Around the world, assessment of teaching quality is under the microscope.  In the UK, for example, the government has made a commitment to reshape the country’s education landscape and issued a call for responses to its Higher Education Green Paper on Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice, issued last November. In May, after receiving over 600 responses, the government published a White Paper outlining its proposals for introducing more competition and informed choice into higher education in order to deliver better outcomes and better value for students, employers and taxpayers. The proposed assessment of teaching practices begs the question: how much assessment is helpful? And will more analysis of surveys and reviews lead to more league tables and place a greater administrative burden on the faculty that will impact their ability to focus on the student?

Jo Johnson MP, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science, made a valid point when he said that for too long teaching in universities has been regarded as a poor cousin to academic research. This remark, which could be easily applied to other countries, highlights a long-standing issue. Universities have been faced with an impossible task: to maintain their ranking status in order to appeal to national and international students and to attract the best teaching staff – they are reliant on the research they produce to stay well-ranked. There’s been praise for research-based teaching and some universities are lauded for their internationally-recognised research and how quickly that gets implemented into the classroom. But is teaching less important than it should be? If there’s aneed to implement a new, nationally-recognised assessment process, what’s the best place to start?

In the past years, in the UK, the TQA (Teaching Quality Assessment) involved an intense external audit of teaching, by course and by university. I know because, as part of Kingston University, I was on the internal team who participated in the process. It wasn’t for the faint-hearted. The issue with the TQA is that the time taken to complete the review means that any lessons learned can only be useful to future students. A failure in university process, an underperforming teacher or ineffective course content might only be brought to light months after the course has been completed. Assessment is a key aspect of the White Paper and what’s going to be put in place should help universities focus on continuous improvement rather than a year-end ranking.

This is more than a pipedream. Things have changed dramatically with the adoption of technology and universities now have the tools in place to assess ‘on the fly’ as long as there are activities that can be measured. Proactive universities can strengthen their focus on teaching by monitoring any weaknesses whether they be student, teacher, process or institutional. Timely reviews will make an enormous difference. The ability to highlight and resolve issues early will impact the student’s experience of the course and the university and their ultimate success.

If a university has a policy in place to provide students with feedback on their assessed work within 15 days, for example, the use of online assignment submission and marking can make this a simple activity to monitor. The system will also help teachers meet the deadlines through the use of reminders and alerts in order to prevent student disappointment. Universities could also choose to identify cases where the 15 days’ timeline has not been met and take immediate remedial action.

Universities can benefit from an immediate view of the students’ and teachers’ progress and delivery. And, when the end-of-year course reports are due, the tools are in place to take away the burden that a large amount of assessment can bring to overstretched staff. The vast majority of universities around the world rely on technology in some way. The focus now should be on making the most of what they have – not just for online learning & teaching activities, but also for gathering and analysing the data points to help them assess what is and isn’t working well. Progress – daily, weekly, monthly, yearly – is the point.

Students want to attend a university with a good reputation, even a famous university, but it’s not always clear that once they’ve been accepted to university their progress and learning achievements are what they’re supposed to be. This is something that should be monitored. Last year international consultancy Deloitte revealed it had changed its selection process so recruiters do not know where candidates went to school or university. It hopes to prevent “unconscious bias” and tap a more diverse “talent pool”. They also feel that this will remove the emphasis on getting accepted due to a big name university. Ongoing assessment is going to be more important than ever if universities are going to rise to the challenge set down for them by their students to improve their ability to find a job. And the only efficient way for institutions to do continual assessment is to make proper use of the technology they have already. How much assessment is helpful? The answer is not just how much but how often. Assessment needs to help bring improvements in the here and now as well as in the future.

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  • Mansoor Kazi

    Best education article i read but i need more article like this for reading a most unique style article thanks for share with us and hope also you provide more article Education for secondary and for high education