Teaching and learning on the Keele Foundation Year
As part of our Gold-standard teaching, we maintain a strong commitment to excellence and innovation in teaching and educational research. All current Foundation Year Centre staff already have or are completing formal teaching qualifications and between them have many years’ experience of teaching on foundation year programmes.
Foundation Year structure
Our academic year runs from September to June and is divided into two semesters. There is a vacation after the first semester’s teaching at Christmas, followed by an examination period. The second semester begins immediately after the examination period and continues until June, with a vacation at Easter. The examination period for the second semester begins in May.
The number of weeks of teaching will vary from course to course, but you can generally expect to attend scheduled teaching sessions between the end of September and mid-December, and from mid-January to the end of April.
Your learning is divided into ‘modules’, which is a programme of study around one specific topic. The depth and length of study is linked to the ‘value’ of the module, which may be worth 15 or 30 credits. On the Foundation Year, you will take a combination of modules to a total of 120 credits, including the compulsory modules and those related to the subject area you have chosen. As a comparison, a three-year degree programme is typically a total of 120 credits per year, while a postgraduate master’s programme is 180 credits.
Typically, one third of your learning will take place through directed learning and teaching activities, with the remainder through guided independent study. We would expect your total learning experience on this one-year Foundation course to comprise 1,200 hours of study time, roughly 35-40 hours per week during semester-time, though this may vary depending on your subject and choice of modules.
With access to state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching facilities and apparatus, your foundation programme will be delivered through a mixture of classes, which may include lectures, tutorials, seminars and workshops. Depending on the degree you have chosen, you may also have computer classes, computer exercises and laboratory sessions.
You’ll have regular opportunities to talk through your progress, particular areas of difficulty or any special learning needs with either your Personal Tutor or Module Lecturers on a one-to-one basis. You will meet your Personal Tutor at regular times throughout the academic year to discuss your progress and support that you may need.
- Lectures: These are the traditional method of university teaching, which you’ll no doubt be familiar with. Normally 50 minutes in length, the lecturer is typically the central focus of a lesson and talks to the whole class with the aid of PowerPoint presentations, whiteboards, and other visual aids. There is usually the opportunity to ask questions and occasionally guest speakers. Some lectures are more interactive and may involve you in activities, like quizzes and using online simulations.
- Flipped classroom: You may have heard of a ‘flipped classroom’, which shifts the focus of the lesson from instruction to a learner-centred model. To enable you to explore topics in greater depth, you’ll effectively prepare for the lesson in advance, researching the subject as homework and preparation.
- Tutorials and seminars: These are smaller group sessions with a member of staff, who will encourage you to contribute to the debate and discussion, ask questions or even to lead part of the session. Tutorials and seminars usually support the material delivered in the lectures, allowing you or your tutor to expand on the topic and introduce additional material.
- Workshops: These small group sessions allow you to take a more hands-on, practical approach. A member of staff facilitates the session, but you learn by doing a particular activity. For example, you’ll develop skills through role play or by preparing a social media campaign. Workshops also provide more opportunities to have discussion and debates on a theme or topic.
- Computer classes: With access to the undergraduate computing labs, you’ll complete tasks using a wide variety of computer applications, supported by members of staff, who will be on hand to provide guidance.
- Independent study: You’ll manage your work, completing it in your own time. This might include revision, wider reading around the subject, researching and writing assignments, reading and other preparation for seminars and tutorials. You’ll be provided with reading lists to help direct your reading and will have access to all of the University’s library facilities, including books, journals, e-books, e-journals and an extensive database of online resources including Box of Broadcasts (Bob), a subscription service by the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC).
- Team-based learning and problem-based learning are group work classes that are facilitated by a tutor. Students complete a series of tasks to actively learn about a subject.
Directed learning activities are set by tutors, that will be completed by students independently, or as part of a group.
“My personal tutor is absolutely brilliant for support”
The wide variety of assessment methods – not all of which may be featured on your course or module – help develop your knowledge and skills, with examinations are held at the end of both semesters. You’ll be given clear assessment criteria and timely, regular and constructive feedback so you can improve their performance. Your Module Leader and Personal Tutor will be on hand to help clarify things you’ve not understood or give you additional guidance should you need it.
- Unseen closed and open book examinations in different formats test your knowledge and understanding of the subject. Examinations may consist of essay, short answer and/or multiple choice questions.
- Essays and reports demonstrate your ability to articulate ideas clearly using argument and reasoning. They also develop and demonstrate research and presentation skills (including appropriate scholarly referencing).
- Class tests taken either conventionally or online via the Keele Learning Environment (KLE) are another way to assess your subject knowledge and ability to apply it.
- Research projects test your knowledge of different research methodologies and the limits and nature of your knowledge of a particular topic. They also help you formulate research questions and address them using appropriate methods, skills you’ll need to complete a degree dissertation.
- Oral and poster presentations and reports assess your subject knowledge and understanding, as well as your ability to communicate and work effectively as a member of a team.
- Portfolios are a compilation of different pieces of academic work and routinely require you to provide some evidence of critical reflection. This might include work in progress as well as completed work to help demonstrate your progress, for example, a series of lab diary entries collected during lab sessions. Portfolios are a great way for you to showcase and submit for assessment your best work from the most recent period of study – this exercise also gets you into good habits, should you need to provide evidence when you’re ready to find work on graduation.
- Peer assessment is when you and your fellow students evaluate each other’s work, particularly in group work. This helps you take responsibility, improve your performance, and reflect on your own work and that of others constructively.
- Course work assignments consist of short written pieces completed in your own time to test the depth of your understanding. You’ll make use of a variety of source material, as well as lecture notes, textbooks etc.
- Participation in group discussions is monitored and rewarded.
“Be optimistic about having an extra year at university because university goes so quickly. It’s a good middle step between school and your actual university course, which makes it easier to settle into a new life of living and working independently”
Assessment is divided into two broad types:
- Formative assessments: Assessment is ongoing and conducted during the learning process.
- Summative assessments: These take place at the end of a course, module or unit of study within a module.
Marks are awarded for summative assessments to assess your achievement of learning outcomes and you’ll also be assessed formatively, so we – and you – can monitor your progress. Feedback, including guidance on how you can improve the quality of your work, is provided on all summative and formative assessments within three working weeks of submission, unless there are compelling circumstances that make this impossible. You’ll also receive more informal feedback during tutorial and seminar discussions.