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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Quality Assurance in Education, Volume 22, Issue 3
Although there has been a movement towards the concept of lifelong learning, it is often the case that we think about education as being the domain of young people. However, in developed economies, there is a greater spread of ages in the education domain where many people who missed out on their first opportunity to gain an education return to upgrade their qualifications with a view to re-entering the workforce. In developing economies, there are many who strive for an education and make great sacrifices to fulfil their educational aspirations. Many of these people will succeed and proceed to become leaders of their countries and their communities, as their countries and communities develop. One of the major impediments to people fulfilling their educational aspirations has traditionally arisen from war, displacement or civic unrest. Examples of Iraq, Libya and Syria and, more recently, the Ukraine, currently provide examples of the impact that such events have on the educational development of one or more generations of citizens of these countries.
Recently, however, the abduction of over 200 girls from a Nigerian school was a truly awful event. These young girls were attending school to participate in an educational experience that would provide them with the background and qualifications to make a more significant contribution to their community, country and, in some cases, the wider world. Parents, having entrusted their daughters to the school to educate them and keep them safe, found that they have disappeared, having been abducted from their classrooms during the daytime. Much of the school infrastructure would also appear to have been destroyed in the course of the abduction. It is to be hoped that the international community will contribute to the search and rescue of the abducted children as well as to the reconstruction of the fabric of their school. This will enable a group of students from a developing economy to receive the educational experience that is in keeping with Articles 28 and 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention also reminds us that wealthier nations have a responsibility to assist poorer nations to achieve the provision of an appropriate educational experience for all children.
This issue of the journal presents papers from six different countries and three different continents, contributing to the knowledge and capability of scholars worldwide. The themes include international standards and accreditation, improving teaching and learning and focusing on the student experience and transformation.
The first paper, by Valerie Priscilla Goby and Catherine Nickerson, developed an approach to assurance of learning through the validation of an instrument to assess learning outcomes as determined by their university. The approach was applied to the assessment of communication skills that the students had developed. The approach also addressed the requirements of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business criteria for the assurance of learning in the communication field, as the institution was seeking accreditation from that organisation for their business education.
The second paper, by Hanna Niemelä, Taija Okkola, Annikka Nurkka, Mikko Kuisma and Ritva Tuunila, also addresses the issue of international accreditation of various degree programmes. In this case, the authors collected data from academic and professional staff in relation to their experience of participation in the international degree programme accreditation process. The authors identified a number of benefits derived from participation, starting with the identification of strengths and weaknesses of the degree programmes that had been subjected to the accreditation process through to the assembly of appropriately standardised data that enabled benchmarking against international peer institutions. Although the responses of staff involved in the process was not universally positive, the University viewed the participation in the accreditation process as a valuable contribution to the university’s quality improvement activities.
The third paper in this issue, by Claire Hennessy, Gill Adams, Elizabeth Mahon, Sarah Nixon, Andrea Pratt and Louise Williams, presents the results of an evaluation of an staff development event that sought to improve the teaching and learning performance of staff in a higher education institution. The paper advances a model that is based on a community of practice, with the requirement that staff is engaged with reflective practice. The model of the staff development event was carefully designed as was the evaluation of the intervention, and the authors concluded that the approach has the potential to enhance the student experience of teaching and learning activities.
The fourth paper, by Amélia Veiga, Maria J Rosa, Sónia Cardoso and Alberto Amaral, presents results of an investigation into the quality cultures in Portuguese higher education. The perceptions of academic staff of Portuguese institutions are clearly central to the adoption and deployment of approaches to quality improvement, and the authors bring the approaches and methods from the culture theory to the context of the Portuguese higher education system. The authors identified the implications for internal and external quality initiatives that arise from the quality cultures exhibited in the Portuguese context.
James Pounder, in the fifth paper in this issue, presents a comprehensive literature review of research focused on transformational leadership in the classroom. The imperative for this work is the need to enhance the overall student experience through improving the classroom experience. The overarching conclusion is that transformational leadership has the capacity to enhance the teaching and learning experience; however, research thus far has not provided adequate guidance on how to implement transformational classroom leadership.
The final paper in this issue is by Thomas Erwin, who reports on the development and testing of a model for aesthetic development based on an adaptation of the stages of the aesthetic experiences model. The focus of the research was the development stages of how students experience, understand and make meaning of art and the design of a set of valid and reliable instruments that could be used to assess these stages.
Thus, in this issue, we have papers that contribute to our understanding of the influences of external accreditation processes, culture, staff development and classroom leadership on the student experience together with a paper that provides the link between education in the arts and critical thinking. The Editorial Team has selected these papers to provide an international perspective to the readership of research in a diverse spectrum of areas that clearly impact on the student experience and transformation through quality improvement in education.
John F. Dalrymple