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Academic Development Directorate

Section G: Good Practice Policy

1. Background

Strategy 

In 2020: Vision and Strategy for the Centennial, SOAS sets out certain aspirations and commitments for the current period. These include excellence in teaching and student support; innovation and distinctiveness in programme design; self-reflection with the aim of continuous improvement; and recognition and reward for excellence in its staff.

These commitments are supported by the more detailed objectives contained in the Learning and Teaching Strategy, notably:

To ensure that good practice in curriculum development from both internal and external sources is disseminated widely.

The strategy connects excellence in teaching, and institutional support for excellent and innovative teachers, with high academic standards and the recruitment, retention and achievement of students.

Institutional Review 2013

In its Institutional Review of SOAS in 2013, the QAA recommended that the School should (by the start of academic session 2013/14):

“ensure that a more effective system is put in place at School level to facilitate the dissemination of  good practice good practice.”

The review report notes that this recommendation is in line with potential improvements identified in the Student Written Submission and the School’s own intentions outlined in strategic documents, as above.

As part of its action in response to the recommendation, the School’s Learning and Teaching Quality Committee agreed to publish a Good Practice Policy, drawing together the ways in which Good Practice is defined, identified and disseminated at SOAS. The Policy will be monitored by LTQC and made publically available via the online Quality Assurance Handbook.

2. Definition 

Good practice is the term widely used in the sector for any practice or way of working in teaching or student support which ‘makes a particularly positive contribution’. This contribution could be to any aspect of the student experience and in any part of the institution. The practice need not be ground-breakingly innovative; it may be new to SOAS or new to the Department or programme, but it should go beyond agreed policies and procedures.

It is hoped that Good Practice can be particularly highlighted where it supports the School's strategic objectives, for instance by supporting the development of collaborative partnerships and inter-disciplinary programmes; by broadening the range of contexts in which students learn; or by the use of new technologies to support student success. It is not intended, however, to dismiss the possibility of good practice in 'traditional' teaching, and excellence in this context remains something the School will recognise and encourage.

3. Identification

Good practice is in most cases first identified informally. SOAS values the supportive and collaborative atmosphere which encourages colleagues and students to identify, share and replicate practice which they find to be especially good. Nevertheless a number of formal mechanisms also exist, one of the purposes of which is to ensure that good practice is identified systematically and disseminated throughout the School.

Good practice may be formally identified…

  • by student:
    • National Student Survey
    • Student Evaluation of Courses
    • Student representation on committees and at departmental meetings
    • Staff/students fora
    • Nominations to the Director's Teaching Prize
  • by external advisors:
    • Visiting examiner reports
    • Periodic programme review
    • Programme proposals
  • by colleagues:
    • Peer observation of teaching
    • Nominations to the Director's Teaching Prize
    • Nomination, or support for an application, for academic promotion

Annual and Periodic Programme Review may themselves provide an opportunity for departments to highlight good practice, but are also a mean of collating examples received via the routes above.

4. Dissemination

Formal QA procedures such as student feedback results, APR and PPR reports, and visiting examiner reports, are considered at Departmental meetings, which should have student representatives present. Each then has a route for consideration at Faculty and School level, enabling good practice to be identified and minuted, facilitating its exploration by other departments. In addition to the usual minutes and reports of committees at which good practice has been discussed, each Faculty has its own internal communications, via newsletters, emails and online, in which good practice can be shared and commended.

The Director’s Teaching Prize is an important vehicle for capturing exceptionally good practice by individual teachers or teaching teams, and the criteria and procedure are set out at http://www.soas.ac.uk/directorate/services/teachingprize/. Teachers may put themselves forward or be nominated by students, colleagues or their Head of Department. Prizes are awarded at the annual Graduation ceremony, ensuring maximum visibility and prestige. Finalists are then asked to contribute to a series of workshops and/or podcasts showcasing their teaching practice.

From 2013/14 content contributed by DTP finalists will be available on the BLE as the starting point for a database of recognised best practice, which will in due course collate examples drawn from all the various identification routes described above.

The Students' Union is also committed to recognising and disseminating good practice, and does so via its network of student representatives, supported by the website soasunion and in its annual Educational Priorities.

5. Contacts

For more information on good practice at SOAS, please contact: