This section introduces you to:
- Quality assurance and enhancement in the School
- Getting feedback and data on your teaching
- Sources of additional training and development
How teaching quality is assured at LSE
Academic and Student Affairs Committee reviews of departmental provision
The Teaching Quality Assurance and Review Office (TQARO) runs the School’s various internal teaching quality procedures. These procedures are set by the Academic and Student Affairs Committee (ASC) and the Academic Board.
One of the main quality assurance procedures is the periodic review of departmental provision undertaken by the Education Committee – formerly the Academic and Student Affairs Committee (ASC). Each department and institute is reviewed every five or so years. These reviews help the School, as the awarding body, assure the quality and standards of its awards. The reviews explore departmental provision under four main headings: academic standards, quality assurance, quality enhancement and student views. They are developmental in nature and aim to identify and share good practice. Where departments identify gaps or omissions in their provision, the review team suggests examples of relevant good practice from their knowledge of other review outcomes.
Annual programme monitoring
A separate quality assurance procedure (the outcome of which forms part of the evidence base for Education Committee reviews) is annual programme monitoring. These in effect require departments to conduct annual mini-reviews of their taught programmes based on a range of data TQARO provides for the purpose (eg, external examiner reports, student performance data, survey results). Departments are required to complete an annual programme review template which results in the production of an action plan for each programme.
External quality review
In 2018, the Office for Students (OfS) was established by the Department for Education, and has been awarded legislative responsibility for quality assurance of teaching in Higher Education. A primary tool supporting this is the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) review system, which will assess institutions on three “aspects of quality”: teaching quality, learning environment, and student’s outcomes and learning gain. The TEF, and indeed OfS, is a relatively new entity in the higher education sector, which is still determining how its impact will manifest. In particular, the School is currently redesigning many of the existing quality assurance procedures to better serve both our teachers and students as well as external regulatory boards.
At School level, TQARO conducts surveys of students’ perceptions of teaching. Students are surveyed about the teaching they receive from both GTAs and permanent staff. These surveys provide teachers with important information about the perceived quality of their teaching. They also provide the School with a general measure of teaching standards. These surveys take place in Michaelmas Term (or Lent Term if a GTA is teaching only in Lent Term). Students are asked about their experience of class teaching as well as lecturing and other aspects of course delivery.
Detailed information on these surveys, including when and how they are administered, what sort of questions are asked of students, and how the results are used, can be found on the TQARO’s website.
Note that, in addition to producing individual reports for teachers, TQARO produces aggregated quantitative data for departments and the School. Previous teaching survey results by department are available on the TQARO website.
Research indicates that feedback from students is most useful when teachers take that feedback, discuss it with someone else and decide on appropriate actions for development. You may wish to discuss your results with the course convenor for the course, the departmental mentor for class teachers (if there is such a person), or the relevant departmental adviser in the LSE Eden Centre.
GTAs whose scores are low will be supported by the course convenor for the course and by the LSE Eden Centre (The average scores higher than 2.1 will be used to denote a relatively poor score, in a scale of 1-5 where 1 is the top mark). Mentors (chosen on the basis of their high scores) may also be appointed for these GTAs from the department’s permanent staff. Following a period of support and development, these GTAs will be surveyed again in the Lent Term (if they are teaching a course that runs in that term). If the scores show no improvement, the GTA may have his/her contract revoked unless there are special extenuating circumstances which would need to be approved by the Head of Department and the Pro-Director Education.
This is intended as a supportive process. The School is interested in helping teachers to develop and improve rather than trying to allocate blame. But it has a responsibility to students to take action where teaching problems persist.
Some departments may run their own teaching surveys, in addition to the course level surveys run by TQARO, though this is not always the case. These surveys offer departments and teachers quick local checks, and identify any classes where there appear to be problems. If they have any concerns, they will normally contact the appropriate class teacher soon after the survey to discuss the situation and see what support, advice or encouragement might prove useful. You may or may not get direct feedback on these surveys, but do feel free to ask if you do not hear anything.
In addition to these (typically paper-based) surveys, many departments employ more qualitative tools such as focus groups to get feedback from students. These methods are usually employed to investigate particular themes or areas of concern for the department.
Evaluating your teaching
Here we shall briefly discuss what you can do to check how things are going for yourself.
At various points in the year, you will want to assess how well you and your students are doing. Here are some suggestions to help you evaluate your classroom teaching:
Reviewing your students’ progress
- Ask questions designed to monitor student understanding. This is a way to informally assess student progress
- Watch for students’ reactions to your discussion questions. Take notice of body language and eye contact
- Consider using short quizzes designed to monitor students’ understanding of the previous week’s material. (Some of the large quantitative courses use self-assessment tests in Moodle.) Discipline-specific teaching and learning support, particularly in quantitative subjects can be found by visiting the Higher Education Academy Disciplines page or by consulting with your LSE Eden Centre departmental adviser
- Try out a minute paper. This is a simple technique of collecting instantaneous feedback about student learning. It does not take up much class time and is not onerous for you or the students
- Most courses require students to hand in two essays each term. Several of the quantitative courses expect students to complete problem sets each week, but may only require two of those to be handed in to you for marking. In this case, it is still worth getting a clear feel for which students are doing the work each week (eg, by looking to see who takes out notes, as opposed to blank paper at the start of the session). Don’t expect 100 per cent every week, but watch out for students who only seem to have done it when it is hand-in time, and if more than half are failing to do class work on a regular basis, you need to take action (see Section 5.1 on writing class reports/academic mentor meetings).
- Ask students how things are going when they come to see you in office hours, and if they have any suggestions for how the class can be improved
- A few weeks into term, ask students to do a stop-start-continue survey (see Getting data on your teaching.) As with minute papers, it provides you with instantaneous feedback, doesn’t take much time and is not onerous for you or the students. You can also use this as an opportunity to revisit or reinforce the ground rules for the class.
- Peer observation of teaching sessions can also greatly benefit the reflective class teacher. It can be very useful to agree to observe and be observed by another class teacher reciprocally to help develop teaching skills.
- Teaching observations by a member of your department (perhaps even the course covenor) can provide great insights into your teaching. Your department schedule these already (particularly for new teachers). If not, you could invite the course convenor or a peer teacher for the course to conduct one.
- You may wish to videotape your classes or use the Echo capture system available in some classrooms to review your own approach. (You would need to consult with your students about this and probably explain that it is for your benefit and therefore ultimately for their benefit.) Contact the LSE Eden Centre if you would like to give this a try.
Reviewing your teaching
Gathering data on your teaching
There are many other potential sources of data available to you on your teaching, and you might wish to consider some of the following:
- Three open questions. These should focus on the course so far, and encourage students to reflect on their learning as well as the course content.
- Minute paper. Set aside (approximately) one minute to have students answer a small set of question about a particular session of teaching.
- Stop, start, continue. Have students identify one thing you should stop doing, one thing you should start doing, and one thing you should continue doing. For more informative responses, you might wish to ask students to add a reason for each item (though this will of course increase the time required for such an exercise).
- Teacher behaviours inventory. Ask students to assess (e.g. on a 5 point scale) specific classroom behaviours. Categories of behaviours can relate to either you as a teacher, but also student behaviours that your classes require. Examples of aspects to focus on include clarity, rapport, enthusiasm, pacing, organisation.
- Teaching journal. This requires you to actively reflect on as many sessions of teaching (including office hours) as you like. After each session, you should record your reflections and decide on action points for future sessions.
Many of the above require feedback from students. Be considerate of the demands you place on students (avoid survey fatigue!) and treat every instance of feedback and evaluation as a basis for further discussion with students about the teaching they are receiving.
Note that the gathering of data, including student evaluations of your teaching, is not in itself an evaluation of your teaching. It is the analysis you perform on this data – how you interpret it, and what you can conclude from it – that is important.
Further advice and guidance on your teaching can also be obtained from the Eden Centre, including having a member of the team conduct an observation of your teaching, followed by a feedback session. For more details visit our Teaching Evaluation webpage.
Development opportunities at LSE
The School offers various opportunities for you to develop and explore your teaching. Below is a brief summary, with links to additional information on each.
Being a GTA at LSE induction programme
All new GTAs are required to attend this induction programme, which is run by the Eden Centre across the Michaelmas term (with a smaller Lent Term teachers for those who start teaching late in the academic year). More details about our induction programmes can be found here.
Associated Fellowship Programme
An internationally recognised and accredited programme designed to support GTAs to develop and enhance their teaching practice in Higher Education. This is run by the LSE Eden Centre across a single academic year. More information about the programme, including the content of its modules and workshops, can be found here.
The LSE Eden Centre’s Atlas programme is a series of academic development workshops and events throughout the academic year for both new and experienced staff (including GTAs and Guest Teachers, as well as both academic staff and professional services staff). Information on the sessions can be found here.
The LSE Eden Centre team offer advice and resources on incorporating learning technologies, as well as support and training on Moodle. Events on various aspects of teaching with technology are held through the year. More information can be found here.
English for Teaching Purposes
The LSE Language Centre offers programmes designed specifically for GTAs throughout the academic year. More information can be found here.