March 30, 2015, by Teaching at Nottingham

Programme review in practice: The Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering

2014 saw M3 begin a Teaching Review with the intention of improving the student experience by providing more coherent programmes that deliver the learning outcomes whilst reducing assessment workload for students and staff. In partnership with the Teaching Transformation Programme, staff are looking at ways in which learning outcomes can be met effectively, efficiently and imaginatively, whilst ensuring that the quality and rigour of student assessment and feedback is at least maintained if not improved. Through a Programme Review that begins with rethinking the first year, the Head of Department, Professor Steve Pickering, intends to create a clearer communication of expectations around assessment and standards with Engineering students. He notes that it’s the involvement of staff in this process that makes all the difference:

“I’ve been really impressed by the level of engagement there has been from colleagues, and by the discussion and insights that they’ve shared. Morale in our department is good so it’s important to build on that, to see the Programme Review as a chance to enhance our provision, rather than starting from scratch.”

The Department has identified that a Programme Review offers an opportunity to explore the ways in which the design and structure of their programmes can be optimised to best suit the development of the student, whilst still effectively using the particular strengths of a department and meeting accreditation requirements. As for any research-intensive department, staff expertise has a significant impact on the structure and content of modules, particularly in later years. The first year should be the start of preparing students to become independent in managing their progress towards professional status. There is already much of value and the focus is reorganising content around practical application of engineering and mathematical principles. Steve Pickering notes that:

M3 article diagram

“We don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, we have to be clear about our strengths. We’re looking at this as a longer-term, gradual restructuring. Any changes won’t be drastic and they are unlikely to be implemented across the whole programme at once – it is more likely to be a case of introducing a revised structure one year at a time.”

The changes to the department have to be seen in the context of the broader structural change taking place within the University. Communication between staff in M3 is important, and the Away Days in September were key in supporting a shared development of a new approach, but it is communication with other Schools that arguably holds the key to a successful transition towards University-wide consistency of student experience. For Steve, this is where the Teaching Transformation Programme comes in:

“The TTP is useful in guiding our thoughts and ideas, but also at pointing us in the direction of things we might not have considered. Although there is a lot of good practice amongst us, we don’t necessarily have the time to go out there and speak to other Schools about their approaches to teaching and learning. I just like good ideas and sharing practice that other people are doing; if Theology do it this way, for example, why have we never thought of doing it that way? I strongly feel that the answers are within us and it’s just a question of communication and sharing. If somebody says ‘what’s your good practice?’ you don’t know what your good practice is, it’s just normal. So it’s sharing of practice, not even sharing of good practice.”


Further information on the Programme Review process can be found via the Teaching and Learning pages.

More on the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, including contact details for Professor Pickering, can be found here.

Posted in Curriculum designProgramme ReviewTTP