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CQAF Online: Working Toward a Shared Perception on Dealing with Quality Initiatives

“When we first started as a team discussing the contents of our new educational program for addressing local businesses needs in our region, as well as the processes that need to be in place in order to run the program properly, the CQAF online model helped us moving ahead. The model provided support for many of the organizational issues that needed to be taken care of regarding content as well as the delivery process.”

CQAFtestado1One of the reactions out of the 19 training organisations which have been participating in the CQAF Online project, a 2011 project run under the Leonardo da Vinci program of the European Union. The CQAF online projects’ purpose was the development of an online application of a common quality assurance model for self-evaluation. This model has been developed based upon input of educational providers in a 2009 project called “Common Quality Assurance framework for (Adult) Vocational Education and Training Providers: CQAF for (A)VET). In the project partners from Cyprus (EDITC), Greece (Dimitra), Netherlands (Revalento), Spain (Documenta) and Sweden (Folkuniversitetet, also being the coordinator) have been working together closely to establish a set of common issues relevant for good education.

The CQAF Online project was set out first to further elaborate and test the already developed quality assurance model called CQAF VET. To assure for good education (addressing learner needs as well as the needs of relevant stakeholders) this model distinguishes three domains or axes: one addressing the content and didactical approaches, one covering the related organizational processes and one addressing learner issues like validity and recognition of what actually has been learned.

Each domain encompasses four relevant themes which each are described by a small set of indicators (see table below for a general presentation of the core content of the model).

 1.Content and Learning

 2.The organization

 3.The Learner

1.1

1.2

1.3

1.4

Curriculum

Learning methods

Intake and entrance level

Coaching, mentoring and tutoring

2.1

2.2

2.3

2.4

Leadership

Outcome and accountability

Staff development and staff allocation

Social responsibility

3.1

3.2

3.3

3.4

Accessibility

Guidance and care structure

Apprenticeship and work based learning

Examination

 

The extended testing was done in 2012 and early 2013 by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education and covered educational institutes offering training programs for professionals in a wide range of the labour market: tourism, health care, process technology, ICT, accountancy and marketing. In the other partner countries peer groups were established to elaborate on the results of the testing in respect of the different national contexts. Evaluation of the pilot as well as the discussions in the different peer groups convincingly showed that the model as it was is covering and describing the most relevant issues for good education very well and no major amendments were required. What however was needed and mentioned by all was a proper introduction of the usage as well as scope of the model: what does quality mean for the education at hand, how can we use self-evaluation to improve quality, how can the model be used, what is the limit of its use? Also the role of the teacher as well as the area of organisational culture were pointed out as major contributors to the success of quality policy, supported and understood by all staff.

The impact of these two factors mentioned was also demonstrated by research findings in another EU project among different educational institutes (varying from primary, secondary, vocational till higher professional education). In this 2012 project called “Expanding the Spirit of Quality in VET” research was done regarding the introduction, preparation, facilitation and evaluation of quality initiatives in education. The outcomes illustrated that teachers and managers differ in their perceptions of quality. The results in Austria, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Russia and Turkey showed that compared to managers teachers have a different perspective on why quality initiatives are started (teachers more often mention external factors as a trigger). Also, compared to managers teachers are far less positive on: whether the objectives of the initiative are clear, on the impact on the primary process, the amount of time these initiatives take, the way they are facilitated, the way they are managed, the way they are communicated, evaluated and implemented. Participants have also been asked to give advice on how to overcome this mismatch. The red line in all responses is: create a culture of sharing and communicating, find a common language to talk about these issues and start communicating at the very early stage (In 2014 a project report on this research will become available).

These findings actually touch on the second objective of the CQAF online project: the development of an online tool for self-evaluation. The online tool consists of three sets of questionnaires, each one addressing one axe of the CQAF VET model. By answering the questionnaire jointly, both management and team together, the organization works toward a more open culture, contributing to a common understanding of quality and how quality can contribute to better education. The tool will generate feedback in the form of a spider web diagram regarding the current level of quality assurance in the depicted areas. This feedback can be used to discuss new quality initiatives and / or whether they are needed. This time not initiatives driven by management needs but by common understanding and urgency. More information on the project, the online tool and how it can be used is found on the project website: www.cqaf-online.eu.

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