One of the peculiar things about our system here is the process of student feedback. Students fill out a ridiculously long survey called a not-so-student-friendly “Q6A” for each module (and more usually for both of two lecturers in a module). This rates everything from the conditions of the room to the helpfulness of the lecturer, with some space for comments at the end. Thanks to our glorious comrades in the Teachers Union of Ireland, the Q6A responses are the property of the lecturer. Therefore to feed the information on to THE SYSTEM, said lecturer will—quite unbelievably in a society obsessed about transparency—complete a “Q6B” form, which aims to distill all the comments garnered from the Q6A and compile them into the Q6B for passing on to the Programme Chair, who then completes a Q5 Annual Monitoring of Programme Form, which has a (small) section for detailing feedback from all modules on the programme. The net result, even for honest brokers who dutifully complete a Q6A -> Q6B process, is that student feedback is lost in paperwork. So much so that even external reviewers recently commented that there is too much paperwork.
Undeterred, our glorious leaders in Institute management have decided to remove “paperwork” by making an online survey, which being generous, represents a misunderstanding of the external reviewers’ comments. This decision can’t have been inspired by a pilot study last year. In this, Q6C forms (I am honestly not making this up)—which of course are Head of School Survey of a Programme forms, also filled out by students—were completed in an online survey. The response was less than 10% across all four years of the programme I chair, but the QA office still sent us meaningless pie charts summarising meaningless responses.
The online survey for Q6A means that as lecturers, we won’t get to see sometimes quite useful responses on the students’ hand-written forms, which were the only really beneficial part of the form, as the response rate will plummet in the move online. To get around the ownership of Q6A, a “responsible person” is going to compile the information. Comrades… comrades! How can you allow this? Oh, I see you are too busy earning large salaries at the moment.
Of course the way around all this nonsense is just to talk to students directly. Michael Prosser has done some beautiful work on quality monitoring and enhancement, and he spoke last year at DIT (No comrades or glorious leaders present, of course). His basic argument was that if you want to find out how a programme is being delivered, talk to students. We certainly find that is true in our use of staff-student meetings each semester. No paperwork, no pie charts from QA— just a good discussion and exchange of opinion which can be used to enhance the teaching of a programme.
Comrades? Leaders? No, no one.