Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Education: Surveys, testing and evaluation

One of the key things of education is assessment - how else are we to know if they have learnt anything? The problem is that it is too easy for students to take a strategic approach and to focus on how to pass the exams rather than on knowing anything. This only tests how good your memory is and mine is quite good thank you.

So today there have been two interesting articles about testing and evaluation. The first looks at tests and the performance of English students. A parliamentary committee decided that students are being over-tested and that they are learning how to pass tests and not the material. The second is about a London University pressurising students to talk up the university's performance in their response to the National Student Survey, which was exposed by a podcast at another London University. The National Student Survey plays an important part in the quality assurance mechanisms of UK universities by giving students an opportunity to feedback their experiences. the article title was actually that University Staff Faking Survey. they are not really faking it - they are just spinning it.

Both of these happen because people are being strategic. The lecturers are trying to be strategic in meeting the QAA requirements and and students are being strategic in trying to pass the tests. Both mean that the test/survey are no longer a valid measure of either learning or teaching quality as both have been under-mined. So we have to think harder about what we do and how we evaluate.

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