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October 2008 Using qualitative data to prove and improve quality in Australian higher education Geoff Scott, Leonid Grebennikov and Mahsood Shah Office.

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Presentation on theme: "October 2008 Using qualitative data to prove and improve quality in Australian higher education Geoff Scott, Leonid Grebennikov and Mahsood Shah Office."— Presentation transcript:

1 October 2008 Using qualitative data to prove and improve quality in Australian higher education Geoff Scott, Leonid Grebennikov and Mahsood Shah Office of Planning and Quality University of Western Sydney

2 2 Introduction –Limited use of qualitative data in institutional performance assessment –Advantages and benefits of using qualitative data –UWS experience in the systematic analysis of the qualitative data from student feedback surveys Method –CEQuery qualitative analysis tool –Comparative analysis of qualitative data generated by three key UWS student surveys Results and discussion Implications Outline

3 3 Qualitative data in institutional performance assessment Receive limited attention Cover aspects of student experience which are untapped in existing evaluations Identify reasons for statistical results which may be different from what researchers assume Define in students own words what they find important Should complement quantitative data

4 4 UWS experience in the systematic analysis of the qualitative data from student feedback surveys Since 2006 all UWS student surveys covering - overall experience at the University level - particular course or program - specific subjects invite respondents to answer two questions in their own words: What were the best aspects of their course/unit? What aspects of their course/unit are most in need of improvement?

5 5 UWS experience in the systematic analysis of the qualitative data from student feedback surveys Written comments are automatically classified by the CEQuery qualitative analysis tool into five domains and 26 subdomains using a custom-tailored dictionary. CEQuery results are integrated into Annual Course and Unit Reports in order to better identify key hot spots for improvement and actual solutions from the student perspective. Actual comments can be viewed once sorted into specific CEQuery domains and subdomains. High importance areas are used in course accreditation and review, and to validate rating items on surveys.

6 6 Comparative analysis of qualitative data from three key student surveys Survey 1: Covers total university experience; sample – 3,492 current students; 9,410 written comments Survey 2: The national CEQ covers graduate experience of the course just completed; sample – 2,734 respondents; 4,213 written comments Survey 3: Evaluates individual subjects each time they are offered; sample – about 200,000 students each year; 94,803 written comments

7 7 About CEQuery Best Aspect (BA) and Needs Improvement (NI) hits are coded and sorted into domains then subdomains. 5 domains – Assessment, Course Design, Outcomes, Staff, and Support, and 26 subdomains Hit rate – 80%, allocation accuracy – 90% BA + NI = Importance BA / NI = Quality Custom-tailored dictionary

8 8 CEQuery subdomains Assessment –Expectations –Feedback –Marking –Relevance –Standards

9 9 CEQuery subdomains Assessment: Expectations Provision of clear assessment tasks and expectations on how to tackle and present them; clear submission deadlines, guidelines rules and grading criteria. Provision of examples of work, to give an operational picture of different grades and quality of work in each subject. Typical NI comments Expectations for assignments need to be clearer Lack of clear criteria for marking More explanations than just expecting us to know or guess Better description of tasks

10 10 CEQuery subdomains Assessment: Feedback Promptness with which assignments are returned, use of staged deadlines, quality of the feedback received including the extent to which markers comment on what was done well, explicitly identify key areas for improvement and say how improvements could have been achieved – with specific attention to the grading criteria distributed at the start of the subject. Typical NI comments Im still trying to get back an assignment over 5 months old When returning essays tutors should give more detailed feedback so students know exactly how to improve work We only received one assessment back before the subject finished

11 11 CEQuery subdomains Course Design –Flexibility –Learning methods –Practice-theory links –Relevance –Structure Outcomes –Further learning –Intellectual –Interpersonal –Personal –Knowledge/skills –Work application

12 12 CEQuery subdomains Staff –Accessibility –Practical experience –Quality & attitude –Teaching skills Support –Infrastructure –Learning resources –Library –Social affinity –Student administration –Student services

13 13 More information on CEQuery Scott, G. (2006). Accessing the student voice: Using CEQuery to identify what retains students and promotes engagement in productive learning in Australian higher education. _resources/profiles/access_student_voice.htm _resources/profiles/access_student_voice.htm

14 14 The CEQuery study of comments from students in 14 universities - key implications for student retention and engagement It is the total experience that counts. Teaching is not learning Learning is a profoundly social experience. Need for more research on how various forms of IT-enabled learning do and do not add value as part of a broader learning design 60 learning methods, especially active and practice oriented ones depending on FOE and level of study Traditional lectures and class-based methods must be seen as just one of the options not the sole one.

15 CEQuery Subdomain Hits and Ranks across Three Levels of Student Experience

16 CEQuery Subdomain BA/NI ratios and Ranks across Three Levels of Student Experience

17 17 Discussion Why do very important CEQuery subdomains demonstrate patchy results in terms of quality? - Variety of factors shaping student experience - Extent of multi-campus university operation

18 18 Six areas of student experience that warrant an improvement focus Assessment (standards, marking, expectations management and feedback) Student Administration Course Structure

19 19 Six areas of student experience that warrant an improvement focus High-hit CEQuery Subdomains with low BA / NI ratios

20 20 Six areas of student experience that warrant an improvement focus Assessment (standards, marking, expectations management and feedback) Student Administration Course Structure Staff: Quality and Attitude (at the overall university level) Student Support: Infrastructure (course and subject level) Student Support: Learning Resources (course level)

21 21 UWS improvement actions based on quantitative and qualitative data (analysed via CEQuery) from student feedback surveys Introduction of online enrolment Implementation of the online complaints resolution system New assessment policy Introduction of assessment focused self-teaching guides for each subject A range of new, targeted transition support programs A number of new, free study assistance workshops and programs Use of the more interactive version of the online learning system. More opportunities for practice-based learning, e.g., through increased engagement with regional employers and industry bodies Results: Improvement in CEQ OS by 10% in three years, retention by 4%

22 22 Concisely, the systematic analysis of qualitative data helps: Generate a more focused and evidence-based set of good practice guidelines and areas for quality improvement down to the course and unit level Ensure that course and subject design focus on what counts for students, as courses and units are implemented and reviewed Inform what is and is not tracked in quantitative surveys, validate the items in these surveys to ensure they cover what is really important to students Assist in making staff development programs more relevant by providing BA and NI comments regarding each course and unit to relevant teaching and administrative staff Complement the quantitative data that are typically used to inform decision- making for the area


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