Thursday, 27 August 2015

How many fish do I need to graduate?

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

This axiom is reflected by a number of cultures - look no further than this source to see the competing claims but I want to use the fish analogy to help differentiate between teaching philosophies in the area of Business teaching. 

Business and Management (especially Accounting and Finance) courses, diplomas, programmes and workshops are a mass market product. They are:

 - Easy and cheap to deliver (nothing more than an iPad or laptop as equipment)
 - Accessible at all levels of academic achievement and,
 - Valued highly by students as part of their future aspirations.

Often, in my experience, programmes of study have, as an ultimate goal, the achievement of a certificate or diploma that qualifies the student for the next diploma or degree or even to enter a profession.  Even those that purport to develop learning still conform to the norm of content shovelling, memory tests, modular design that makes a mockery of progression in studies.

So how should a degree course be designed IF we had a blank canvas?

NOT, in my opinion, as a progression of fish provision but as a voyage of discovery from tributary to river, to the open sea and out onto the ocean as actual experience is used as the learning mechanism, familiarity with increasingly complex issues and tools is developed and true learning is achieved.

So put your own programme up to the light and reflect whether it is a voyage of discovery or a bucket of halibut.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

KIS my ..............

Amongst other League tables, "helpful data", information, rumour, branding and hype that bombard the prospective HE student in the UK comes the Key Information Set - KIS for short.  The KIS for a degree programme contains useful information on costs, "satisfaction" as measured by the National Student Survey, Graduate destinations (employment %), entry qualifications and, oh, what's that lurking near the bottom of the page? -STUDY INFORMATION.
In KIS terms the study information comes from the accounting perspective of valuing what we can measure rather than measuring what we value (and acknowledging that, sometimes, there are features and aspects of experiences that cannot be measured).  So, what do we have?

1. % of assessments represented by exams
2. Contact hours

Errr that's it.

What can that possibly tell prospective students about the quality of teaching and learning?  Such a pity that the designers of KIS and those Universities (all of them) that rushed to abide by such stupid rules did not read Chris Rust's excellent "What we know about Assessment" and Graham Gibbs' "Twenty Terrible Reasons for Lecturing".  Both books are entertainingly written, free!!!! as ebooks and research informed (you have to say that to get the attention of research academics).  Gibbs' book may be dated (1981) but still echoes loudly as successive generations, in larger numbers, are subjected to a system that considers that TEACHING (and the more of it shovelled at students the better) = LEARNING.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

NSS - something for everyone

This week sees the publication of the 2015 National Student Survey (NSS) on the Unistats site.  Higher Education institutions will have been poring over the data for days in order to find something in the survey responses where they have either improved a score, improved a rank position or exceeded the sector average - anything that will persuade this year's crop of A level students (results also out this week) that THEIR institution is the best place to go.......

Of course, the NSS says much about how closely the institutions have met the high expectations of students, even how much the students, in their crucial final year as an undergraduate, feel "satisfied".  It says little, however, about the quality of learning and teaching.

Listen to this excellent talk by Professor Graham Gibbs on Youtube.  The talk is based on his HEA reports on "Dimensions of Quality" - strangely unavailable from the HEA website at the time of blogging - but do keep trying.

Will the much heralded Teaching Excellence Framework learn these lessons?  Quality of Learning has little to do with satisfaction, less to do with Technology but much to do with the engagement of both students and staff.