Students should expect a certain quality of learning

The student experience covers more than the degree that hopefully comes at the end of your time.  There’s the power of networking, there’s the entertainment, there are the friendships, there are clubs and societies, there are so many things that makes your time at uni beyond monetary value.

*But*…you do pay for a certain level of teaching and learning.  You expect access to the resources you need that make it possible for you to gain a First Class Honours.  Even if you don’t get that top grade, you shouldn’t be left thinking it was the institutions fault for not having provided you with all the tools to manage the highest grade possible.

photo by jam343

photo by jam343

Most aspects of learning are up to you.  It’s not always easy.  But teaching needs to be to a high standard and you have to develop learning processes in a way that complement the teaching.  That development can only come through effective guidance.  That guidance is something you’re paying for too.

You aren’t strictly paying for everything beyond teaching and learning, unless you’re charged for it elsewhere.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that you got your money’s worth in ways other than your learning experience.  You need to contact your Students’ Union and your uni’s student support service if:

  • the teaching isn’t up to speed;
  • you don’t get enough feedback;
  • the feedback isn’t timely;
  • you’re not given access to the tools that will further your learning;
  • the tools are unsatisfactory or outdated;
  • there’s something lacking that halts your progress;
  • any circumstance that has a negative impact upon your learning.

None of this means we should adopt an approach where students are seen as ‘consumers’. HE is not a physical product, nor is it a service with a particular end result.  You’re paying for something subjective.

However, you should be able to freely pursue their education in the knowledge that the right resources are available to them and that any shortcomings can – and should – be challenged.

Wes Streeting and Graeme Wise of NUS wrote a paper on the values of higher education and I like the way they sum up what’s necessary:

“Students should be able to challenge the quality of the learning environment and the support they are getting, and should also be able to take intellectual risks and sometimes pursue interests at a tangent to the main curriculum. It should be obvious that students can’t really do any of these things unless they have been reasonably diligent, attended most of the classes, done the background reading, and tried to seek out help and advice. It should be equally obvious that to do this, students need access to well-funded and well-managed resources, and the support of expert and helpful teachers. When all these things are happening in concert, the result is higher education imbued with what we might call ‘quality’.”

Are you receiving sufficient ‘quality’?

5 comments

  1. Martin, I LOVE your website.

    I am a student from Taiwan, and I do expect a certain quality of learning. Here’s what I get:

    Our school has a course called English Word Formation. But we have to memorize the words from different word-formation processes instead of accounting for formation to get pass the exams. It looked like a vocabulary class to me. The professor writed down the English words on blackboard, and explained them in Chinese. (I am an English major) I think that’s called “dumbing down” ?

    I did write protest letters to him. He’s not willing to change because other students (there are 69 of them) at my age “should simply sit down and build up a solid knowledge base that they’ll be able to use later in their life.” He suggested I was too good for the class that I should not come.

    I did what he told me to do, after he started to stop replying my protest mails.

    1. Thank you for your comments and kind words, Vicky.

      I hope there are no problems by not going to your class! Is it a required class, or optional?

      If your tutor won’t take your comments seriously, you really should take your complaint to the next level. I don’t know the way your student support is arranged in Taiwan, but hopefully you can speak to someone who will listen to your concerns and help you find an answer or compromise to suit you.

      As for sitting down to “build up a solid knowledge base” for later in life, it depends on what the ‘learning’ is. Since true learning usually goes beyond memorising and rote methods, I understand your concern. Good luck with sorting things out.

  2. I think for most of my classes I am recieving sufficient quality, though sometimes testing seems really unfair (by many students standards), and often lectures and somewhat pointless (who needs to go to class when the professor only reads of a powerpoint, and then posts it online for you to read yourself?)

    1. Pointless lectures are a problem. You’re right, it’s frustrating to find yourself sat in an auditorium thinking, “I didn’t need to come here today. I could have done this anywhere”.

      You may like to read an article in London Student about the way lectures should evolve as we evolve. An interesting piece.

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