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Using the SCQF Level Descriptors to enhance learning, teaching & assessment in colleges

Headshot of Sandra-Jane Grier of College Development Network

By Sandra-Jane Grier, Lead - Curriculum and Teaching, College Development Network

As lecturers, we come into the profession with a good understanding of our subjects and industry, but we sometimes are initially less familiar with the core processes of learning, teaching and assessment.

While working as a lecturer many years ago, I began using the SCQF Level Descriptors increasingly in my day-to-day work to help me ensure my learning materials and assessments were pitched at the right level. A key catalyst for this, was the roll out of the Higher National Modernisation project when many previously unlevelled units were updated to ‘fit’ a specific SCQF level within the new HN awards.

During this time in my career, I actively developed a shared understanding with colleagues of what the generic descriptions at SCQF levels 6 – 9 meant within the context of our subject area, helping ensure that the learning and teaching we were delivering was of an appropriate level of demand.

The level descriptors focus on defined but broad-based outcomes across five defined characteristics, making these uniquely adaptable to all forms of learning – something that has ensured their continued relevance for educators in all sectors. These characteristics include applied practice and underpinning knowledge and a range of essential skills all of which are directly applicable to contemporary learning and work practices.

Referring to and using our professional knowledge of our subject when interpreting the level descriptor statements and competences was a vital part of this process as we collectively sense checked that the subject content we were planning to deliver would allow our students to successfully complete the new levelled awards.
These descriptors were invaluable as a reference point when developing new formative and summative assessment/reassessment materials and adapting existing assessment instruments to meet the defined standards in any newly levelled units - especially when no Unit Assessment Support packs were available to help us define the expected national standard.

The level descriptors are a fantastic tool to support learning and assessment in all its forms, and a resource that I have repeatedly returned to and used when updating curriculum materials and resources and when developing new Units and courses. Happily, SCQF levels are now an explicit feature appearing in Unit Specifications, on candidate certificates and referred to within college prospectuses. The growing SCQF College Ambassador programme is helping to raise the profile and understanding of the SCQF.

With the increasing emphasis on delivering impactful learning and the explicit references to the SCQF within the Professional Standards for College Lecturers, using the SCQF Level Descriptors has become a fundamental skillset. So, if you haven’t looked at these for a while, why not take a fresh look at the descriptors and make sure you make the most of these when developing and/or re-imagining the college curriculum of the future.




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