Academic common room
Marasme · 04/10/2017 22:53
Another year, but the same question.
As the mad race, gladiator style, to improve our NSS survey continues, we face the biggest obstacle: students' experience
we have addressed their feedback, provided countless sessions filling the gaps they wanted filled, go above and beyond, feedback within 10 days, answer email within 2 days, yada yada. You name it, we do it.
BUT - they are still not happy (different cohort, through, obviously). Our programme has an early start, and our "testing the water" survey already shows big areas with significant discontent.
Can you think of any way to highlight to the little darlings how things are actually not that bad? they have been told about past feedback and what was done to improve.
[I hate customer service so much :( ]
ArbitraryName · 04/10/2017 23:40
I think it's a losing battle, tbh. The broader cultural context makes managing expectations pretty much impossible.
GiantSteps · 05/10/2017 21:15
Personal tutor group meetings (rather than individual ones) where you get them to articulate what they want out of a university education, and perhaps nudge them in realistic and productive directions?
Flip the curriculum (not just the lecture theatre) by giving them the learning outcomes and asking them to contribute towards or collaborate with you in designing the syllabus for any modules where there's moaning and whinging. Let them take responsibility or at least give them a series of choices. So discontent is then with themselves.
I'm in the Humanities and my department recently topped one of the league tables. These are the kinds of things we do. But we still feel the precarity of our position. As pp say, it's the whole mood of the country. Not helped by Andrew fucking Adonis (he blocked me on Twitter the coward, after misquoting me to ridicule me).
But in the humanities it's a bit easier to get them into self-reflective mode. That's the whole point of an Humanities education.
Katescurios · 06/10/2017 07:21
I work in a customer service focussed role and hate the surveys too, for customers and employees.
"You said, we did" postersrs have helped staff members (a little) to remember the changes they asked for and how its been addressed.
You said: you wanted improves communications - we: implemented a monthly newsletter and quarterly briefing.
drwitch · 06/10/2017 07:47
Here the big gripes library and computing are things we have no control over but I think there is also the issue of feedback we take it to mean marking their work and talking to them about where they went wrong and how to improve I think now though they simply want more one to one or one to few help I am starting to flip more of my lectures let's see if that helps
user918273645 · 06/10/2017 07:52
I think one of the biggest issues is that students use specific NSS questions as proxies for general discontent about their marks/career prospects/enjoyment of university level study.
Feedback seems to be a recurrent issue in my own STEM subject but I suspect what they really feel is that nobody taught them how to get high marks on exams without putting any effort in.
try2hard has a point. The highest NSS scores in my subject are from universities that are teaching less curriculum content and inflating marks. The "best" courses, as viewed by academics, come halfway down the table.
ArbitraryName · 06/10/2017 08:16
Yes. I have come to the conclusion that complaints about marking and feedback are complaints that they didn't get a first when they did no work.
The modules that students review best on our programme are the easiest ones with the most over inflated marks. The students just don't want to be pushed or challenged. Even better they want you to not challenge them while insisting how challenging the module is. That gives them a huge ego boost with no need for them to learn anything.
TBH, the complete disparity in standards between degree programmes in different universities is shocking. I couldn't teach my current 3rd years what I'd have taught my 1st years where I used to work because they could not cope with it it. The 3rd years are so poorly equipped that the vast majority cannot read a journal article and give you any sense of what it was about. They can, on the other hand, moan loudly that it was too hard and they shouldn't be expected to read things like that. TBH, they struggle to read broadsheet newspaper articles and summarise them.
GiantSteps · 06/10/2017 10:37
I think now though they simply want more one to one or one to few help
I sometimes think tat what they mean by "feedback" is "Tell me how I can get a First, and give me a First next time."
Not all students - if you have the chance to work with them in smaller groups, then most of them are sensible, and eager to improve.
drwitch · 06/10/2017 12:43
I think we need to manage our expectations too. When we did our degrees, the lecturers jobs was simply to introduce us to concepts, (we had to go away and try to understand them ourselves) bring some ideas together and make our realise that our half baked ideas needed a lot of work. Times have changed, schools have taught them that learning is not an ever changing world to explore but an "I spy" check list of things to tick off. We need to accept this and either
a) think of degrees as just advanced A levels and ignore any quaint ideas of research led teaching and the like or
b) drastically change the way we structure our degrees. My feeling is that we should treat the 1st year as a transition year and teach our students how to love independent learning.
We either have to accept it or change it we can't just complain about it
GiantSteps · 06/10/2017 13:49
I see what you mean @drwitch I suppose I worry about contributing to the dumbing down - I adamantly believe that young people today are not more stupid than I was 30 years ago when my degree was pretty much what you say - although I had some excellent lecturers and tutors.
And what about those degrees where there is a clear requirement for advanced knowledge - engineering, medicine, vet science?
Do we assume that any specialised knowledge requires a postgrad degree - which is pretty much the US system?
drwitch · 06/10/2017 14:07
So its not the level of knowledge transfer that has changed - my students probably have better skills (in programming, in statistics and in the understanding of sophisticated models) than I did when I graduated but it is the technology of acquiring them. I was taught to learn and to find out things for myself - students now just expect to be taught stuff
My worry is that 10 years down the line, technology will make this skills based learning redundant and we will need more of people who can think and work things out for themselves and the only ones who can will be too old!
paxillin · 06/10/2017 14:42
I wonder about the same thing. I have asked for early feedback this year and had a lot of "pace is too fast" and "too much content". I teach at a medical school. Which discipline would you like to skip; we have 5 years and a fairly set amount of stuff? "You said, we did" is difficult. The overlap between what the students want and what they need is sometimes not large.
ArbitraryName · 06/10/2017 14:52
The overlap between what the students want and what they need is sometimes not large.
This is definitely an issue. They often really dislike what they need.
I think it does depend where you work though. Different students are demanding in different ways. So I get to feel like I'm teaching bottom set year 9 in a failing multi-academy trust, and the students basically want me to do their work for them and are often aggressively against learning anything. I was great at teaching in all my previous posts (at quite different universities) - and colleagues and students would comment on how inspiring I was. Now they just complain that I'm mean and it's all too hard and I expect them to actually do some work.
DH's students want completely different things to what my students want. In fact, he moved from the university that I work at to research intensive one in the same city and he really noticed how different the students and their expectations were.
Marasme · 07/10/2017 10:50
thanks all - very useful to have a sounding board on this...
Focus groups? Yep, done it - very dissonant expectations among mixed-ability class
Personal tutor group meetings (rather than individual ones) Done it too - as above [this actually is good, because it exposes those with more unreasonable expectations to the others, and normalises their behaviour a bit]
Flip the curriculum (not just the lecture theatre) Have been doing this for 3 years - the stronger students love it (they are engaged and challenged), the weaker ones DETEST it.
I also explain what "feedback" is to them, what they can expect etc... of course, this does not necessarily match their "want".
YetAnotherSpartacus · 09/10/2017 10:37
I wonder about the same thing. I have asked for early feedback this year and had a lot of "pace is too fast" and "too much content". I teach at a medical school. Which discipline would you like to skip; we have 5 years and a fairly set amount of stuff? "You said, we did" is difficult. The overlap between what the students want and what they need is sometimes not large
Wel that's easy ... anatomy from the waist up only. Unless the students would prefer down of course .
I'm not in a medical school but I find this so challenging because the work my students do will have an effect on people's lives. Mostly they want to do work that centres their selves - so anything about biographies, reflections, blogs, opinion pieces gets the thumbs up and anything hard that demands real thinking gets the thumbs down. Most students expect top marks for work that is of mediocre quality and so many academics happily provide these. But this is how education is being sold to them, it is all about a journey of the self, experience, a pathway to a meaningful career, etc. Who can blame them for drinking the kool-aid when it has been made so palatable (apart from the cost)?
paxillin · 09/10/2017 10:53
We could offer top-doctor and bottom-doctor courses, YetAnotherSpartacus .
YetAnotherSpartacus · 09/10/2017 11:04
And you could have Dr Dawn, Dr Christian and Dr Pixie teach the bottom-doctor courses. Do you think your scores will go up or down if Dr Christian keeps his shirt on or off (to me, he always seemed to be waiting for an excuse to take it off).
paxillin · 09/10/2017 11:17
He'd teach in his pants. It is for a good cause. As long as they all get 70% in each assignment, student satisfaction will be sky high.
YetAnotherSpartacus · 09/10/2017 11:20
Only 70%? ??? That would be cause for a riot here. Mind you, the med students in my day considered failing anatomy to be a rite of passage.
I think Dr Christian would prefer to teach in his pants.
HouseholdWords · 09/10/2017 12:34
But this is how education is being sold to them, it is all about a journey of the self, experience, a pathway to a meaningful career, etc
I think that education as "a journey of the self" is very important, but that it's equally important that the journey happens via deep engagement with knowledge - data, facts, other people's ideas - however you want to put it. In my field, they have to engage with other people's words & ideas & deal with the intractability of data outside their own consciousness - in order that their own ideas, self, consciousness, is honed & sharpened.
This has to happen in a very concrete way of course - it might sound hiippy dippy when written out like this, but it's through engaging with knowledge (texts, archives, pictures, data - whatever) that they develop themselves.
YetAnotherSpartacus · 09/10/2017 12:39
Oh, I utterly agree with you Household... but this isn't how it is being marketed or about how their expectations are being crafted.
ArbitraryName · 09/10/2017 18:27
Mostly they want to do work that centres their selves - so anything about biographies, reflections, blogs, opinion pieces gets the thumbs up and anything hard that demands real thinking gets the thumbs down. Most students expect top marks for work that is of mediocre quality and so many academics happily provide these. But this is how education is being sold to them, it is all about a journey of the self, experience, a pathway to a meaningful career, etc.
This sounds very familiar. Although my students are usually only interested in very superficial journeys that don’t involve them changing in any way (and certainly avoid any contact with knowledge!). They are too often only interested in stating their opinion and having that be utterly unquestionable. Apparently one cannot challenge opinions; that’s unacceptable.
YetAnotherSpartacus · 09/10/2017 19:23
Yes, and if opinion can be wrapped up in emotion then so much the better. Again, not blaming them. That's what they have been sold.
Marasme · 10/10/2017 09:15
Feedback of the year (ok, the year is still young).
Student "I understand nothing to your [teaching strategy] and you do not give enough basic content at slow pace"
Me: "Did you look at the demo video on how to do [teaching strategy] and listened to the Topic101 video I made"
Student "No - it looked boring"
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