This post complements the recently published NStEP working groups – the past year in focus though, in addition to expanding what has been taking place in terms of the national project, it concentrates a little more on what we have been doing here at NCI. Thus, our direct involvement in NStEP has allowed us to listen and to learn, as well as to contribute and to discuss, a process which we aim to build upon across 2017-18.
As with the other pilot project members, we have obviously been using this project to reflect upon our own practices, recognising where we might wish (and need) to improve, as well as gauging where we fit in terms of established effective practice. And, just as the NStEP working group has met on three occasions – i.e. on 17th May 2016, 10th November 2016 and 5th April 2017 – we have responded to the national meetings by ensuring that we regularly convene our own institutional implementation group; in fact, these meetings have taken place on 1st June 2016, 11th January 2017 and 31st May 2017 respectively.
Looking back upon it now, we should perhaps be conducting these local meetings more regularly. This being said, we have been holding smaller working party meetings (i.e. involving the two student representatives from NCISU and the two staff members from NCI) on a much more frequent, if informal, basis in order to support the project both locally and nationally. This framework, combining formal with more informal meetings, seems to be working for us, so let’s see how that evolves into next academic year.
With its expansion from a pilot to a truly national project, the guidance on establishing and running an institutional implementation group has itself undergone some considerable development across the intervening period, as is detailed below:
It is only fair to say that our own experience has not necessarily always aligned with this ideal. Yet, at the same time, the organic nature of the project’s evolution, implementation and outcomes here at NCI has allowed us to move at a pace which we feel is appropriate.
The fact is that the three institutional implementation group meetings that have been conducted at NCI have themselves been very open in nature. We deliberately decided not to employ fixed agendas or to record formal minutes, and this approach has been reaffirmed at each of the three meetings held.
In truth, we have used the institutional implementation group meetings to ask questions, to share ideas and, in turn, we have followed these up with emailed notes shared between students and staff, as well as reporting regularly to NCI’s Learning, Teaching and Assessment Committee. And, while we do record who attends our Institutional Implementation Group meetings, the point of holding them is to enable but not to constrain, to share, to disseminate and to encourage, not to rein in, to limit or to hinder.
Our guiding principle remains the working definition of student engagement, that it is the “investment of time, effort and other relevant resources by both students and their institutions intended to optimise the student experience and enhance the learning outcomes and development of students, and the performance and reputation of the institution” (see Enhancing Student Engagement in Decision-Making for more details).
The proof therefore of NStEP’s impact upon NCI will not necessarily or ultimately be found in what we say, but in what we do.