Findings

The findings for this project are  presented below. We have also provided them in an interactive form to enable you to more fully participate in this research or to use the data in your own research.

 

Method

Thirty three academic staff were interviewed about their experiences of handover. The thirty three staff were made up of eleven new course coordinators, ten  experienced coordinators (>2 years), 6 program directors, 5 deputy head of school / head of school and 1 Dean: Health and Clinical Education. Participants were asked about their experience of either taking over a course or providing support for a staff member who was taking over a course. Subsequently they were asked about the content that should be included in a tool that supports the process of course handover.

Findings

Experiences of handover

No lecturer had experienced a formalised handover process. However, a number had experienced informal handovers where a helpful member of the academic staff sat down with them and discussed the course. These discussions were sometimes, but not always, with the previous coordinator and when possible were iterative in nature. New coordinators found it hard to identify what was important for their course before they were well into the teaching phase. On some occasions these new coordinators were able to go back to the previous coordinator to ask questions and clarify aspects of their course. On other occasions there was simply no one to ask.

  • Luck

The strongest theme through these experiences was the belief of new course coordinators that they had been ‘lucky’. A common visualisation expressed was of the staff member walking down corridors knocking on random staff members doors until they found someone that could explain to them about their new course.

  • Importance of face to face communication

Participants were very grateful for any help they received and valued the collegial discussions which occurred as a result. Not always were these discussions with the previous coordinator; on some occasions a program director supported the new course coordinator and on other occasions it was simply a person who reported having knowledge of the course and was willing to share that knowledge.

Participants regarded these collegial discussions as ‘best practice’ and a course handover tool was seen as useful in supporting and guiding these discussions. It should be only in instances where these collegial discussions are not possible the tool should be used as a standalone support.

  • Courses change hands unexpectedly and not always ‘at the start’

Some participants were ‘given’ courses at times which did not allow them the opportunity to become familiar before teaching. For example; starting half way through a course, taking over a  courses a matter of days before being expected to teach, arriving from another country in December while many staff were away for Christmas and being expected to teach mid-January.

  • Previous course coordinators not supportive

While most of the participant’s experienced supportive colleagues there was no formal mechanism at any of the three institutions that required the previous course coordinator to provide that support. On some occasions that support was not given and this lack of support was shown in a number of ways. On one occasion the previous coordinator simply refused to have any contact whatsoever with the new coordinator more typically however lack of support was about either simply not being able to find anyone knowledgeable and on some occasions resources were removed or of little help. For example a PowerPoint was provided for a topic with no notes and the PowerPoint was completely made up of images that clearly meant something to the previous coordinator but absolutely nothing to the new coordinator.

 

Aspects that were deemed to be important to a handover tool

  • History of the course

New course coordinators wanted to know where the course came from and why it was initially designed. Their rationale was that should they desire to change the course it would be helpful for them to understand this.

Application to the CHATTS tool: While the tool does not seek an historical context it does require the Program Director to state the purpose of the course and where the course is positioned in the program. Over time an historical perspective will emerge trough continued use.

  • Timelines

Three new coordinators independently told the same story of taking over a course that had an exam, booking the room and then their students walking into a bare room with no tables and chairs. They needed to know more precisely what to do and when to do it. Similarly for those coordinators taking over a course with little time to adjust need to know what they need to do right NOW.

Application to the CHATTS tool:

Am excel spread sheet / GAANT chart is embedded in the tool which can be modified as much or as little as the needs of the course demand.

  • Academic design of the course

The academic design emerged primarily in two ways. Firstly, new coordinators wanted to know where their new course sat in the program. Sometimes this was communicated by stating that they wanted to know what their student would likely already know or at what level they needed to ‘pitch’ the course at. The other way they asked about the academic design was through assessment. New coordinators wanted to know the rationale behind the assessment. Why this assessment? Why at that time? What was the student REALLY meant to show? Why and how do different assessments link..and so on.

Application to the CHATTS tool:

The academic design is apparent in three domains of the CHATTS tool. The course’s place in the program is described through the ‘context’ domain of the tool. The assessment design is communicated through ‘assessment’ and lastly, student attainment and standards through ‘students’.

  • Institutional evaluation of course and teaching

Many new lecturers were unaware that their teaching, that of their tutors and the success of the course would be measured by students through formal mechanisms. In some instances coordinators were required to run focus groups that needed to be convened very quickly and without enough time for though and recruitment. New lecturers thought it would be very important that information about evaluation was  clearly stated.

Application to the CHATTS tool:

The section ‘Teaching quality’ addresses both formal institutional processes and suggests some other ways new course coordinators can influence and use evaluation.

  • Who and how do I hire?

New lecturers felt pressure to suddenly come up with a multitude of qualified staff to tutor into their new course. In the absence of support many reverted to calling on their connections in the profession to teach. Also lecturers were keen to now if there was a person who had intimate knowledge of the course that they could hire as both a good teacher but to also use their knowledge to better understand the course.

Application to the CHATTS tool:

The section on staff specifically asks pertinent questions that a new lecture needs to know about staff