This case study documents the strategic approach adopted by UCC’s School of Education (SoE) in collaboratively aligning three specific level 8 undergraduate programmes of Initial Teacher Education (UG-ITE) (B.Ed. Gaeilge, B.Ed. Sports Studies and Physical Education (SSPE), B.Sc. Science Education (BScEd), comprising around 450 students, to the national accreditation standards issued by the Teaching Council of Ireland (TC) (2020). The core objective of this cross-programme collaborative alignment was to harmonise and consolidate three curricular structures towards an improved student experience, through conceptual and academic coherence and rationalisation, while updating each individual programme to the new accreditation requirements. This process has been developing since late 2020 when the TC accreditation standards were published. There have been frequent meetings between programme directors and administrators to coordinate a common response (TC Proforma, 6 Toolkits, and 5 appendices) that illustrate and justify all programmatic elements (curriculum, pedagogy and assessment). The alignment process was centrally underpinned by UCC’s Academic Strategy 2018-2022 and by the 2019 SoE Quality Review. In particular, this case study describes a very complex (Fig.1) yet collegial process of aligning three UG-ITE programmes with different life cycles (B.Ed. Gaeilge was in its second year of operation, BScEd has been running for 22 years, and B.Ed. SSPE has been running for 16 years), alongside established routines and networks. The school placement element is a core pillar of commonality across the three UG-ITE programmes, as all students must be placed in two different secondary schools for a minimum of 200 hours and this element had to be rationalised and streamlined appropriately.
The impacts and changes from this collaborative alignment process are already visible. The most immediate impacts are:
• enhanced cross-programme, multidisciplinary collaboration through shared values, understanding, experience, and resources, that also benefits the SoE’s management structures towards strategic decision-making on staff, students and resources.
• streamlined and rationalised management of the school placement core element across the three programmes that raises the external profile and standard of the SoE and UCC.
• potential for successful outcomes of re-accreditation with the TC, due to the significant volume of shared/common content across the three UG-ITE programmes.
Mid to long-term impacts, afforded by a new space for professional conversations and alignment not previously experienced, offer pathways towards:
• cross-programme delivery and assessment of common modules, all aligned under a common programmatic blueprint across the three UG-ITE (i.e. Y1 focused on subject knowledge and introduction to educational modules; Y2 and Y3 focused on short-term aligned school placement experiences and completing core subject modules; Y4 focused on long-term school placement and completing educational and professional research modules);
• enhanced and consolidated community partnerships that may raise the (already high) students’ employability profile;
• implement strategic staff recruitment and workload distribution;
• identify future opportunities for cross-programme shared learning and research collaboration on teaching and learning.