Enhancing Learning and Teaching Quality through Collaborative Observation

Enhancing Learning and Teaching Quality through Collaborative Observation (ELTQCO) is a practice-led project that is underpinned by the belief that improving the student learning experience starts by improving the learning experience of teaching staff. 

School pupil in lesson raising hand


Participating institutions

Birmingham City University (Lead institution)
Loughborough University
University of Wolverhampton

Project team

Professor Matt O’Leary and Dr Vanessa Cui (BCU)
Dr Victoria Wright (Loughborough)
Assoc. Prof Julie Hughes & Dr Jenni Jones (Wolverhampton)


Academic teaching staff
University students


Enhancing Learning and Teaching Quality through Collaborative Observation (ELTQCO) is a practice-led project that is underpinned by the belief that improving the student learning experience starts by improving the learning experience of teaching staff.

Shaped and informed by cutting-edge observation research and practice, the project aims to implement and evaluate an innovative cycle of collaborative observation (CoCO), involving groups of students and teaching staff from varied disciplines, co-observing and co-reflecting on the quality of their learning and teaching experiences and perceptions.

ELTQCO views teaching and learning as social practices that require the key agents (students and teaching staff) to engage actively in a process of collective reflexivity. By collectively reflecting on and discussing their experiences and perceptions of teaching and learning together, students and staff are able to enter into a process of collective sense making and meaning, which is an integral part of enabling both parties to develop their knowledge and practices further.

ELTQCO includes a collaborative partnership between three universities (Birmingham City University, Loughborough University and University of Wolverhampton), with each university focusing on priority areas for improvement that have been identified in each of their respective institutions through the CoCO model.

ELTQCO is driven by shared values around developing and promoting excellence and authentic engagement amongst staff and students, with benefits for enhancing the teaching and learning awareness and experience of both parties, along with providing evidence for informing quality enhancement at course/module level. In contrast to the marketised conceptualisations of students as consumers and staff as providers that have become enshrined in HE policy and practice in recent years, the philosophical foundation of ELTQCO positions students and staff as members of a shared community of practice who have agency and are active participants in understanding and shaping teaching and learning in their respective communities.

This project builds on our previous HEFCE funded project, Improving learning and teaching through collaborative observation.

Research aims 

The objectives of the project are to:

  • Increase student engagement in shaping their learning experiences by empowering them to become directly involved in informing and improving the quality of learning and teaching on their course/module.
  • Implement 2 cycles of collaborative observation with students and staff across three universities and to evaluate its impact at course/module level.
  • Provide students and staff with conceptual, practical tools to promote authentic collaboration and inquiry into the quality of their learning and teaching.
  • Work collaboratively with staff and students at the partner universities to share a reconceptualised approach to the use of observation as a tool for enhancing the quality of teaching and learning, with a view to sharing the findings/recommendations across the sector.

Method of research

This project is funded by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) as part of the 2022-23 Collaborative Enhancement Programme.

Our innovative methodology adopts a formative, process-driven approach to understanding and improving quality, in contrast to the dominant, product-focused, summative approaches commonly relied upon to capture students’ experiences of teaching. ELTQCO reconceptualises students as genuine partners in interrogating and co-constructing their learning experiences with staff, impacting positively on levels of student learning engagement.

ELTQCO allows project participants to facilitate situated, meaningful insights into the quality of learning and teaching from student-staff perspectives. Building on a previous HEFCE-funded project which developed a cycle of collaborative observation (CoCO), the project uses the CoCO model as a conceptual and operational tool to engage participants in collaborative discussion and reflection on the quality of learning and teaching through a range of discipline-specific case studies.

Participating universities focus on specific themes relevant to their local contexts. The key themes of inquiry include inclusivity and student belonging, student engagement and assessment and feedback.

Application of research

Students and academic teaching staff learn about teaching and learning by interacting with their peers and with each other, by sharing their insights and experiences in collaborative, cooperative forums. It therefore makes sense that any attempt to enhance our understanding of and improve these practices is best served by allowing its key participants to be part of a collective community in which they are encouraged to engage in reflexive dialogue and collective sense making.

We believe that creating the conditions in which students and staff have the opportunity to examine their understanding and experiences of teaching and learning and open them up to dialogic exchange is fundamental to developing greater awareness of the strengths and areas for development in their practices.

Through the ELTQCO project, we are convinced that we can help to create these shared spaces in which teaching staff can come together with their peers and equally with their students to engage in reflexive pedagogical dialogue on their classroom teaching and learning, with the ultimate aim of improving the learning experiences for all.