How does St Petersburg University maintain high quality education? How do employers help the University to address issues in the field of educational standards? Why is it necessary for students to participate in the work of teaching methodology committees? Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods of St Petersburg University, and Mariya Solovyeva, Head of the Educational Programmes Department at the University, have told us how Teaching Methodology Committees – one of the most important expert bodies at St Petersburg University – work.  

Since October 2018, Teaching Methodology Committees have been working in a new format: for larger groups of areas and fields of study. Maryia Solovyova spoke in more detail about what exactly has changed in their activities.

Teaching Methodology Committees used to be created within faculties or institutes. Organising them according to larger groups of areas and fields of study has made it possible to unite experts according to the programme principle.

Mariya Solovyeva, Head of the Educational Programmes Department at St Petersburg University

‘Teaching Methodology Committees: analyse the content of academic activities that are implemented at the University; discuss projects for academic and methodological documentation and teaching materials; and prepare analytical materials and expert opinions, including those in the field of international academic cooperation,’ said Mariya Solovyeva. 

Teaching Methodology Committees include University’s academic staff, who are representatives of academic and research departments of St Petersburg University. They take part in developing and implementing academic programmes that are included in the larger groups of areas and fields of study. Commissions also include representatives of: the academic staff in the field of ‘foreign languages’; student councils; professional associations; and employing organisations.

Various working groups are created to address certain issues at Teaching Methodology Committees. For example, boards for quality control of the teaching and learning process analyse subject syllabi and practice syllabi in terms of the pool of assessment tools and testing kits. They also analyse the results of interim assessment and submit an analytical report and recommendations for improving academic and methodological documentation to the Head of the Teaching Methodology Committee.

Involving representatives of professional associations and employing organisations in Teaching Methodological Committees is an important form of interaction with professional communities. It makes it possible to take into account professional standards in the teaching and learning process and specify professional competencies of St Petersburg University graduates. Employers participate in: reviewing academic and methodological documentation; proposing topics for qualification projects and their reviewing; and the state final certification. Some employers have been part of the Teaching Methodology Committees for several years.

Another important feature of the work of Teaching Methodology Committees is that students are involved in their activities. This is one of the forms of interaction with the student community to take into account students’ opinions and respect their rights. Members of the University's student councils are included in the committee on the recommendation of the heads of student councils.

Vitalii Prusakov, a student of the ‘Clinical Psychology’ programme, participates in the work of the Teaching Methodology Committee. He has expressed his opinion about why University students, along with lecturers and employers, should work to improve the quality of education.

‘In my opinion, the key task of the student representative in the Teaching Methodology Committee is to keep track of issues that directly concern students, and take an active part in their discussing and addressing,’ said Vitalii Prusakov. ‘It is equally important to monitor student satisfaction with: the teaching and learning process; the content of academic programmes; interaction with lecturers; the knowledge assessment system; the availability of study materials; and the organisation of internships. When identifying problems in these areas, I am required to convey this information to the members of the Teaching Methodology Committee, and initiate work on resolving emerging issues.’

Also significant is the fact that students see the teaching and learning process in a different way than the administrative and academic staff. Students have suggestions for improving educational activities. For example, in the field of course content or the ratio of practical and theoretical classes in the course.

Quality education can only be created by the joint efforts of interested people.

Marina Lavrikova, Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods of St Petersburg University

‘A lot depends on everyone in this work. I would like the students to see themselves as active participants in this dialogue and not be afraid of expressing their opinion. The participation of students in the work of the committees is necessary; since it is they who can offer their senior colleagues a new, non-standard view of complex issues in methodological work,’ said Marina Lavrikova.

At a meeting with students in February 2019, Marina Lavrikova invited the University students to express their opinion and come up with suggestions on what problems to raise at the meetings of the Teaching Methodology Committees. The most important issues included getting feedback from students – in particular, conducting a survey on the quality of teaching. The students asked to be informed about how their opinion is taken into account in the further implementation of certain courses, and to be sent the full results of the survey. The meeting participants also suggested inviting students who study applied mathematics at the University to work with the settings of the Blackboard electronic system.

Summing up, Marina Lavrikova urged students to act more actively as part of Teaching Methodology Committees and not ignore the issues that arise during meetings. They can ask heads of student councils or the Teaching Methodology Committees themselves, as well as send their questions to the Senior Vice-Rector for Academic Activities and Teaching Methods. ‘This is a rather difficult job, so the main thing is to organise meaningful cooperation,’ emphasised Marina Lavrikova.