Key Skills in Geography in Higher Education: Evaluation Strategy
This document presents the Evaluation Strategy for the Key Skills in Geography in Higher Education project. The principal aim of the project is to develop and disseminate models of good practice for the embedding of key skills in the Higher Education curriculum, with specific reference to the discipline of geography.
According to the DfEE Higher Education and Employment Division (HEQE) Guide (Evaluating Development in Higher Education: A guide for contractors and project staff, April 1998) there are four key purposes of evaluation. They are to:
- assess contract compliance and value for money
- contribute formatively to development
- inform future agenda building and gathering intelligence
- inform the review of development and evaluation methodology.
The principal groups which this project is devised to benefit are:
- geography staff in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in England
- students taught by geographers in HEIs in England.
Several other groups should also benefit from the outcomes of the project including:
- geography staff in HEIs elsewhere in the UK and overseas
- students taught by geographers in HEIs elsewhere in the UK and overseas
- professional bodies representing geographers, including the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG), the Committee of Heads of Geography in Institutions of Higher Education, the Geographical Association (GA), and the Council of British Geographers (COBRIG)
- educational developers and careers officers who advise geography staff and students
- employers of geography graduates
- the DfEE HEQE
- staff in related disciplines in HEIs and the students they teach
- others interested in the development of key skills in higher education, including those in the DfEE Key Skills Network.
The objectives of this project are primarily concerned with identifying and disseminating good practice about key skills teaching among the geography higher education community in England. More specifically by the end of this project the Project Team will have:
- identified the key skills geography students possess at entry to Higher Education (HE) and the extent to which key skills are taught in geography degree courses
- developed models of good practice for embedding the learning, teaching, practice and assessment of these key skills in the geography curriculum
- disseminated the outcomes of the project to the 80 geography departments in England and to the wider national and international academic community through:
- producing eight guides (seven for staff and one for students) covering the main key skill areas
- identifying and adding case study materials about incorporating key skills in the curriculum on the Geography Discipline Network (GDN) World Wide Web (WWW) pages
- organising and running three national workshops on different key skills themes for geographers, careers officers and educational developers
- giving ten days of advice and workshops to individual departments wishing to develop the ways in which key skills can be incorporated in their curriculum.
The project should also have an indirect impact through making the geography higher education community more aware of issues concerned with key skills. This will contribute to the wider agenda of the GDN and other geography education networks (e.g. Higher Education Study Group (HESG) of the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) and the Journal of Geography in Higher Education (JGHE)) to raise the profile of educational issues and hence influence the culture of the discipline. This will largely be achieved through the contacts made in carrying out the objectives of the project and in publicising the project through meetings of the Conference of Heads of Geography in Institutions of Higher Education, articles in the RGS-IBG Research Newsletter, contributions to GeogNet (the geography higher education discussion mailbase) and putting project details on the GDN WWW pages.
Several other agencies are active in the field of key skills including:
The activities of these groups will be monitored and, where appropriate, a member of the team will attend workshops/conferences to keep the rest of the team informed of developments.
- HEFCE Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL) institutional projects and geography related projects
- other DfEE HEQE funded key skills projects
- groups organising conferences and workshops which have key skills as one of the topics covered, including HEFCE, DfEE, Higher Education for Capability (HEC); Improving Student Learning (ISL); the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA); the Universities and Colleges Staff Development Association (UCoSDA); and the HESG of the RGS-IBG.
In addition HEIs, through their educational development units, teaching and learning committees and career offices; and some departments of geography, have their own workshops, policies, and projects concerned with key skills. Baseline information on these will be collected through the questionnaire of all departments of geography in England.
The impact of the project's outputs relative to the influence of these other agencies will be assessed through responses to the evaluation of the national and department-based workshops.
The main customers for the evaluation are:
A wide range of groups are members of the Advisory Panel, including geographers, employers, educational developers, careers officers, the DfEE, and Project Team members, which should ensure that these groups interests are represented.
- the Advisory (Steering) Panel for the Project
- the DfEE HEQE.
Baseline data about the nature of key skills teaching in geography departments and the skills which students have on starting geography degrees will be collected at the beginning of the project and will form the subject of the first two project reports.
Intelligence about the underpinning general state of key skills teaching and the state of geography teaching will be obtained through the networking activities of the Project Team. Team members run, or are members of, the principal geography education networks, including HESG, Education Committee of RGS-IBG, JGHE, FDTL GDN Project, and Conference of Heads of Departments of Geography in HEIs.
Both formative and summative evaluation will take place, with the emphasis on the former. The main elements in this strategy include:
- guidance from, and evaluation by, the Advisory Panel
- consultation with end-users (geography staff and students, educational developers, careers officers)
- peer review (other members of the team and Advisory Panel and staff in geography departments)
- participant evaluation of the national and department-based workshops.
Evaluation will take place for both the product outputs and the processes by which the project has worked.
Each guide will be peer reviewed by two subject specialists from the Project Team, two members of the Advisory Panel and the Project Officer and Project Director. Members of the Graduate Panel, along with a group of undergraduate students, will also be used to evaluate the student guide.
Drafts of the first two reports on the nature of key skills teaching in geography departments and the key skills of students on entry will be discussed by the Team and the Advisory Panel. The conferences and workshops will be evaluated by the participants. Evaluation of the pedagogic elements of the project will come from members of the Project Team and educationalists on the Advisory Panel.
The interim and final reports will be discussed and evaluated at the appropriate meetings of the Project Team and Advisory Panel.
Team meetings will be used to take stock of progress.
The process of operation of the project will be examined and evaluated by both the Project Team and the Advisory Panel with particular reference to identifying practices which may be transferable to other disciplines developing and implementing key skill strategies.
The emphasis of the evaluation will be on the outputs produced and the processes undertaken during the life of the project. However, the project team will actively investigate how the longer term impact of the project can be evaluated.
Members of the Project Team will be on the look out for unexpected outcomes. These are most likely to arise from:
Any unexpected outcomes will be reported to the Project Team and the Advisory Panel.
- discussions at Team and Advisory Panel meetings
- the consultation survey of the 80 geography departments in England, which will identify their key skills practices and needs
- the process of collecting information in preparing the report on the key skills of students on entry to geography degrees and the key skills guides
- discussions with the panel of geography graduates
- the discussions at the conference and workshops.
Reports to the Advisory Panel will cover both processes and outcomes of the evaluations. Each stage of the project will be discussed by the Advisory Panel so that their advice can be incorporated into the process. The timings of the reports will follow the project timetable (see Contract) so that each meeting will include a report on outcomes since the last meeting and proposed activities before the next meeting. Keeping to the project timetable will provide a key performance evaluation criteria for the Advisory Panel to judge progress against. Comments on evaluation will be made in the Interim and Final Project Reports.
Page created 16 June 1999
GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock