ESCalate - Enhancing the Student Learning Experience in HE Education Programmes across the UK

Produced by Jocelyn Wishart
Description Jocelyn Wishart of ESCalate prepared a poster presentation of ESCalate's work for the August 2010 European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in Helsinki. The following abstract for the conference describes our work and the pdf poster available to download here presents the findings of the recent external evaluation of ESCalate.

Abstract submitted in January 2010 for ECER 

ESCalate is part of the UK Higher Education Academy. As the subject centre for Education we are working to enhance the experience for students following education programmes in Higher Education (HE) throughout the UK. We work directly with those staff in universities and colleges who provide courses in education studies, continuing and adult education, teacher education and lifelong learning.

Our primary aim is to support departments and academic staff groups to offer the best possible HE experience to their students (ESCalate, 2008). We give advice and support based on current knowledge and understanding. We provide practical information for departments and individual staff to use in the development of teaching and learning. We also provide a wide range of resources dedicated to students – a dynamic area on our website, publications and grants to help with research.

ESCalate works to support both a scholarly approach to teaching, learning, curriculum development and the research-teaching relationship and curriculum development itself. We provide articles and discussion papers on a range of topics to promote  pedagogic development. In addition to its own resources, information on recently published books is provided through the book review section of the website. National, regional and departmental events are offered each year across the UK to support curriculum development especially through learning technologies. We respond to requests from staff-groups and departments for specialist in-house events.

Many resources are developed with ESCalate grants or commissioned work. Each year ESCalate funds five types of grant. These include Pedagogy and Practice awards aimed at supporting smaller projects focusing on a wide range of curriculum based teaching and learning, larger themed funding awards (up to £15K) for groups working to a given topic in education. Additionally, there are Student Grants (up to £1k) to help students to kick start their research, enable completion of a project or extend learning opportunities; as well as grants for Sharing Ideas (£500) and Hot Topics (£50). Dissemination of practical resources produced by and for the community is paramount. Ideally this will include workshops, web based resources and scholarly publications. All staff and students in HE including those in Further Education Colleges can apply for grant funding. The ESCalate website provides links to these current research and evaluation projects and commissioned research activity and their associated resources.

This poster paper will disseminate outcomes of an internal review of the ESCalate subject centre’s work in order to highlight successes in and challenges to ways of supporting educational research and to share these with other teachers and researchers in higher education across Europe. This will be a broader evaluation of the subject centre’s work than that carried out by Gilpin & Pincas (2005) which focused on the importance of small grant scheme projects.

Method

External evaluators are taking a mixed methods approach informed by the broad range of activities supported by the ESCalate subject centre. In most cases telephone interviews will be carried out eg. with key contacts such as the ESCalate institutional representatives, workshop and conference organisers and consultants. Additionally, in a comparison study, staff in highly engaged HEIs will be contacted and their responses compared with staff in HEIs that are minimally engaged. All current and recent grant holders will be surveyed via a short, targeted questionnaire and a sample followed up for telephone interview based on their responses. The evaluators are following a pragmatic, evolving methodology, once they have analysed the information received from the data collections listed above, they will hold two regional focus groups involving those who have had most contact with the ESCalate subject centre in order to explore its impact within HE Education programmes more generally.

Expected Outcomes

The major outcome will be enhanced knowledge and understanding of the effectiveness of the ways in which the subject centre works to support teachers and lecturers in higher education. Other anticipated outcomes include increased engagement with the subject centre through the process of evaluation and a better idea of what our target audience need by way of continuing professional development. Finally we will be able to share the potential relevance and value of this model (a discipline focused Subject Centre) which will be of interest to HE sectors in other countries.

The findings of the external evaluation are discussed in the pdf poster available here to download.