Politics Curriculum Review

Dr Michael Barr, Senior Lecturer

School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

What did you do?

Politics instituted a full curriculum review, lasting over a year, to investigate how we could enhance our programmes in the following areas: feedback and assessment; student voice; employability; EDI; and teaching research methods.

Who is involved?

All members of Politics staff not on leave and a group of 14 stage 2 and stage 3 students participated in the review process.

How did you do it?

Get the largest possible buy-in, i.e. involve all staff and a group of students. Have the Head of Unit and Director of Excellence in Learning and Teaching/Lead Degree Programme Director facilitate the process with clear written guidance (including questions, leads on how to proceed) and deadlines.

Each of our groups were tasked with addressing three primary questions in relation to their area of focus:

1) What do we do now in this area?

2) What do our competitors do in this area?

3) What could we do better in this area, as judged by best practice across the University and sector wide standards/expectations?

Choose the chairs and members of working groups strategically (we appointed an early career academic as chair in each group). Make use of shared drive or easily accessible cloud facilities. Ask each group for written reports and dedicate a full staff meeting or Teaching Away Day to discussing the recommendations.

Two books and a computer

Why did you do it?

We had several reasons: First, Politics was in the process of gaining university approval for two new degree programmes in International Relations and Politics and International Relations (IR). A review helped ensure that we’ve the best possible range of offerings and module content across all our subject areas as we prepare to introduce these new degrees in 2020-21. It also helped ensure that we were preparing our graduates with the skills they need to succeed in the job market.

Second, while we have conducted curriculum reviews of IR (2015) and methods and the dissertation (2016), the department had never undertaken a comprehensive review across all stages and all pathways.

Third, we have enjoyed an unprecedented growth in our staff numbers in recent years, which has significantly contributed to our module offerings. There was a need to ensure consistency and coherency across all areas and stages. We also sought to maintain a balance between the modules staff wish to teach based on their interests and the requirements of providing a comprehensive education to our students. Finally, we thought a review could help us prepare across key areas (e.g. assessment and feedback, employability, teaching) for the eventual introduction of a subject level TEF.

Does it work?

We are still, more than a year later, putting some of the recommendations into practice. For example, a sub working group (led by Andrew Walton and Nick Randall) has developed a new set of assessment criteria for marking, along with an algorithm to be used at Board of Examiners to help ensure fairness and consistency. We have also introduced two new modules as a result of the review on ‘Power and Inequality’ and ‘Becoming a Political Researcher’. We’ve adopted numerous other recommendations across the themes colleagues’ addressed.

Contact details

Michael Barr, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

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