Thursday, December 12, 2013

Student expectations and perceptions of higher education

An interesting study has just been published, commissioned by the Quality Assurance Agency, which the body which has responsibility for (as the name implies) assuring the quality of teaching in higher education in the UK (through developing standards and guidelines and carrying out evaluations of teaching quality etc.). This report is is:
Kandiko, C. (2013) Student expectations and perceptions of higher education. London: King's Learning Institute.
The aim was "to undertake research into student expectations and perceptions of the quality of their learning experience and the academic standards of their chosen programmes of study." The researchers undertook interviews and focus groups and analysed the data using a grounded theory and concept mapping approaches. Important themes were: a consumerist orientation, expecting value for money; wanting well-trained expert staff, good organisation and facilities, socialisation (including face to face time with teachers), and an employability focus.

There were issues around transition "It was common that students felt lost, unsure of what was expected of them and not sure of where to go for assistance in their transition to higher education." and this was really the only place where the value of information literacy could be inferred (it wasn't mentioned directly). One of the participant quotes was:
"‘I was not prepared for uni, let’s say in terms of how to actually learn…that was a massive, massive shock to me in terms of, you know, how to proactively go to the library and get all this information…I think I was maybe hoping for some more guidance in the first year maybe just so you kind of knew what you were doing was okay. [Second year, Male, International Politics, Research‐intensive institution]" (p64)

There are some useful recommendations about meeting student expectations better. However, I was a bit disappointed (though not surprised) that there wasn't something about challenging some of these assumptions and expectations (e.g. whether a learner gets value-for-money from their fees also depends on what he or she is willing to input in terms of motivation and interest in learning).

For those interested in these issues, another recent publication is focused on the Scottish Higher Education scene (there are differences in English and Scottish education e.g. the Scottish 4-year honours degree and different position on tuition fees)
Mayes, T. (2013) 10 years of the Scottish higher education Enhancement Themes 2003-13.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Greenwich Park, November 2013

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