Quality in health and aged care is defined as the extent to which a service or product achieves a desired outcome, or is fit for its purpose. This statement of our approach to quality in learning and teaching therefore first outlines our goals and philosophy, and then the methods we use to ensure and measure achievement.
Goals and philosophy
The goal of the post-graduate program is to prepare health and aged care managers for leadership success. Through helping our students to meet the leadership and management challenges that face health and aged care organisations, we contribute to improving the effectiveness of health and aged care services.
The program focuses on management as a professional and personal practice, as well as on its theoretical foundations and technical systems. Accordingly, our educational programs have the following characteristics:
Targeted to managers and professionals: we do not accept students who lack practical experience in the health/aged care sectors.
Emphasis on practical skills: all topics focus on the application of theories, systems, methods and skills to the challenges managers face.
Strong theoretical underpinnings: theory provides a framework or 'language' for understanding, analysing and discussing management practice, the causes of problems and the logic of systems and strategies. A strong theoretical base enables managers to think rationally, exercise good judgement and apply knowledge, evidence and logic to problems and solutions.
Grounded in the sector and its culture: the health and aged care systems are unique, and managers need a combination of general management and system-specific education.
Informed by action learning theory: the difficult issues faced by managers are not resolvable with textbook knowledge alone. Insight which questions personal practice (the ability to 'see oneself' in the midst of the action) and versatility (the ability to steer the course of the action through different ways of playing leadership roles) are needed, along with deep knowledge of the way organisations really work.
We therefore use an adult learning approach in which:
- students can relate the subject matter to their own experience and work setting
- active contribution to small group discussions and tasks is expected
- students recognise and respect the value of their classmates' contributions
- each student embarks on a pathway of personal growth and development
- students will be encouraged to think critically and challenge points of view with intellectual rigour
- students will acquire a set of core practical health management skills as well as strong conceptual and analytical skills
- respect for other people's cultures and needs will be fostered.
Approach to ensuring quality
We strive to ensure that the Program meets the learning needs of our students in accordance with the educational goals and philosophy outlined above. The methods we use operate at three levels, as follows.
1. Quality of topics
The topics we teach are the building blocks of the program, and they are designed to enable students to enhance their capabilities in areas defined by our Statement of Graduate Attributes and by the two learned colleges which accredit the program, namely the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM) and the Royal Australasian College of Medical Administrators (RACMA).
Each offering of each topic is evaluated by all participating students, using a comprehensive evaluation form, supplemented with a discussion at the last session of each topic. This form of student evaluation of teaching is designed to provide information to the department on a broad range of matters that are critical for strategic planning. The results are collated for each topic, and reviewed by the topic coordinator, the course coordinator and the Department head. They are also presented at the end of each year to the Department's Curriculum Committee.
The Curriculum Committee is made up of all lecturers in the Program, and a nominee of the Dean of the School of Medicine (normally an experienced teacher in a related area) and a student representative. Meetings are informal, and allow for teachers to share their successes and their concerns about each topic, as well as to consider the needs of the full range of students. The Committee is also responsible for ensuring that the graduate attributes are properly incorporated in the topics.
The undergraduate teaching undertaken by the department is evaluated based on the Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) format used throughout the Bachelor of Health Sciences award.
2. Quality of courses
The overall quality of our courses, the extent to which they meet the learning needs of our students and the requirements of industry employers, is assessed by the Colleges periodically as part of accreditation surveys, and by our Industry Advisory Group at its annual meeting. The Curriculum Committee also reviews the overall match of the topics as a whole to our educational goals. We have commenced the more difficult task of assessing educational outcomes for students, through collecting student assessments of the value of different components of the program for their management roles as part of our internal program review in 2006.
In accordance with Flinders University policy, the Program also undergoes an expert external review every five years. The next review is due in late 2013/14.
3. University and Faculty oversight
These internal departmental quality assessment strategies are nested into a quality framework created and maintained by the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and the University. Curriculum changes over time, as well as student results, are reviewed at School, Faculty and central levels through a comprehensive set of approval requirements.