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The Design and Development of a Quality Assurance Framework

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The AVU developed a quality assurance framework that borrowed from the international best practices as well as existing practice within the African Institutions This framework was adopted by the participating institutions in 2007.
Quality Assurance Framework
Executive Summary
The Quality Assurance Framework seeks to be responsive to the inputs and needs of all the partner institutions and the AVU. Since the contexts, needs and circumstances are not identical or homogenous at the different partner institutions, the QAF is to be viewed and implemented as a descriptive document that is not at all prescriptive in nature. It therefore acknowledges the reality of a "one-size-fits-all" approach that cannot promote the sought after quality in the multi-country Teacher Education Programme. Each partner institution has to translate the QAF into a local document that is useful, relevant and acceptable to all role players and most importantly, feasible for execution. The QAF should not be viewed or treated as a cosmetic exercise that adds more work to the already heavy workload of academic and administrative staff. Where possible the QAF should articulate, borrow from and integrate with an institution's existing quality assurance measures. The quality spirit of the QAF should transcend from an external measure to an internal measure present in individual staff members' habits of mind and in an organisation's culture. The main objective of the QAF is to serve as a value-adding tool that each institution can use as part of internal quality assurance to do self-evaluation as a point of departure for implementing the Teacher Education Programme and for continued development of future similar programmes.

In summary, funders, sceptics, supporters, managers and implementers of ODeL environments are aware of the challenges and await measures of accountability and quality assurance to take teacher education to the next level in Africa. Through this QAF the AVU and its partners seek to be pivotal in building a reflexive and emancipating discourse for the development of an authentic and indigenous theory and practice of quality assurance in African higher education.    


Rationale and definition of quality assurance in higher education
The underlying rationale with quality assurance in higher education is:

to ensure that institutions effectively and efficiently deliver education, training, research and community service which are of high quality and which produce socially useful and enriching knowledge as well as a relevant range of graduate skills and competencies necessary for social and economic progress (Founding Document, 2001, p 2-3).
For the purpose of the Teacher Education Programme, only the dimensions referring to quality education and training are applicable. Quality assurance rooted in minimum thresholds of educational quality is seen as a necessary measure to instill public confidence in the quality of higher education provision and provide the foundations for the development and support of excellence at all levels of higher education and training (Founding Document, 2001, p 8). The aim with the QAF is to describe quality criteria as a necessary measure to instill confidence in the quality of higher education provision and to facilitate articulation between the different quality elements across the consortium of the AVU and its partner institutions. Quality criteria are statements regarding the minimum standards or requirements for programmes that are necessary to support and enhance quality programmes. The case for minimum standards is informed by a need to:

  • Protect learners from inferior and non-relevant education.
  • Determine the level at which provision and the depth of learning is acceptable with regard to open, distance and e-learning higher education environments.
  • Determine the fitness for purpose and the progress in moving towards national, institutional and programme goals and mission.
  • Identify problem areas and action plans for addressing these.
  • Contribute to continuous improvement.
However, we need to take cognizance that the concept of "quality" is not unproblematic. Quality can have very different meanings and interpretations to both the providers of "quality" as well as the consumers of "quality". Although a discussion on quality cannot ignore the interplay of power positions and educational relevance (relevant for whom?), it is not the purpose of this document to pursue that line of discussion here. A multi-facet description of quality that was used to inform the development of the QAF for the Teacher Education Programme is the following:

  • Fitness of purpose based on national goals, priorities and targets, thereby ensuring national relevance for a particular African country.
  • Value for money judged in relation to the full range of higher education purposes set out in higher education policies.
  • Transformation, in the sense of developing the capabilities of individual members of staff and students for personal enrichment, as well as the requirements of social development, economic and employment growth.

The intersection of the quality criteria of each of these three fields represents the QAF as can be discerned from the diagramme below:
Quality Assurance Framework
Processes of quality assurance of the Teacher Education Programme

  • The selection of coordinating institutions
  • Curriculum conceptualization and policy formulation
  • Curriculum design and development
  • Materials development process

The Quality Assurance Framework (QAF)

There are 10 criterion statements under which minimum standards are stipulated. These are depicted in Table 1 below:

 

PROGRAMME AREAS

CRITERION

INPUT

Programme design

Student recruitment, admission and selection

Staffing

Teaching and learning strategy

Student assessment policies and procedures

Infrastructure and library resources

1

2

3, 4, 5

4, 5

5, 4

6, 2

PROCESS

Programme coordination

Teaching and learning interactions

Student assessment practices

Coordination of school-based learning

7, 1

5, 4

5, 4

8

OUTPUT AND IMPACT

Student retention and throughput rates

Programme impact

9

9

REVIEW

All of the above programme areas

10

The systemic organisation of criteria implies a cyclical view of quality which presupposes continuous renewal and improvement.

Implementation by partner institutions

Each partner institution needs to do a self-evaluation of their existing quality assurance measures based on the criteria and minimum standards. This self-evaluation in relation to each criterion consist of the following key areas:

a. A descriptive account of the unit's performance around the criterion statement (use statements to guide response)  
b. An analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
c. An overall assessment of the perf ormance in relation to the minimum standards and the criterion.
d. An action or improvement plan where necessary.

Conclusion
The QAF also serves the purpose to assist the units offering the teacher education programme to strategise around immediate, medium- and long-term priorities. Different partner institutions have to adopt, adapt or integrate the proposed quality criteria to suit the needs and purposes of existing or new qualifications on offer at their institutions.