology D units. Within-topic variation There are strong similarities in coverage between HND psychology units and degree programmes. As with the HEIs, the content of the research design and statistical analysis was similar, with all of the sub-topics outlined being delivered. Variation in delivery time As with the HEIs, there are differences from college to college in the amount of time spent on delivery in lectures and tutorials and on laboratory work. Most laboratory work will be on research methods and design. In psychology B and psychology D students design and carry out research and report on this. There may also be some ICT-based laboratory work to support Research methods and statistical analysis but the difficulty of obtaining licences for SPSS software has prevented many colleges from offering tuition on this. Colleges may deliver up to 25% of time in laboratory work as part of research design and statistics. This will include time taken in writing up laboratory reports. Overall, input regarding psychology subject content and research design and statistics is likely to take 240 hours of direct contact, with additional time allocated for directed study. Variation in assessment method In terms of assessment, SQA has a defined policy for the HND social sciences validated in May All colleges will adopt this policy for assessment within psychology and research methodology or research issues units (as well as with all social science units). This policy has resulted in an increase in examinations (closed book assessments with unseen questions). Each unit states clearly what the assessment strategy should be and external verifiers for SQA check that this is met. Summary As with HEIs the bulk of assessment in HND social sciences is exam-based with one third of assessment being essay, report or project work. There is an emphasis on lectures and tutorials with some laboratory work supplementing this in psychology and research methodology units. There will be differences in content delivered between colleges due to the particular choices they offer their students, but there is overlap and homogeneity in the majority of cases. 15

17 Comparison of the HND social science curriculum delivery and assessment with first year psychology degree. Communality of topics between HEIs and Scotland s colleges There is substantial communality in topics delivered between Scotland s colleges and HEIs. All of the six topics (summarising the BPS core areas) are offered in the HND social science either as an optional or core (compulsory) unit. The core topics offered by Scotland s colleges are research design and statistics, cognitive psychology and psychobiology. This compares well to HEIs, where all universities also delivered research design and statistics, and cognitive psychology, with psychobiology covered by 8/10 universities. The biggest difference in subject content appears to be that all universities deliver social psychology but this is an optional topic in Scotland s colleges. Comparison of within-topic variation It is difficult to make a comparison here since there is considerable sub-topic variation within each sector, but it is worth noting that all of the subtopics in research design and statistics are delivered by all of the institutions, both in HEIs and as a core sub-topic in Scotland s colleges. Similarly, the sub-topic delivered least often by the universities is animal cognition (4/8) which is also the only sub-topic not offered by Scotland s colleges. Comparison of delivery time Colleges deliver 240 hours of direct contact, which is made up of 25% laboratory work (60 hrs) and 75% direct teaching (190 hrs) as shown in Table 4. This compares very well to the average delivery provision in first year HEIs with average teaching times recorded at 75.4 hours (lectures and tutorials) and hours in laboratory work. Given that this is over a two year period and spans SCQF level 7 provision for the first year and level 8 for year two, it is clear that students from colleges are engaging with the subject matter for longer than students progressing within HEIs from year one to two. Comparison of assessment methodology In HEIs, examinations are the predominant assessment method (89%), followed by assessed laboratory reports (47%) and essays (42%). The assessment used by Scotland s colleges also majors in closed book examinations which make up twothirds of the assessments. They are compulsory in all units except Research issues and research processes for which an essay or project is required. There are also examinations in year one and in year two for the graded units, as well as a project in year two. Over the two years of an HND social sciences students are likely to have experienced approximately 16 examinations or closed book assessments under exam conditions (most of 2 to 3 hours) and eight to ten essays or reports. This does not include formative work during the course in the form of essays and reports for developing skills. Summary The comparative exercise into curriculum content and delivery duration has shown quite clearly that whilst there are a number of within and between sector differences in sub-topic delivery there are no substantive differences between the psychology curriculum in the HND social sciences and content areas in first year undergraduate courses in Scottish universities. Likewise, the report has outlined that the amount of teaching contact time for HEIs and Scotland s colleges are of the same order, with slightly more time offered in the HND programme. Both sectors have closed book unseen examinations as the predominant form of assessment. However the HND 16

18 social science also has one third of all assessments as essays or project work, but less than half of all universities have assessment by laboratory work or by essays. 17

19 Part 2: A comparison of the quality assurance processes used in Scotland s colleges and HEIs. Background and methodology The SQA 6 and the HMIE 7 both have a role in establishing consistency in course content, quality and standards in Scotland s colleges. There are many documents available which outline the quality assurance processes that are in place for the new HND social science. From a pragmatic view, it was decided to compare the processes directly with those that exist currently in higher education Institutions. Analysis and discussion The group contacted the SQA and HMIE with a list of areas that were identified as indicators of quality. We asked for information about four areas: Resource review Content review Assignments setting, undertaking and grading Recording processes Both the SQA and the HMIE provided information regarding the comparative processes, along with source references (See Appendix 5 for detailed information). Resource review In terms of resources, for the HND provision in social sciences there is an approval process by the SQA that ensures that human and physical resources are sufficient for the provision. HMIE undertake an evaluation of the deployment of the resources in their inspection process. These HMIE reviews also deal with accommodation, physical resources and staffing. Content review As part of SQA provision, HN units that comprise the HND social sciences are reviewed through the validation process. In terms of quality of learning and teaching, HMIE reviewers consider the relevance of programmes; in addition, the reviewers can assess the extent to which lesson content and lesson planning meet students needs and the demands of the level of the course. Assignments - setting, undertaking and grading In the setting of assignments, the processes of internal and external verification ensure that assignments are appropriate. SQA assist Scotland s colleges by producing exemplar materials, and the planning of assignments is covered in HMIE review. For the procedures that relate to the undertaking of assignments, the unit specification specifies evidence requirements; assessments conditions document these procedures. SQA also offer additional guidance on authentication of evidence. Each centre must adhere to requirements for an independent appeal procedure, documentation of regulations and security of assessment. HMIE reviewers assess the robustness of the assessment procedures. To demonstrate that assessments are valid and reliable, the processes of internal and external verification are designed to ensure that assessors undertake standardisation procedures. Unit specifications, exemplars and marking schemes ensure reliable assessment. Again, the HMIE reviewers

20 take account of the application and robustness of assessment procedures in the quality element of the review. Recording processes As outlined above, assessment criteria outlined on marking schemes ensure valid judgements that are then subjected to further verification. Issues relating to the grading, number of attempts and recording of results are controlled at the individual centre. HMIE focus on the Learner progress and outcomes, considering the attainments of learners in relation to named awards. Conclusion To summarise, in every area SQA and HMIE were able to identify a process in Scotland s colleges, (either through review, internal or external verification or validation) which compared well to that in place with the HEIs. This report demonstrates that issues of concern with respect to quality assurance for HEIs were also the focus of considerable work in Scotland s colleges. The information provided gave evidence that equivalent processes for quality assurance were in place across the sectors. In terms of quality assurance, the working group is confident that on the key areas identified, there is no reason to have concern for the quality of the learning in Scotland s colleges, which are regulated according to the processes described by these bodies. 19

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