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Abstract

This research aimed to gain a deeper understanding of the contribution of programme board collective self-evaluative practice within Academic Quality Assurance. It explored self-evaluative practice as experienced and perceived by academic staff who participated in the process of quinquennial programme re-validation (sometimes known as „programmatic review‟) in a number of disciplinary areas in one Irish Institute of Technology. The data-set was collected in 2014. A programme board‟s self-evaluation report should be a collectively produced document that forms the basis for subsequent external peer review and is the foundation document for assuring the quality of programmes and building stakeholder confidence. The author considers that it is what people do that counts and a sociocultural perspective was taken. The social practice of self-evaluation was explored by focusing on the experiences of those involved and by seeking to understand their accounts of what happened in the name of the practice; this is the unit of analysis. The research identifies with the social constructivist paradigm accepting the notion of multiple constructed subjective realities. The purposes of the research was to understand more deeply how academic staff experience the social practice of evaluating programmes of study and to explore its contribution to Academic Quality Assurance. The research suggests that staff believe assuring the quality of programmes of higher education is very important but a variety of quality cultures exist amongst staff. Respondents‟ experiences of recent self-evaluative practice indicate that it was outcomes focussed rather than process focussed, there was little or no active participation 2 by many staff and the self-evaluation was conducted by small groups, the self-evaluation reports could have been more reflective, and many participants had partial or no knowledge of institutional expectations. The project also highlighted some differences in perceptions of self-evaluative practice between staff groups based on their years of teaching experience. It is recommended that Higher Education Institutions, and programme boards, review how they practice self-evaluation and redesign how the quality of their programmes of study are assured and enhanced.

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