Full paper Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Responding to students evaluation of teaching: Closing the loop (#171)

Jo Coldwell-Neilson 1 , Robert Dew 1 , Andrzej Goscinski 1
  1. Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Our undergraduate curriculum focuses on preparing students to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, and knowledgeable, responsible IT professionals. Students often question the relevance of core subjects which are designed to introduce and develop these attributes; such units regularly perform poorly in student evaluation of teaching (SETU). Although these subjects are strongly grounded in meeting industry needs with respect to employability skills, students do not value the learning as they do not deem the curriculum sufficiently technical to be worthy of inclusion in an IT qualification. As these are core subjects, clarification of student perceptions of them to improve learning outcomes, satisfy industry requirements and improve student perceptions is of critical importance.

Simply responding to student feedback received via SETU had not resulted in any improvement so a holistic approach had to be adopted. A one-day workshop was organised to explore the issues and develop a strategy to improve student outcomes and perceptions of these subjects. The teaching teams, including sessional staff who were involved in teaching practical classes and tutorials, as well as faculty-based learning and teaching support staff participated in the workshops.

A major outcome of the workshop was the development of an improvement plan for both subjects that was significantly different from previous years’ efforts. Rather than addressing student feedback specifically, the underlying issues that led to students’ negative perceptions of the units were identified and addressed.  The plan was implemented in 2014 resulting in significant improvement in student outcomes and evaluation for both subjects.

In this paper, we will discuss the process that was adopted to develop the improvement plan, and explore the impact that these had on the subject profile, the numerical SETU outcomes as well as the student commentary that accompanied the SETU outcomes.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

The objective of this case study aligns with the first theme, improving our IT graduates to be responsible and adaptable professionals. Educating under-graduates to respond and adapt to best practices used by IT organisations is embedded within our curriculum. Fundamental attributes expected of our graduates are critical thinking, problem solving, professional skills, communication, teamwork, self-management, and obviously IT skills.

Some of our core subjects teach these fundamental attributes. Many students question the need for these subjects which negatively impacts their preparation and study of not only these subjects but also others which utilise and build on these skills. Consequently, we focused on ways of changing student perceptions, expectations and understanding of the curriculum and assessment of such “questionable" subjects.

Our paper concentrates on the exploration of the impact that questioning, and even rejection, of subject content and assessment has on a subject’s profile (student results), numerical SETU results as well as the commentary that accompanies SETU results.

The outcomes show that students have embraced these subjects, acquired the ability of critical thinking, problem solving and professional skills, and has led to improving our  graduates to be responsible and adaptable professionals.

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