|Teaching and Learning Forum 2004 [ Proceedings Contents ]|
R. Morien, E. Chang, K.F. Chin and C. Cheah
Curtin University of Technology
This paper identifies issues that arise from traditional university feedback systems. Traditional university feedback systems are undertaken as annual student surveys in areas including curriculum and teaching which may be conducted by the academic development unit, student union or at faculty or school level which generate statistical results. All universities around the world have such feedback systems. Some universities take the results seriously at senior management level, some only at academic teaching staff level and some only at a student level. A common problem is that these teaching survey results may only be seen by teachers, it doesn't matter whether the results are good or bad. The questions arise: How much value can be gained from seeking feedback annually rather than routinely? How to measure the significance by those who utilise the survey results to enhance teaching? How can these anonymous results be utilized to enhance service not just at subject level or from the teachers' point of view but for the entire curriculum? How much effort has to be put in by teachers to use it for teaching improvement? How much effort has to be put in by senior management to use it for monitoring, supervising and controlling the standard of teaching performance, curriculum standards and incremental educational improvement?
We note that there is another kind of feedback which has not been addressed systematically nor dealt with efficiently, that is the feedback from academics who deliver the teaching materials. This kind of feedback has been dealt with in an ad-hoc fashion among many universities. Some universities use a sub-group of staff or elected teaching staff, others rely on senior management, or carry out periodic meetings that may be unproductive because matters are not followed up or disagreements during the meetings result in wasted time and in little change. This is caused by ad-hoc management of the specialist academic expert. Normally, an academic's teaching area is the same as or is related to their research area, or at least their area of competence, experience and expertise. Naturally, the academics in a particular teaching area are recognised as being more advanced in that area than others. Academics understand that teaching is informed by research. Therefore, any feedback from specialist academics should not be dealt with in an ad-hoc fashion and their feedback on the subject or curriculum is as vital as student feedback.
We also note that many universities utilise industry advisory panels. In many universities, they only meet once a year. However, we found only ad-hoc management of such feedback exists and no measurement has taken place on how the industry panel and their input has been applied. What are the effective ways of utilising the connection between course development and education improvement? Yet at the same time curriculum must be proposed that does more than merely meet current, possibly transient, industry skills demands (Morien & Schmidenberg, 1994). In this paper, we illustrate a dynamic curriculum development architecture, which systematically collects triple input or feedback from learners (students), teachers (academics) and industry panelists. We provide an incremental management approach to use these as a basis for new course development and strategic management of the improvement process of course development, as well as a matrix on the measurement of how one utilises the triple feedback for teaching and learning improvement and the value output from the triple feedback system.
If there is a feedback from academic staff themselves, it only focuses on the following.
However, as we can see from the above objectives and measurement, there is no mention about staff feedback on curricula (education programs). Curricula (education programs) are the framework of the entire course teaching program. However, we note that the feedback from academics in regard to curriculum is either weak or not done at all.
There are well developed questionnaires for the subject level and teachers' performance and student satisfaction levels for each particular subject or units.
The drawback of the above feedback system is that it cannot obtain feedback about the entire educational programs and they cannot obtain information such as student feedback about the existing survey systems; as well feedback efforts stop at the subject or unit level.
There is no evaluation or feedback data collection regarding the course curriculum overall and there is no approach to collecting student feedback about how their perceptions and feelings in regard to the entire curriculum program, such as overlapping subject curricula, prerequisite appropriateness, and outdated and even wrong and factually incorrect materials defined in the curriculum.
The only measure the universities have been using is to obtain the information about
Option 1: Shut down the entire course because student numbers are low.(There are non-curriculum focused options as well, including marketing of the courses, offering advanced standing to incoming students, often based on inappropriate prior knowledge or experience).
Option 2: Modify the degree programs
In both of the above curriculum-oriented decisions, there is no assessment of the inner factors of the curriculum; whether the entire curriculum has met the student needs by simply measuring the external factors such as student numbers. There is no feedback collection from academics who are the implementers of the entire curriculum framework.
Figure 1: Curriculum design process
Figure 2: Curriculum implementation
Figure 3: Teaching and learning process
Figure 4: Traditional approach to teaching and learning development
The above diagram (Figure 4) shows the general approach to teaching and learning development among universities, illustrating the curriculum development process. This is a general approach in many universities. Senior academics usually design the entire curriculum, the teaching academics implement this design, and deliver the education, the students develop their knowledge and skills directly from the teaching academics, and there is a systematic feedback procedure on the academic delivery of the planned material. Industry partners usually give the comments at high level curriculum, and sometimes, their feedback and comments are taken into account in the curriculum planning and design.
Traditional approach to feedback is shown in Figure 4 where the feedback comes from industry representatives to the curriculum level and student feedback to subject level. Normally, those feedback cycles are well structured, systematic and periodical. The feedback is normally handled by the academic development unit or central teaching and learning committee. The data is collected, analysed and as a basis for the next improvement of the curriculum.
However, we also need to collect feedback from academics who are the implementers of the curriculum, and their comments and input on the curriculum is important and crucial. We note that the following factors are very important to the curriculum development (see figure 5). The following comments and feedback would not be obtained by just subject level evaluation.
|Issue 1||The teaching content is flexible to enable subject lecturers to make changes to its original content, and sometimes these changes then overlap with other content of other subjects, creating duplication of subject matter.|
|Issue 2||Keep subject content in line with curriculum design is managed in ad hoc fashion.|
|Issue 3||Teaching difficulties may cause inconsistent definition of pre-requisites requirement. For example, pre-requisites may be suitable to one degree program students, but not the others, however, they will all have to be part of an integrating unit at later year.|
|Issue 4||Ad hoc management of optional subjects/units may cause miss link of knowledge acquisition and delivery. This often happens when students in a class are from different degree programs.|
|Issue 5||Some staff find it difficult to deliver some subjects, because the students in a class have too many differences in their knowledge, such as local students and overseas students.|
|Issue 6||Some students may misunderstand that some of the pre-defined subjects sound the same, so they decide to just take one of these subjects, but in the curriculum design, they should do all subjects.|
|Issue 7||Some subject is better by using a problem based learning approach, rather than general concepts study or strictly follow what is defined in the curriculum design.|
|Issue 8||Some academics want to update the subject to tailor to the advanced technologies and methodologies, however, sometimes the changes are not permitted, and out of date materials reused.|
The above inputs from academics are important to the quality of teaching. However, this is normally managed in an ad hoc fashion, and no follow up is carried out. We believe that the academics are the implementers and their input should be captured and systematic analysis of their input should take place in the quality teaching process.
|Issue 1||Many subjects are too abstract or too general. The knowledge gained from the teaching is minimal.|
|Issue 2||Subjects may be too heavily overloaded with content, and students have difficulty in assimilating and understanding the over-loaded curriculum content, notwithstanding that the subject matter may be excellent.|
|Issue 3||Subjects may in fact be content sparse and students, especially advanced students, may find them uninteresting and unuseful.|
|Issue 4||Students may comment on which subject or subjects are more suitable as prerequisites.|
|Issue 5||Students get different advice from different administrators on choosing subjects. Sometimes this causes difficulties in learning, because they do not have any background to support the current subject study.|
|Issue 6||The student could make accurate comments on what subject is overlapping with another subject, which subjects is a total waste of time. There are horizontal overlapping (such as number of subjects taught in one year) and vertical overlapping (which is the subject overlapping between different years).|
|Issue 7||The concerns about the mixture of local and international students, and the differences in knowledge and skills. Such as computer skills or English skills.|
|Issue 8||Significant concerns may arise due to the learning styles of students from different cultural, and especially educational backgrounds - especially where teaching styles may have actually been quite authoritarian and learning by rote the norm.|
|Issue 9||They often give suggestions on the upgrading of subject content or materials, or suggestions of a number of advanced topics. Some student may be well advanced and may be able to suggest the proper subjects to be taught to address social and economic needs.|
The Curriculum design is a blue print for the subject development. If the framework of the curriculum is not well designed, and feedback from academics and students is not considered, one cannot sure that the curriculum planning and design are of good quality. In this paper, we point out that feedback from academics and students to the curriculum design is equally important and a systematic approach to capture the feedback should be developed. It is important that each stage (planning, design, development, delivery) have feedbacks, not just at implementation level. With advance in IT, the automated system feedback system, document management and automatic classification of knowledge would enhance the feedback collections.
Figure 5: The proposed triple feedback loop to curriculum improvement
Curtin University of Technology (2002). Curtin Strategic Plan on Teaching and Learning, 2002-2005.
Glatthorn, A., Harris, D.E. & Carr, J.F. (2003). Curriculum Handbook - Chapter: Planning and Organizing for Curriculum Renewal. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ACSD). [viewed Oct 2003, verified 7 Jun 2004] http://www.ascd.org/handbook/demo/planning2.html
March, C.J. & Willis, G. (2003). Curriculum alternative approaches; Ongoing issues. 3rd Edition. Merrill Prentice-Hall. Chapter 1, Section 1.2 Defining Curriculum, pages 7 to 14.
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|Authors: R. Morien, E. Chang, K.F. Chin and C. Cheah|
School of Information Systems, Curtin University of Technology
Please cite as: Morien, R. Chang, E. Chin, K.F. and Cheah C. (2004). Systematic approach to triple feedback systems for teaching enhancement . In Seeking Educational Excellence. Proceedings of the 13th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 9-10 February 2004. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2004/morien.html