Acting Upon the Learner’s Voice
Opportunities are being offered for the learner’s voice to be heard. For example, the GDQ has embarked on a series of awareness sessions for learners – currently with undergraduate students – with the aim of having representation of learners on NQF advisory committees. That’s good. However, it is important to remember that the hearing of the voice is not just for number crunching.
Dr Erik Blair, London School of Economics points out the dangers. “Higher Education has certain primary qualities. Degrees are divided into years; years are made up of various units; lectures last a certain time, as do tutorials, seminars and classes; exams are timed; essays have word counts, and the final output is a degree classification. But students are not automatons who ‘clockworkily’ move through the system. Students do not just attend a lecture, they experience it. Students do not just sit an exam, they experience it. And students do not just go to university – it is a holistic experience. The secondary qualities of Higher Education are actually central facets. Therefore, when students feedback subjective insights, they should be actively listened to.” http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/education/2017/05/04/hearing-the-student-voice-finding-value-in-feedback/
Like many regulators globally, BQA, through its policy and practice regulations, requires learning institutions to obtain feedback from learners through various mediums such as, learner evaluation questionnaires, academic advisers, and graduate surveys. For instance, there is the requirement of educational and training institutions to research and report on the effectiveness of their programmes and courses. Responses of alumni are typically categorised according to employment status, current employment position, courses undertaken at the institution from which they have graduated, topics or skills that have proved particularly beneficial, topics or skills that could or should have been included in a programme, further study, and evaluation of the institution from which they have graduated in terms of various skills, knowledge, attitudes and attributes.
The question that springs to mind, is, who values the data collected? For instance, say a sizeable proportion of graduates offer that they are not fully utilising their skills and education in their current employment. Does anyone follow up and ask questions?
Is there a scarcity of employment?
Could it be an indicator of the underutilisation of graduate skills?
Is it a market mood?
We, in Bahrain, applaud the opportunities to have the voice of learners heard. However, let’s make sure we take note of their experience and act on it appropriately in maintaining and improving how we deliver higher education.