Student Evaluations in Higher Education and Universities

While student evaluations or ‘happy sheets’ become routine in higher education and universities, some question both effectiveness and efficiency in using such instruments to assess quality. Further, what is quality in teaching, learning, assessment, technology, administration and student well-being, then how and when should it be applied?

Student feedback and evaluations in higher education

Student Experience Feedback (Image copyright Pexels)

From the AIM Network Australia:

Mutual Decline: The Failings of Student Evaluation

November 30, 2018 Written by: Dr Binoy Kampmark

That time of the year. Student evaluations are being gathered by the data crunchers. Participation rates are being noted. Attitudes and responses are mapped. The vulnerable, insecure instructor, fearing an execution squad via email, looks apprehensively at comments in the attached folder that will, in all likelihood, devastate rather than reward. “Too much teaching matter”; “Too heavy in content”; “Too many books.” Then come the other comments from those who seem challenged rather than worn down; excited rather than dulled. These are few and far between: the modern student is estranged from instructor and teaching. Not a brave new world, this, but an ignorant, cowardly one.

The student evaluation, ostensibly designed to gather opinions of students about a taught course, is a surprisingly old device. Some specialists in the field of education, rather bravely, identify instances of this in Antioch during the time of Socrates and instances during the medieval period. But it took modern mass education to transform the exercise into a feast of administrative joy.

Student evaluations, the non-teaching bureaucrat’s response to teaching and learning, create a mutually complicit distortion. A false economy of expectations is generated even as they degrade the institution of learning, which should not be confused with the learning institution. (Institutions actually have no interest, as such, in teaching, merely happy customers.) It turns the student into commodity and paying consumer, units of measurement rather than sentient beings interested in learning. The instructor is also given the impression that these matter, adjusting method, approach and content. Decline is assured…

…Education specialists, administrators and those who staff that fairly meaningless body known as Learning and Teaching, cannot leave the instructing process alone. For them, some form of evaluation exercise must exist to placate the gods of funding and quality assurance pen pushers.

What then, to be done? Geoff Schneider, in a study considering the links between student evaluations, grade inflation and teaching, puts it this way, though he does so with a kind of blinkered optimism. “In order to improve the quality of teaching, it is important for universities to develop a system for evaluating teaching that emphasises (and rewards) the degree of challenge and learning that occurs in courses.” Snow balls suffering an unenviable fate in hell comes to mind.

Student feedback or evaluations are an essential part of assessing, maintaining and improving quality in education and training.  However, much research and expertise is required for such instruments to be used optimally for positive outcomes.

For more articles and blogs about higher education teaching, CPD continuing professional development, enrolled student feedback, evaluation, student satisfaction and university teaching skills, click through.

 

Advertisements

Why students copy, plagiarise, collude or cheat?

Student copying, plagiarism and collusion challenge academic integrity and ethics, but why does it exist?

The following article from The Conversation outlines issues but does not address those related to cross cultural or social issues, pedagogy of top down content and encouraging teacher or lecturer centred rote learning and regurgitation of content with only lower to mid-level skills or outcomes according to Bloom’s taxonomy.

15% of students admit to buying essays. What can universities do about it?

October 18, 2018 3.55pm AEDT

New research on plagiarism at university has revealed students are surprisingly unconcerned about a practice known as “contract cheating”.

The term “contract cheating” was coined in 2006, and describes students paying for completed assessments. At that time, concerns over the outsourcing of assessments were in their infancy, but today, contract cheating is big business.

In 2017 alone, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported more than 20,000 students had bought professionally written essays from the country’s two largest essay-writing services.

According to a 2018 study, as many as 31 million university students worldwide are paying third parties to complete their assessments. This staggering figure was drawn by reviewing 65 studies on contract cheating. Since 2014, as many as 15.7% of surveyed students admitted to outsourcing their assignments and essays.

The growth in contract cheating speaks volumes about the modern view of education as a commodity…..

…..One key problem for overhauling assessment design is the troubling proliferation of casual labour in universities. The development of assessments is rarely, if ever, accounted for in casual teaching rates.

Turnitin works to reduce students’ work into patterns and algorithms, weeding out supposed cheats and frauds. But a more considered response must take into account the complex reasons students turn to these services in the first place.

Understanding why students are willing to pay for assessments might also illuminate a problem at the heart of tertiary education – one that is related to our present repackaging of knowledge as a resource to be bought, rather than an ennobling pursuit that is worthy of all the energy, time, and attention teachers and students can devote to it.’

 

In the case of many international students it’s having them relearning how to learn, through eliciting content, building knowledge and developing higher level skills through student centred interaction and collaboration supported by personal responsibility, i.e. ‘andragogy’ for adult learners.

For more articles about andragogy for adult learning click through.

 

 

Copying and Plagiarism at University

Copying and plagiarism have always been apparent for various reasons and manifested in many ways.  Reasons can include rote learning via pedagogy versus andragogy, not coping or under time pressure which can lead to short cuts that can be easily identified by software such as Turnitin.

From Henrietta Cook in The Sydney Morning Herald:

How unis can beat the cheats by finding ‘fingerprints’ in their essays.

The tell tale signs of a cheat could be lurking in a comma or a seemingly innocuous double space after a full stop.

As universities grapple with a rise in contract cheating – which involves students outsourcing their assessments – technology is clamping down on the unethical practice by monitoring students’ unique writing styles.

The software, which has been created by US-based company Turnitin and will be launched later this year, is being developed and tested at Australian institutions including Deakin University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Wollongong and the University of Queensland.

Forensic linguists – the experts who scrutinise ransom notes and suspicious wills – helped identify 70 different factors that feed into a person’s unique writing style.

These include the use of commas, parentheses and dashes, how they list examples and whether they double space after a full stop…

…. Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said universities were continually coming up with new ways to detect cheating.

“There’s a clear message to all students in this: if you try to cheat, it’s very likely that you’ll get caught. So just don’t do it.”’

 

Advice for students (and institutions) would be learn how to write academically (should be compulsory in all university foundation and/or bachelor degree programs), plan well with time management to include good research of references or sources, use required referencing system (correctly) included in process of note taking, paraphrasing and synthesis, have draft for checking by lecturers, tutors or learning advisors, for feedback.

Further, institutions could provide a generic TurnitIn point for students to check essay or report drafts and be rewarded for process, as well as grade outcomes.

For more articles and blogs about teaching, learning and assessment click through.

International Education Market Research

Recently there have been articles about international students’ motivations and well-being on their journey of discovery through international education, a significant industry.

Such articles are relevant in that they do not criticise or dog whistle international students by describing them as ‘immigrants’ or suggesting they purposely short visa and immigration systems for long term or permanent residency.

In addition to reflecting increased international mobility and prosperity in developing nations, such insights should be imperative for all service-based marketing, especially digital carrying word of mouth or WOM.

Word of mouth is the most influential marketing channel as it is based upon experience of friends, family and peers with a product or service, the most trusted channel.

The message for marketers in any industry, especially services, is never make assumptions or rely upon headline or indirect data, but your customers too.  Marketing brand, reputation etc. requires constant feedback, monitoring of well-being and word of mouth while leveraging the same authentic feedback via social media, couched within a digital marketing strategy.

 

What we know about why Chinese students come to Australia to study

Hannah Song in The Conversation:

In 2016-17 Australia’s third largest export, international education, leapt from A$23.6 billion to a record high of A$28 billion. Within the higher education sector, the highest intake of international students is of Chinese origin.

Behind these statistics are the individual stories and aspirations of Chinese students’ parents who provide them the financial resources and emotional support. Yet, we know so little about why it matters so much to their parents, and what long-term impacts overseas study has on them and their families when they return home…

….Focusing on a shifting landscape of education in Shanghai, I undertook a longitudinal pilot case-study of four bilingual kindergarten-secondary schools to investigate the aspirations Chinese middle-class parents have for their children’s education.

….If Australia is to remain a destination for world-class education, we need to be far more self-reflective and long-sighted about what Australian international education offers: global citizenship and transnational mobility. We need to listen to the voices of an increasing middle-class in China.’

Student journey through international education

International Students (Image copyright Pexels)

‘’It’s stressful being an other’: The mental health woes of international students

Emily Baker in The Conversation:

Moving to Australia has, in Daniel Kang’s words, been a mix of challenges and little blessings. The Australian National University student has found room to breathe and develop. Walks through the abundant bush help clear his head. Generally, the experience has exceeded his expectations.

But moving from Singapore to Canberra has also carried difficulties. It can be stressful being an “other”, he said. The 22-year-old has at times been very lonely…

The most recent student experience survey from the federal government’s Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching found undergraduate international students rated their experience at Australian universities 75 out of 100 per cent – slightly below the 79 per cent awarded by domestic students.

But separately, many international students report stress. They report social isolation. The very fact of being an international student in Australia – the experience of being alone in a new country, subject to financial pressures, navigating a new culture, and adjusting to a new academic system – is considered to make an individual at greater risk of mental ill-health.’

 

Any institution, business or organisation that neglects its existing customers to inform quality and marketing strategy development, maybe asking for trouble while relying upon PR and sales?

In the case of international education the most valuable resources are accessible onshore and on campus, i.e. enrolled students and their networks.

TAE40116 Certificate IV Training Assessment Package – ASQA Review Submission

Submission for TAE40116 Training Package Review

 

Written by Andrew Smith; submitted 3 April 2018

Introduction

There has been much discussion amongst training practitioners about the updated TAE Training Package.  One of the main issues has been the perception that it has been designed for quality administration and assessment while neglecting quality of actual training delivery and learning.

ASQA Australian Skills Quality Authority Certificate IV Training and Assessment TAE40116 Review

TAE40116 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – ASQA Review (Image copyright ASQA)

This has been experienced by the writer currently upgrading BSZ to TAE via a registered training organisation (RTO) by distance learning; PO Box with ‘assessors’ and ‘trainers’ based offshore.  Further, the delivery is based upon basic pedagogy of presentation of content, regurgitation of content according to instructions while seemingly unable to offer explanations or insight for trainees, especially delivery and learning skills based upon andragogy.

 

What is the TAE Training Package?

 

Description

 

This qualification reflects the roles of individuals delivering training and assessment services in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

This qualification (or the skill sets derived from units of competency within it) is also suitable preparation for those engaged in the delivery of training and assessment of competence in a workplace context, as a component of a structured VET program.

The volume of learning of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment is typically six months to two years. (Department of Education & Training 2018).

At face value the TAE40116 appears to be a relevant and practical qualification for vocational education and training to deliver accredited training packages, assure quality with a focus upon assessment.  However, there have been many criticisms of the package from practitioners, industry and other stakeholders, why?

Issues with TAE Training Package and Delivery

 

According to the Resources Training Council

 

It has become a qualification for the training industry, not industry that trains. They do not understand workplaces where training and more importantly the outcomes (assessment) must be fit for purpose to achieve what VET is all about.  VET should be about producing safe, proficient (productive) workers and providing an opportunity for learning to be built on as people move along their chosen career path (Munro 2017).

 

From an experienced VET training practitioner

 

To improve assessment practices of RTOs and improve skills and knowledge of trainers and assessors we need to:

  • Update our regulatory framework and move to a real outcome-based regulation, where relevant industry stakeholders have a say in the registration/re-registration process
  • Support the National Regulator in building the required capabilities to assess compliance in a diverse and complex environment
  • Ensure the National Regulator provides an even-playing-field to RTOs
  • Identify the different issues within the assessment system, and consequently identify gaps in current workforce skills (in all AQF levels not only entry level) and update the TAE training package accordingly (Castillo 2016).

 

Research criticisms have included: one size fits all approach whether novice trainer or an already well experienced and/or qualified trainer or teacher, trainer assessor expertise or skills, questions over subsequent assessment outcomes, lack of depth related to training and learning delivery, no clear development pathway and the skill outcomes from the TAE for practitioners to deliver (Clayton 2009).

The focus of criticism has been directed at sub-optimal education and training pedagogy (learning theory for children and young adults or novices) of both the TAE and practitioners for quality delivery, learning and trainee assessment outcomes.  These revolved round, preparedness of trainers to train, opportunity to learn content knowledge, delivery quality, learning the practice of good teaching or training, learning from experts, then more about planning and assessment (Ibid.)

The latter issue of assessment has been raised within sectors whether validation between providers, or simply better understanding of assessment by practitioners (Halliday-Wynes & Misko 2013)

Further, expert input often hints at what is lacking by focusing upon learning theory or ‘pedagogy’ for children and youth, as opposed to ‘andragogy’ for youth and adults.  The latter would be exemplified by self-directed learning or training, responsibility, experience, motivation to learn and preference for real tasks and problem solving (Educators’ Technology 2013); supported by well skilled trainers.

 

Training Delivery and Learning Quality

 

However, delivery of some TAEs has more to do with education and training or ‘pedagogy’ influence from two generations ago manifested in trainer or teacher directed, or top down.  This assumes trainees have no relevant knowledge or practical input to offer, focus upon systems, processes and assessment round any given package, but not delivery i.e. developing quality training and learning skills.  Additionally, very content driven for good reason, however, it is presented or instructed (not elicited) then regurgitated or replicated for satisfying requirements for assessment, then assumed optimal for the workplace?

The significant size of the VET sector requires standard packages, systems, processes and assessment to be compliant and manageable.  However, the risk is that system quality may be based upon indirect top down paper-based systems and processes of (quality) compliance that are reactive when issues emerge, if discovered.  For example, sub-optimal training and learning, versus proactive measures through more intrusive evaluation of actual training delivery quality or bottom up informing.

Quality maybe improved by intrusive quality assessment through mystery shopping on any given TAE course, dynamic (publicised opportunities) for feedback from trainees and clients, evaluation of specific programs and trainers or evidence of dynamic quality evaluation of skills versus merely possessing a TAE qualification or ‘ticket’.

 

References:

 

Castillo, A 2016, Newly endorsed Certificate IV in Training and Assessment – Same Issues, LinkedIn Pulse, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/newly-endorsed-certificate-iv-training-assessment-amaro-castillo/ >

 

Clayton, B 2009, Practitioner experiences and expectations with the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (TAA40104): A discussion of the issues, NCVER Melbourne, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/file/0023/4658/nr08504r.pdf >

 

Department of Education & Training 2018, MySkills: Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, viewed 22 March 2018, < https://www.myskills.gov.au/courses/details?Code=TAE40116 >

 

Educators’ Technology 2013, AWESOME CHART ON “PEDAGOGY VS ANDRAGOGY”, viewed 1 April 2018, < http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/05/awesome-chart-on-pedagogy-vs-andragogy.html >

 

Halliday-Wynes, S & Misko, J 2013, Assessment issues in VET: minimising the level of risk, NCVER, viewed 22 March 2018, < http://www.cmd.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/801600/AssessmentIssuesInVET_MinimisingTheLevelOfRisk.pdf >

 

Munro, J 2017, The TAE debacle – a resources sector view, Resources Training Council, viewed 31 January 2018, < http://www.resourcestraining.org.au/news/the-tae-debacle/ >