Using surveys in enhancing the learning experience – it’s complicated

View from the National College of Leadership, Nottingham by Kathrine S.H. Jensen

Yesterday I went to a conference organised by the Higher Education Academy on using surveys for enhancement of teaching and learning. One highlight was the general intake of breath when Professor Herb Marsh from the University of Oxford demonstrated that the National Student Survey (NSS) was not useful for benchmarking institutions (a blow to the league tables). This is in large part due to the so-called “teacher-effect”, which in a simplified explanation means that student ratings are a function of the teacher rather than the course. Other lessons learned were not to use NSS in isolation (it has many limitations) and to realise that the NSS was originally designed to provide public information to inform the choices/decision making of potential university students and not for enhancement (although it is now being frequently use in this way).

Assessing for Learning

The most interesting workshop I went to was delivered by Professor Graham Gibbs and Director of Teaching and Learning Yassein El-Hakim from the University of Winchester where they presented the assessment experience questionnaire (AEQ) and a case study of how it had been used. The development of the questionnaire and the process it is part of is one of a number of projects called TESTA: Transforming the Experience of Students through Assessment. On the TESTA website you can find the questionnaire itself as well as toolkits and best practice guides.

Professor Gibbs highlighted that unlike the NSS the AEQ has an evidence based underlying pedagogic rationale. The AEQ is also not about satisfaction or psychometrics but to measure conditions under which assessment supports learning. The assessment experience questionnaire looks at relationships between assessment regimes and support of student learning. A key aspect is that the AEQ is not used in isolation but is part of a process that involves auditing the amount and variety of assessment and feedback at programme level, dicsussion with course teams and focus groups with students.

Student Engagement Survey

There was also a presentation by Ali Radloff from the Australian Council for Educational Research and they use the AUSSE (Australasian Survey of Student Engagement) which is completely different from the NSS in that the AUSSE has a focus on level of student action/interaction in the questions (not satisfaction)

Kathrine (@kshjensen)

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About talintuoh

Supporting and connecting colleagues to develop inspiring and innovative teaching and learning
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