A training guide for quality assurance in language learning

The "QualiTraining Guide" provides a framework and the tools for facilitating the implementation of quality principles and procedures at grassroots level. It is, thus, relevant both for individual professional development and for team / institutional contexts focusing on consolidating their "quality culture".

The publication consists of

A book and CD-Rom in English (ISBN 978-92-871-6283-0) and German

What is it's added value?

  • The user-friendly, non-prescriptive approach to improving quality in education, linking theory to practice, and involving different categories of stakeholders;
  • The variety of materials and activities for self-reflection and group discussion, providing a framework for the sharing of best practice;
  • Real-life success stories from a range of sources and countries to illustrate "quality in action".

Chapters of the handbook

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The first part of the unit examines some of the different principles that can be applied to quality in general and explores how they can be applied in language teaching.

The four “models” examined are:

  • Quality as client satisfaction – to be achieved by analysing “clients” needs and wishes, and planning and implementing teaching / learning activities which meet these needs. The notion of client in education is a complex one as it includes “direct” clients (the learners in the classroom) and other stakeholders (parents, employers, universities etc.)
  • Quality as a process – delivering language courses can be seen as a set of processes – a connected chain from needs analysis, general setting of curriculum aims, defining syllabus, planning lessons etc. There are similar sets of processes in evaluation procedures and in developing resources. Quality involves getting every step of the process “right”
  • Quality based on results – the quality of language teaching must also judge the efficiency of the process – how much language is learned? Is there satisfactory added value in the learning process? The difficulty of a pure results based assessment of quality is examined.
  • Quality based on values – education is not a commercial enterprise and it is important to define underlying values – such as the promotion of mutual respect and tolerance – in order to assess its quality.

The Guide prompts readers to explore these principles, all of which need to be included in an overall approach to quality, and to reflect on how they can be applied in their own contexts. To illustrate how changes in the professional environment impact on the way the principles are applied, there is a description of how the development of the Common European Framework of Reference, and its implementation, has affected language education. The second part of the Unit presents some of the basic concepts related to quality assurance; how do we establish criteria and use these to set standards? What indicators can we use to find out if we are achieving quality? How can benchmarking help us in this work? Again the concepts are applied to the readers’ own environment.

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The main themes of this unit are the setting up of internal systems for quality management, the steps and processes involved and the instruments that can be used for quality assurance and enhancement in language education institutions/departments.

Questions addressed in this unit include: How to identify symptoms of low quality? How to diagnose the causes and plan appropriate remedial action? Possible ways of collecting, selecting and using data are exemplified – such as action research, classroom observation, interviews, focus-group discussions, etc.
The second part of Unit 3 explores Institutional Self-evaluation with its various dimensions. Principles, functions and aims are discussed in relation to the context and main focus of the self-evaluation process. The Guide encourages readers to explore the link between individual and team-self-evaluation, as well as the role of participatory analysis of institutional processes and procedures for action planning and quality enhancement.

The main focus in the last part of this Unit is on Class Observation, which is presented as a key-component both of Quality Management and of Professional Development.  Its multiple functions are discussed in relation to the different types of observation and the contexts of use. From a quality management perspective, effective observation serves the purpose of identifying both areas for improvement and areas of strength.  

Setting up systems for the sharing of good practice, facilitating a culture of constructive feedback and continuous professional development benefits both the institution and all the individual professionals involved in the process of quality assurance. The importance of a collaborative atmosphere, appropriate attitudes and skills, is highlighted both in relation to class observation and institutional self-evaluation. 

The methodological approach throughout the unit is that of encouraging readers to reflect on their own experience of systems and processes, and to take a problem-solving approach to the activities and case studies presented. 

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The Unit discusses aspects of evaluation and assessment of quality processes in education. Part one starts by differentiating between the two concepts. In most cases evaluation is concerned with the effectiveness and efficiency of educational processes, programmes and materials. Assessment usually measures the degree of achievement of individual learners or institutions and often relates its results to test norms and sets of criteria.

The understanding of the two concepts is further clarified by presenting basic types of evaluation and assessment and relating them to various educational contexts. Special attention is paid to the Common European Framework of Reference where proficiency assessment, i.e. assessment of students` linguistic and communicative competence in real life situations, is of paramount importance. Self-assessment is given a priority status in relation to the European Language Portfolio and its wider applications.

Assessment is also highlighted in the context of appraising staff performance (appraisal systems) in quality driven institutions.

Part two deals with types of evaluation procedures which guarantee quality. It concentrates on aspects of quality assurance and quality control and the ways these are implemented in language institutions across Europe.

The third part explores benchmarking as a quality management tool in a wider social context. After defining benchmarking on a personal and professional level, different types of benchmarking are exemplified, highlighting the need to apply a variety of approaches for enhanced and competitive performance.

In conclusion, some general indicators of quality performance are briefly reviewed. 

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The unit explores the role of people in a quality culture and identifies some of the components of a quality culture.  The significance of how an institution makes a public commitment to quality is emphasised.  Readers are asked to consider the effect of different influences on their own institution’s culture.

In an organisation with a quality culture, leadership is a function rather than a role.  In this section of the unit the use of distributed leadership is highlighted.  Distributed leadership happens when leaders structure opportunities for leadership to be shared and when opportunities are provided for all staff to develop their leadership skills.

The impact of leadership on quality is examined and the importance of the concept of capacity building is explored.  Capacity building operates at individual and organisational level.  The individuals within an organisation will be fully engaged with the mission through their emotional and intellectual commitment.   This leads to holistic growth, development and transformation at organisational level.

The Guide encourages readers to consider the aspects of leadership, the leadership processes which promote quality and how they can be applied in their own contexts.

The final part of the unit examines an organisation’s self-learning – the connection between action research and innovation and the role of change in a quality culture. Readers are asked to reflect on how their own institution responds to new thinking and offers a tool to help readers answer, How do we know we have a culture of quality?

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The following case studies are being explained in the guide:

1. Setting up a quality management system in a Spanish secondary school
2. Applying quality assurance in a Bulgarian teacher training context
3. The impact of the media on creating quality in language teaching and training
4a. A Quality vision for whole school learning
4b. An ICT quality system to support learning 
5. Developing data focused self-evaluation at departmental level in the UK educational system
6. Setting up quality systems in Austrian Institutes of German language courses

more case studies 

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