QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project: What we have learned so far
The academic year always moves round quickly and the spring has passed in a flurry of activity since we began our Collaborative Enhancement Project in February 2023. For those colleagues thinking about submitting a proposal for the next round of Projects, you might be encouraged to know that the QAA encourage you to provide a rough project plan – but that means if you are successful in your application, it should be a plan you can actually keep to!
The Careers Group, King’s College London, City University of London and the University of London’s Centre for Online and Distance Education were delighted to be awarded one of 16 funded projects from the QAA in December 2022. The scope of our project is to create a toolkit for inclusive employability development through curriculum. In this blog we update our progress after the first third of the project. Kate Daubney from The Careers Group outlines some key reflections on the project so far.
We ringfenced the first three months for exploring key areas of what the toolkit should achieve rather than feeling we had to build toolkit content straight away, and in hindsight that has proved to be a sensible move. We called this the Discovery phase, though in reality we were more expert than that implies in two of our three project strands. One strand of this phase focused on developing the principles for the Toolkit: this is an area where Aranee Manoharan, the project lead at King’s, has significant existing expertise. Linda Amrane-Cooper of the Centre for Online and Distance Education also has significant expertise in evaluation tools, so we were able to make a fast start there. I’d recommend embedding a phase early in the project for consolidating existing expertise from the project team, so you can create some deliverables against the project plan and make quick progress. That also meant that I could take a bit more time over the research and drafting of the learning gain tool, which I was already interested in but less of an expert on.
The second phase of the project arrived quickly: the Scoping phase for beginning to build our Toolkit and testing out some aspects and ideas. We loosely committed to creating a pilot toolkit in this 3 month phase, so a key element of that was a workshop centred around one of our key priorities for this phase: evaluating existing content against our findings from the first phase. Our partners at City are core to this phase of the project: we ran a workshop together to explore existing practice and new ideas for inclusive employability development through curriculum. We looked at case study material that showed just how many barriers students can experience in the workplace, and explored how social justice approaches can address those barriers. We tested out approaches to engagement through the workshop, and one output for the Toolkit will be a suggested template for how to run workshops like this for academic educators to build engagement with this approach. We also tested the workshop evaluation tool and broader approaches to evaluation.
The City colleagues at our workshop were careers educators and already familiar with the topic and practice of inclusive employability development through curriculum. But that still surfaced really important questions about how to build confidence in all educators to develop and deliver content, even with a Toolkit to hand. That has helped us think about not only what we put in the Toolkit but how we ensure it’s a learning opportunity as well as a set of assets for delivery.
That has also had wider implications for what we mean when we talk about a Toolkit. We realised early on that we had a bottomless pit of opportunity to create useful materials, and that we couldn’t hope to create everything in the time and resource available. So a different question is how we use the Toolkit and related learning content to empower and enable academic and careers educators to adapt the materials for their own purposes. With the time and resource pressure all colleagues are under, an off-the-shelf solution always seems appealing. But we hope that we can build some sustainability for the Toolkit by making it easy to use in diverse contexts by educators of all types.
All in all, the creation of the Toolkit is proving a really stimulating experience for all. We hope it will prove just as useful for educators who engage with it next year when we publish it.