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Programme Implementation and Evaluation

For ease of reading, please click here for a resource on Programme Evaluation.

This section includes advice on some current challenges in programme implementation, i.e. Flexibility, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Monitoring and Evaluation. The long-term goal of these pages is to develop a both better understanding of and a sharing of solutions in addressing the unforeseen challenges of programme implementation. Therefore, have you any other solutions or further questions that you can share in your experience of managing a programme click on the Feedback button below.

Flexibility, Efficiency, Effectiveness:

The demands of managing a programme can be related to how programme leaders deal with changing staff resources, student diversity and physical or financially resources.  How can a programme remain efficient and effective in these circumstances? (Hewitt, 2006; Diamond, 1998) This section includes some commonly raised issues, it is therefore indicative not exhaustive and  UCD Teaching & Learning staff will be happy to provide further support/advice in relation to programme implementation issues. In your role in programme implementation and evaluation you will often have to debate and provide leadership in relation to questions such as the following:

1. I’m concerned about dealing with students of different abilities in my programme, what alternative teaching & learning approaches should be considered to help address this?

  • An approach such as group work can help to accommodate students with different abilities and/or prior knowledge through creating contexts where students can support each other in peer learning.   (Boud et al, 2001)
  • Taking this step further, Peer tutoring often done as a group activity draws on the expertise of more senior students as a resource to the students in earlier years (Kieran and O’Neill, 2009a and 2009b).
  • For mixed ability classes it may be possible to offer the core content on a shared basis with differentiated learning activities and assessment requirements, effectively two separate modules, but shared face-to-face contact.  This provides an efficient means of delivering core content whilst still recognising the prior learning and abilities of different module cohorts.

2. How do I support academic programme staff to deal with increasing student numbers in their classroom?

3. For my programme, how do I balance the challenges of managing changing resources; maintaining standards and the delivery of a high quality learning in the discipline, along with UCD’s new objectives for developing creative and innovative graduates?

Starting from the key disciplinary learning outcomes for your discipline, critically evaluate what core disciplinary knowledge, skills and understanding students require to be successful creative and innovative graduates?  Assess to what extent these disciplinary attributes are being transparently addressed at present within the programme (see resource Mapping Graduate Attributes ).  Depending on the answer to this question, you may need to consider a range of alternative approaches relating to the efficient delivery and embedding of these disciplinary outcomes:

  • Are there different ways of being more efficient with the staff face-to-face contact time?  Look carefully at how students are: taught; what learning activities they are expected to undertake and how they will be assessed. For example, in a traditional 12 week student-contact semester, as is often the case should there always be 12 or 24 lectures (once/twice a week)?  Could these hours be reduced and the specified student learning tasks increased, i.e. out of class activtiy?  (Fyrenius et al, 2005; Exley & Dennick,2004; Mattick et al, 2007).
  • Re-examine the programme’s educational philosophy to see how far it supports or assumes an active learning approach. An active learning philosophy promotes the idea of an autonomous learner, who is equipped with the learning skills to monitor the strengths and weaknesses of their knowledge and takes active responsibility for developing their learning further.  For academic staff this represents a shift in effort away from the practice of “covering” material to an important role in facilitating autonomous learning through the design of effective scaffolded self-directed or task-based learning opportunities (Graves & Braaten, 1996).
  • Consider to what extent the core of the programme delivers the requisite knowledge, skills and understanding for the discipline and the way in which other flexible learning opportunities can be incorporated, including electives, module substitution, service teaching and student negotiated learning. This can allow for a more flexible response to changing resource bases whilst maintaining the quality and standards of the programme.

The suggestions above have been shown to be beneficial to staff and students, some positives are:

  • Benefits for Staff:
    More efficient use of staff time in module design and delivery
  • Helps staff to reconsider the educational benefits of face-to-face interaction and other forms of learning as a means of developing students learning and understanding in a discipline

Benefits for Students’ Learning:

  • Development of effective learning and interpersonal skills through peer learning approaches (see resource How Students Learn 1 )
  • Fosters a learning community for students thereby enhancing their engagement and integration in the university context
  • Through peer tutoring approaches, student tutors gain experience in a teaching role which can be recognised as a key transferable skill for future employment, and many develop an deeper understanding of their disciplinary knowledge

Monitoring and Evaluation:

A various points in time, programmes need to be monitored and formally evaluated by both internal and external stakeholders, i.e. colleagues/peers/students/alumni. In UCD there is a formal Quality Assurance programme review process. In addition, Programme teams may have their own professional or other programme monitoring processes. To assist in this monitoring and evaluation process, it is important to be aware of the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area . Linked to this publication, it is useful to be aware of the work and guidelines suggested by the IUQB . Many informal processes for monitoring programme success, such as student informal feedback, are very valuable but rarely captured in documentation. These are area that can give valuable contribution to the monitoring process if evidenced more accurately. Lyons (1998) suggest that a programme team gather such evidence and pull together the outcomes of this evidence into a course narration/reflection or summary (see Table 1). The more qualitative and quantitative international programme evaluation tools can be seen in resource Programme Evaluation.

Ongoing monitoring of a programme: Table 1:

 On-going  End of Semester  End of Stage  End of Programme  
Internal   Staff-Student Committees  Module Evaluation   Stage Evaluation1   Formal Programme Evaluation1
  Mid-unit feedback from students    Student progression statistics  
      Student summative grades   Employment /Continuing study rates 
  Student Awards/Individual Successes    Evidence of feedback to students   
  Informal meetings/
correspondence with students  
  Programme Boards
Internal/External       Quality Assurance/Improvement  
        Alumni Feedback  
External       External Examiners reports   External Examiners reports  
        Peer Review 
      Employers feedback   

Summary Report of Data Sources into a Programme Portfolio (see Lyons, 1999)

  • Hewitt, T.W. (2006) Implementing and Managing the Curriculum, In Understanding and Shaping Curriculum: What we teach and Why? London: Sage Publications. Pp287-313.
  • Diamond, R. M (1998) Implementing, Evaluating and Refining the Course or Curriculum, In Designing and Assessing Course and Curricula, pp215-234. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Lyons N. (1998) With Portfolio in Hand: Validating the New Teacher Professionalism. London: Teachers College Press.
  • Kieran PM & O'Neill G (2009a) 'Peer-Assisted Tutoring in a Chemical Engineering Curriculum: Tutee and Tutor Experiences'. Australasian Journal of Peer Learning, 2 (1).
  • Kieran, PM & O'Neill, G (2009b) Introducing Peer-Assisted Learning to a Chemical Engineering Curriculum Students learning from students - from theory to practice KU Leuven, Belgium,
  • Boud, D, Cohen, R., Sampson, J. (2001 ) Peer learning in higher education: learning from & with each other, London: Kogan Press
  • Graves, M.F. and Braaten, S. (1996). Scaffolded reading experiences: bridges to success [Electronic version]. Preventing School Failure, v40 n4, 169-73.
  • Fyrenius, A, Bergdahl, B. & Silen, C (2005). Lectures in problem-based learning-Why, when and how? A example of interactive lecturing that stimulates meaningful learning. Medical Teacher, 27(1), 61-65.
  • Exley, K., & Dennick, R. (2004) Giving a Lecture: From presenting to teaching. London: RoutledgeFalmer.
  • Mattick, K. Crocker, G., Bligh, J. (2007) Medical Student Attendance at Non-compulsory lectures. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 12, 201-210.
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