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School of Art & Design

"This year, not next": Your voice is driving change in Art & Design

Natalie Brown
Natalie Brown, Deputy Dean

Deputy Dean Natalie Brown and Teaching and Learning Manager Kerry Gough explain how your voice has influenced life and learning at the School of Art & Design.  

Natalie: Our teaching teams and technicians get a lot of feedback from our students, and it’s something that we’ve always encouraged. Sometimes it’s through course committees and forums; sometimes it’s just a quick conversation in the corridors. Either way, that feedback’s something we welcome, and something we need. And there’s lots of examples of how we’ve acted really quickly on the ideas of our students.

Kerry: The principle here is very much “this year, not next year.”

Natalie: With every new cohort, we always explain that we’re not the experts in being students – they are. We want to know what it’s like studying on our courses: how people are finding it, what they’re enjoying most, and what they feel could be better. So much of what we’re doing is collaborative, and relies on student input – we’re currently running twelve projects in the Learning, Teaching and Development group, which are focused on everything from what module guides and NOW pages look like, to assessment feedback. Basically, we use our students as consultants on a whole range of issues.

Kerry Gough smiling
Kerry Gough, Teaching and Learning Manager

Art & Design has a really strong sense of community. Our philosophy is that we’re a team, together. It’s not a “them and us” arrangement – we need the help of our students to make this work.

Kerry: Based on feedback, we’re currently redesigning our curriculum to allow for collaboration across courses and industry. We’re also including optionalities, so that students have got the chance to choose modules from outside of their immediate subject discipline. It’s a good example of our students’ feedback impacting directly on the curriculum design for all of our undergraduate courses.

Natalie: The nature of our modules is that they really encourage individuality. You can see it’s a very personal journey for our students. I think we’re responding really well to their needs.

Kerry: Another big request that’s come from our students – through course committees and the Dean-Student Forum – is having a formalised opportunity to complete a work placement. Previously, that meant taking a leave of absence from studies. But now we’re integrating a number of work placements into our courses, which will be taking effect from 2020. If students can find the right opportunities, it’s going to be a better-supported, better-integrated experience than ever before. We’re also developing our use of Pebble Pad, so that students can communicate with us, their personal tutors and professional experience tutors when they’re out on placement – wherever they are in the world.

Natalie: It’s worth saying that student feedback’s played a really important role in how we’re working with the Students’ Union to elect reps, too.

Kerry: Yes. Based on discussions, we wanted to ensure the process was as fair and transparent as possible. Something like 73% of our reps were recruited through the online voting system last year, and it helps to show that things are done fairly. Some students can be a bit shy, and question the value of their voice, but we really want to challenge that perception of “the chosen ones” when it comes to reps. Anyone can put themselves forwards. Everybody’s voice matters.

Natalie: There’s so many examples of feedback shaping what we do. I’m still pretty new to NTU, but I’ve found it a very open, very encouraging culture. And I have to say, the University’s extremely responsive.

Kerry: Which means that when we get a good suggestion, things tend to happen quickly!

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