Quality assurance: positive tension and integrity
How a positive tension structure holds together the elements of quality assurance in teaching and learning
25 June 2014
In order to achieve ‘quality’ it is paramount that the system for building and maintaining it is in place and fully functioning. In the arena of delivering learning this means that for quality to thrive the people, content and structure of what is being delivered have to be ‘the best they can be’. To achieve this aim the entire learning process has to be thoroughly planned, supported, monitored and evaluated to ensure that everything operates at an optimum level.
All systems and models rely on the required components being in place and held in balance. A good visual example of this is the ‘tensegrity’ model. The term ‘tensegrity’ was formulated by architect and systems theorist R. Buckminster Fuller in the 1960s as a combination of the terms ‘tensional integrity’. A tensegrity model can take many forms but this is one example:
It is a structure where the components are held in balance by the tension between them and the structure clearly and visibly responds to any increase or decrease in pressure on it. As a result when it is ‘squeezed’ at any point the entire model distorts and loses its symmetrical shape and balance.
Quality assurance in delivering learning is likewise a system for ensuring that all the necessary components are place and symmetrical so the model holds its structure and does not get distorted. In learning - these components are factors such as:
- Suitable planning
- Assessment of risk
- Appropriate resources – particularly staff
- Time for preparation
- Ongoing support
- Sampling & monitoring
- Record keeping
If pressure is exerted on the quality assurance model such as by components being reduced or removed, the positive ‘tension’ holding the entire system for ensuring quality will alter and the shape of the model will be distorted. It will no longer be in balance or hold its overall structure – and it will no longer guarantee the quality of the learning being delivered.
Fuller, Buckminster. "Tensegrity," Portfolio and Art News Annual, No. 4 (1961), pp. 112–127, 144, 148