10 SES 07 E JS, Teachers Involvement in Educational Effectiveness
Paper Session, Joint Session NW 10 and NW 11
Aspects of teaching quality in Higher Education have come under renewed scrutiny across the UK sector in recent years. Changing global economic conditions and the 2011 governmental White Paper led to the rise in tuition fees for home students to £9,000 per annum for undergraduate entry in 2012. Within this more client-oriented market environment in which value for money is sought, UK-wide surveys such as the National Student Survey (NSS) for final-year undergraduates and the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) for Masters-level students have gained increasing weight since their inception in 2005 and 2009 respectively, as have the league tables featured in publications such as The Times Good University Guide and The Complete University Guide. Institutions have also been required to publish specific information relating to teaching quality and provision within the Key Information Sets (KIS) introduced for undergraduate degree programmes from 2013-14.
One way in which UK universities have responded to these changing circumstances has been to introduce standardized module evaluation questionnaires across their respective institution by way of quality assurance, to identify and address under-performing areas. Yet the mechanisms by which such evaluation is typically implemented raise a number of generic problems. A recent UK-based study (Smith, Morris, & Bohms, 2011) cites lack of student engagement, inadequate communication to students about changes made in consequence of feedback received, the burden of survey administration and management, and the need to solicit student feedback in advance of the end of a module if timely action is to be taken. Darby (2007) has argued that such evaluations may reflect influences other than the course itself and that it is important to interpret survey results in this light, and Nulty (2008) has discussed the point at which survey response rates become sufficiently large to yield meaningful results.
This paper draws upon the views of students in order to explore the principles underpinning the standardization of module evaluation, its advantages and disadvantages, and the extent to which it facilitates teaching enhancement and the recognition of teaching excellence. Taking as its case study the system implemented across a single UK Higher Education institution, City University London, in March 2011, it identifies the local and national contexts for the change and compares the new centralized procedures with some of the more localized processes it superseded. At the heart of this study is original data solicited from Student Representatives at the institution concerned (see methodology below), which is analyzed in order to probe key issues such as whether standardized evaluation processes necessarily provide a uniformly accurate measure of teaching excellence. On one hand, they offer a formal mechanism whereby all academic staff are evaluated in an equitable manner, and which may subsequently inform appraisals; on the other, they run the risk of not capturing the discipline-specific information that might facilitate teaching enhancement at a local level.
Ancillary questions to be explored in this study include examination of the relative merits and shortcomings of different approaches to module evaluation, as well as consideration of the most effective timeframes for its implementation. The European dimension will be addressed (within the context of NW11’s subtopic of quality assurance at district, region, or country level) by contemplating the implications of the findings of this research for evaluating teaching in other countries, not least given that the economic conditions that were a driver for change were felt across the world. Finally, the paper will consider whether other measures, such as analysis of the grades awarded to students in a module, might offer alternative means for recognizing teaching excellence and for identifying best practices in order to enhance future teaching.
Alderman, G. (2007). League tables rule – and standards inevitably fall. The Guardian. 24 April 2007. Available online at
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