Teaching and Learning Strategy: Educating for 21st Century Lives

“There’s never been a project of this scale where the University has said let’s build our curriculums from the ground up to try and ensure they have all these things and equip graduates with these qualities.” ~ Ed White

You can be forgiven for hearing the word ‘strategy’ and wanting to hide under the table, but since the recent launch of the University of Reading’s Teaching and Learning Strategy 2018-2021, The Reading Rep speaks to RUSU Education Officer, Ed White who has worked on the project and explains in simple terms; “the most exciting part of this strategy is the commitment to deliver academic excellence through the new curriculum framework”. The University will be working in partnership with students to deliver this and also has an aim to offer an outstanding student learning experience. Read on to find out more about the Universities priorities over the next three years…

RR: What is the T&L strategy?
ED: The T&L strategy from now until 2021, which has recently been approved, sets out the Universities ambition and strategy for how teaching and learning should be over the next three years.

RR: How did RUSU get involved? What has been your input?
ED: So our input has been trying to make sure the strategy focuses on things which students care about and ensuring that in the right places, there’s the right focus and ambition. So particularly, one of the things that RUSU are really passionate about is to make sure the University provides the very best curricular and co-curricular opportunities. Initially the word ‘cocurricular’ wasn’t in the strategy. The University talks a lot about employment and creating employable graduates, so as part of that, I thought this word should be in there because actually ensuring that students have the opportunity to engage in societies, clubs and things beyond the curriculum is really important. My involvement has been to work with the team to think of things from the student perspective that might have been missed and get them in there. If you look at the foreword right at the start of the strategy, it’s about the University’s intention to work closely with the Students’ Union and Student Association over in Malaysia, because that’s one of the key, core things the University should always be doing and if you look at the past year we’ve been in office, we’ve achieved so much in the last year and we want that very much to remain and strengthen over the new few years. And partnership is key to this.

RR: What are the Universities priorities over the next few years with T&L?
ED: The two priorities are, one, to deliver academic excellence through the curriculum framework. So the curriculum framework is reviewing curriculums across the University to do lots of exciting things for students so there’s lots of sub-themes within that, but broadly the University wants to develop academic excellence. They also want to offer an outstanding student learning experience.

RR: What do you think of the new curriculum framework and how might it look in practice?
ED: Broadly the curriculum framework is completely redesigning the way we look at curriculums and ensuring that they’re aligned with exactly what we want students to graduate with. The curriculum therefore should be diverse, inclusive, research-based, contextual, discipline-based, global, inspiring, collaborative, authentic, challenging, innovative and coherent. Therefore, the attributes we want a graduate to have are mastery of their discipline, skill in researched inquiry, global engagement and multicultural awareness, personal effectiveness and self-awareness. That’s what they’re trying to achieve, having a curriculum that has those things and looks like that. It’s something that’s never happened, there’s never been a project that the University has said let’s build our curriculums from the ground up to try and ensure they have all these things and equip graduates with those qualities.

RR: Any challenges you foresee with the strategy?
ED: I think the challenge I see is on point two in offering the outstanding student learning experience because some of the subpoints within the strategy will depend on some of the facilities the University has. They’re doing a lot of work over the next few years, obviously the library will be back in action, a lot of the lecture rooms will have been refurbished, they’ll have the new standardised audio visual projectors across the campus, so they’re definitely going to help achieve some of the things that the University wants to. However, with growth in student numbers this could be a risk that may cause pressure and make it difficult to provide things the strategy sets out. For example, they want to “update and invest in learning environments, systems and technologies to support our students and staff now and in the future” – they’re working on this but if there’s not resource or funding to do it quickly enough or if growth outstrips funding i.e. if the enablers ‘don’t enable’ then the strategy’s not going to come to fruition, so I worry somewhat about that. But the University is doing a lot and I’ve really enjoyed working on this project – I think it will be great for students!

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