Thursday, 25 October 2018

Restore Default Settings

Just what button do I press to restore factory settings on a student's brain?

How do they change from the enquiring, responsive child and knowledge "sponge" to the passive, receiver of information devoid of intrinsic motivation to learn?
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash
...and, just what are University lecturers doing about it?

The responsibility is shared, of course, but it does seem to me that Universities could actually make their Semester 1 studies interesting and engaging, based on enquiry, rather than information shovelling.

  • How many Universities make a positive decision to put their most engaging teachers in first-year classes?
  • How many Universities face hundreds of first-year students all needing individual learning experiences but respond with standard fare?
  • How many buy-in online content from (some excellent) providers, previously known as textbook publishers, simply to cope with the number of assessments to mark?
  • How many lecturers use harsh marking in early assessments "just to show them that its tough at Uni"?
Just asking...

Oh and, just what button do I press to restore factory settings on a Lecturer's brain?

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Learning for life

We interact daily with professionals who could make a significant positive or negative differences to our lives through commission or omission, negligence or momentary lapses. Of course, we have our own responsibility for our health, finances and safety but we do rely on:

Airline pilots
School Teachers, and
Financial Advisors

(amongst others) to help us make the right decisions for ourselves.
What each of these professions has is a minimum entry requirement - often a degree or professional qualification. Professional examining bodies, keen to retain the exclusivity of the calling and the risk of removal of professional status (££) also demand Continuing Professional Development.  A license to practice and insurance cover removal for those not keeping "up to date" ensures that repeat fees flow into the coffers through registers of CPD activity.

Contrast this with the profession of University teaching.  Just as much reliance is placed on the professionalism shown, advice given and guidance offered but it might alarm some to learn that this is a profession with no formal entry qualification and no requirement for CPD.

So, who would I trust to fly me on my next air trip?  The qualified and up to date pilot or the keen amateur who has had a couple of goes in a simulator?

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Externally verified - so that's OK then...

I have participated in many examination boards over the years as Chair, academic, internal advisor, personal tutor and as external examiner.  My role, at the time, colours my view of how effective such a gathering is.
UK Higher Education prides itself on its robust, internally and externally verified assessment process but just how safe is that claim?

Sitting on the Board is, perhaps, the most frustrating, least transparent part of the process as names, marks, mitigating circumstances, system errors, incomplete datasets and missing academics lead to a host of "Chairs' actions" which will be generally reported upon up to a year later.

And, just how are external examiners recruited?  Are there minimum standards?  Is it the first person willing to accept such a paltry sum for so much work? And just how much of the students' work do the externals see?

Having said that, many externals can, honestly, say that the institution they are reviewing matches the standards at their own!!

If the sector is not willing to police itself effectively then it deserves what it gets.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Of course I can ride a horse, I went to the lecture!

What does University actually equip the graduate to do?

Photo by Kirsten LaChance on Unsplash
The discussion in Higher Education about "outcomes" and "employability" (note that this is different from "graduate employment") takes on greater focus when such things are measured in a way that can inform quality ratings.
One problem arises, however, when skills development is not embedded in the curriculum but is seen as optional or voluntary (and less valued as a consequence).  And, what are the skills that should be developed, about which evidence should be garnered to support CV claims about, and armed with which, graduates assault the world of work?
Ha! so many institutions claim, that's why we have "professional placements" or Work Based Learning - to ensure that key skills are embedded.
But what if, I hear you say, what if the students opt out of those options or spend their "year out" studying in a partner institution or hiding in their room or they did not do a "year out"?
Then we can rely on a handy translation device like this:

CV speak
Managed a focused team in a pressured, customer facing environment.

Flipped burgers for McDonald's
Organised a group visit to a foreign location, arranged cultural tours and negotiated return travel for an injured colleague.

Nearly got into the Sagrada Família in Barcelona and persuaded Ryanair to let Tom board, even though he was badly hungover.
Established an on-line support group for homesick students.

Put my Mum on Whatsapp.
Achieved 100% attendance record at lectures and seminars for 3 years.

Hacked the mobile app the Uni uses for monitoring.
References on Request
I haven’t found anyone willing to give me a positive reference yet.

Ethnicity: Prefer not to divulge