Our Philosophy and Commitment to the Student Experience

The main aim of the Department of Social Studies and Counselling is to enhance the learning experience for each and every student. We are a team of committed teachers and researchers who actively utilise a diversity of approaches to provide our students with the best possible educational opportunities. 

With this in mind the following strategy has been developed to formally embed our Departmental philosophy.  It is a philosophy that has and will continue to re-centre the student as the primary point of focus. Each undergraduate programme – Counselling Skills, Criminology, Politics and Sociology – in addition to our postgraduate programmes, in their own unique way apply these five fundamental principles:

Creating Independent Lifelong Learners

  • What is it that will set the Chester Graduate apart?
  • What transferable skills will you be able to offer your future employer?
  • How will you make an impact?

The Department of Social Studies and Counselling looks to produce graduate attributes that are lifelong and meaningful to your future. Thinking critically and reflectively, fine tuning your communications skills and being able to conduct independent and thorough research are primary attributes that the Department aims to inspire in all our students.

We understand that students learn in different ways and we have developed practices to support our students. Our philosophy is to work collaboratively with learners to formulate a curriculum that meets the needs and requirements of a diverse student body. This is evidenced by our rich and varied diet of approaches that go beyond the ‘information transmission’ that is the traditional lecture. As a Department, we aim for our students to become accomplished and expert learners in their own right. Our strategy is to empower our students so when not in the seminar room or the lecture theatre they feel confident and comfortable making decisions about their own learning.

Personalised Support and Community Involvement

As a Department we understand that a student does not just become an independent learner. Nor do we believe that learning stops when the lecture ends. Indeed, we know – through our collective years of experience – that coming to university can be a daunting experience. As a Department we host a range of opportunities for guidance and support outside of timetabled lectures and seminars.

  • All tutors are contactable during the working week; every tutor will offer drop-in sessions and times by appointment, with many offering an open door policy.
  • Pastoral support is provided by the allocation of a Personal Academic Tutor for each undergraduate student in the Department; this means that a student always has a first point of contact to discuss academic or welfare issues.
  • The Department also recognises the importance of encouraging a vibrant and inclusive community.

We seek to enhance the student experience by devoting time to regular social events, trips and extra-curricular activities. Indeed, much of this informs our teaching as these activities represent a backdrop to the taught element of each programme. Such events also provide excellent opportunities for staff and students to meet outside of the lecture theatre to share ideas. The impact: a dynamic and supportive learning and social environment.

Partnership Agreement and Our Commitment to You

Studying at university involves collaboration and cooperation between staff and students. We feel that it is important that both groups are informed of their respective responsibilities and expectations. In the Department of Social Studies and Counselling we have developed a Partnership Agreement that articulates what students can expect of their learning experience. As a Department we are committed to – indeed, we have put in writing – what you can expect of staff (and vice versa). We have, for example, committed to the return of student work within 20 working days and to replying to student emails within an agreed timeframe.

The agreement also embodies a spirit of flexibility for when the unexpected occurs. Understanding the roles of staff and students is important and valuable as it paints a clear picture of the commitments that are made and expectations that are anticipated.

Education for the 21st Century

Information technology and innovative ways to access information have revolutionised society. University is no different and here at Chester we pride ourselves on a suite of newly updated and expanded learning resources. The Department of Social Studies and Counselling, and the University more widely have invested substantial funding into making access to state-of-the-art learning resources as simple as possible in order to support the scholarly endeavours and academic development of learners. For example, students can benefit from:

  • Literary, audio and visual resources are available to all students and a dedicated subject librarian team are on hand to provide discipline specific support to students.
  • Newly constructed learning ‘pods’ are available for students to utilise in addition to specialist IT resources being available.
  • Recent modifications to the library catalogue search engine that allows for quick and effective literature searching.

Innovative and Inclusive Assessment Practices

We pride ourselves on developing, improving and introducing interesting and innovative assessments that move beyond the traditional exam. Although an exam has its place – and we do have some exams across most undergraduate programmes – we do not feel that it is the only or necessarily the best form of assessing a student’s understanding of an issue or topic. Indeed, many of the exams that our programmes do set are seen exams (where students see questions in advance); this shifts the emphasis away from the regurgitation of facts and re-orientates the focus to the Department’s fostering of independent learning skills.

When looking across our programmes, there is clear evidence of the implementation of innovative forms of assessment.

This includes:

  • Group presentations, audio recordings, policy analyses, writing press releases, poster presentations, student constructed tests, creative exegeses (a personal reflection on a student’s own piece of work), online forums, producing reports, portfolios through to the critique of case studies.

The integrity of our assessment is our priority, however in our opinion, this should not stifle innovation and thus we continually strive to develop student assessments that are an effective means of gauging the academic development of learners. Effective assessment and feedback is key to a good student experience and it also where we, as a Department, pride ourselves.

As a matter of routine, academic staff return marked assessments promptly and provide extensive feedback to students; detailing areas of achievement and priorities for development. Students are always encouraged to seek face-to-face advice and guidance from the teaching teams to supplement their individual feedback too. Moreover, and in addition to programme-based study skills guidance, the University has a dedicated learning enhancement service that is open to all students studying here with us.