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Mum, don’t ask me what I learned today at school.

by reestheskin on 30/03/2014

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A couple of things interested me in the Times Higher this week. Echoes of memes I have come across before, but given an edge because of some work by Derek Muller I chanced upon via Kelly Walsh.

The first was an article by Jack Grove quoting work showing that certain types of student feedback on teaching quality tend to reduce learning. I have come across similar findings before, but I do not know the primary literature well. Of course it is not at all surprising. I think it was Clark Glymour who quoted that every time you put an equation in a lecture to those enrolled on degrees that are viewed as being non-mathematically challenging, then student evaluations of lecturers go down. If you tie this sort of silly feedback to staff progression or reward then you are on a race to the bottom. I think the phenomenon is real, and at the softer edge, widespread. Learning is hard, and should be challenging. The pleasure and reward of mastery, only come with effort. The teacher and learner share an asymmetrical relationship.

The second article, brought a smile to my face, because my own university—like most others I imagine— is anxious about what students say about it in the National Students Survey (NSS). Economics students at Manchester have been campaigning for their course to give greater prominence to alternative theories, especially in the light of the 2008 financial crash. They are asking students to withhold filling in their NSS feedback until a decision is reached about including a course with the title ‘Bubbles, Panics and Crashes’. The students are quoted:

The university is very keen to get students to fill out the NSS, saying that they take their feedback very seriously – but this approach does not always seem to translate to non-NSS forms of feedback, like our petition, which is quite sad…

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