Sparsholt College is committed to placing you (the learner) at the centre of the entire journey from independent advice and guidance, to progression to employment, continuing education or research; and to providing support to extend equality of opportunity to all.

It is likely that learning, teaching and assessment (LTA) here at the College is different from what you have experienced so far. Particularly the teacher-student hierarchical relationship – at Sparsholt our teaching staff are not so much better than you, the learner – they just know more than you, and thus they are an invaluable resource for you.

In addition to placing you at the centre of the entire educational journey, we firmly believe in learning by doing, that is, it is far easier to understand ideas, processes, and technologies if you have professionally-guided, hands-on experience of them. Literally, in the case of handling live animals, including dangerous wild animals; but also, for example, understanding diet and nutrition by direct analysis; or understanding habitat by direct observation.

Assessment is not just by sedentary examination. All courses have major elements of coursework-based assessment in addition to unit-related examinations. Critically, formative assessment is at the heart of the assessment process of all courses. In simple terms, formative assessment can be explained as all those activities undertaken by students and/or by teachers, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the learning and teaching activities in which they are engaged. This is in contrast to summative assessment which is primarily task and outcome oriented.

Let us look at an example of Sparsholt LTA in action. Principles in Biology is a first-year unit of study for BSc(Hons) Animal Management, BSc(Hons) Equine Science, and BSc(Hons) Equine Studies, but it serves as a good example for all BSc(Hons) and FdSc courses at the College.

Principles in Biology: This unit introduces students to the key biological concepts that will inform and underpin their understanding of subsequent units of study. It will consolidate existing knowledge and develop student familiarity with scientific terminology and the scientific method. In doing this it will highlight the importance of biological literacy in developing and improving standards in the student’s chosen industry.

Aims of the unit:

1. To develop scientific skills.
2. To develop an understanding of fundamental biological principles.
3. To instil the basis of scientific method problem solving.

Scheduled activities of the unit:

40 hours of lectures and discussion on key topics.
20 hours of student-led seminars/presentations on pertinent topics.
140 hours of guided additional study to support in-class learning

Learning outcomes of the unit:

1. Identify, describe and use basic scientific and technical facts and principles of biology and organic chemistry.
2. Identify and use scientific and technical terminology.
3. Recognise and define taxonomic principles and classification systems.
4. Associate the biochemistry of DNA and the genetic code to fundamental genetics, inheritance, population genetics and the management of genetic diversity.
5. Explain the chemical and cellular basis of life.

Learning and teaching strategy for the unit:

A formal lecture programme will provide the conceptual basis for underpinning Learning Outcomes 1 to 5. This will be supplemented by seminars, demonstrations and presentations to reinforce and consolidate understanding of Learning Outcomes 1 to 5. Opportunities for guided independent study will allow greater depth of understanding in key areas and this will be supported by electronic resources as appropriate to subject. Ongoing formative assessment will allow students to check understanding and knowledge in advance of summative assessment.

Outcomes will also be realised through 200 hours of individual work.

Assessment of the unit:

Summative assessment will consist of a 1500 word coursework essay with a weighting of 50%, and a 1 hour examination with a weighting of 50%. The assignment will address Learning Outcomes 1 to 3 whilst the examination will consolidate understanding of Learning Outcomes 1 and 2, and provide further opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge on Learning Outcomes 4 and 5.

A formative assessment will provide developmental guidance prior to submission of the summative work. An additional formative assignment in the form of a set exercise (examination) will provide practice for the examination element of the assessment strategy.

I think that you can trace the continuous relationship between the Aims of the unit, the means of delivery and experience in the Schedule Activities, independent work, and the Learning and Teaching Strategy; the intended Learning Outcomes; and the means of Assessment.