The volume of TESTA data is both thrilling and overwhelming (1500 AEQs, 46 focus groups with 265 students, 20 programme audits), but it's not the size that counts but the meaning and influence it has over the student experience. More of that later. The most revolutionary part of TESTA is not the fact that we have robust data which says something interesting and ticks quantitative and qualitative triangulation boxes neatly. The messy bit of the research is the best bit – it's the relational, meaning-making with the programme team that cuts the real mustard of TESTA, and gives it a distinctive and piquant flavour.
Complex, risky and unpredictable
The most radical part of TESTA is the social process. Peter Knight recalled someone saying that "a university is a collection of departments held together by a central heating system". In 2011, programme teams may mirror this metaphor, with loads of fractional and associate lecturers, a few core staff whose backs are bent over their computers in an effort to pump out the next research paper, or fill in the latest bureaucratic wheeze, or mark the piles and piles of scripts in quick time, while averting their gaze from the grim reaper of redundancy. In the midst of this, the TESTA process has brought a note of authenticity, complexity, and community to whole programme teams. It's not about 'my module', but the whole beast in all its vexing and gargantuan complexity. Evidence plus discussion plus refutation plus scepticism plus criticality plus challenge plus investment in making it better and making it happen = fresh ideas, new conversations and great changes to assessment, pedagogy and the structuring of curriculum.
In the words of one programme leader: "Involvement in TESTA has prompted significant, enjoyable discussion between tutors, and with the TESTA team as a catalyst for change.... our sequence map is evolving, our conversations continue... and we've got lots of support for massive changes in the new version of the degree".