I am a very open individual, people are welcome, encouraged even, to wander in and out (only out if they are not ‘in’) of my classes and meetings. I like managing and lecturing in the open as it were. But I worry about the new league table approach to HE as exemplified by Which?
You see it is fine to list results, number of firsts, 2:1s etc. It is fine to list research ratings. What worries me is composite rankings and student surveys. The composite is disturbing as it is weighted and thus influenced by weights. The student survey is a concern as it represents quantification of the qualitative.
Let’s look at a few measures and skate around the problems. Take class size. What is a reasonable class size? Are 5,000 fans disappointed at watching a concert live? Are they cheated in so doing? Once we move away from, say, one to six mentoring does it make much difference? I find I can manage interaction up to and including about 70 in a lecture. Beyond that it goes to pure lecture. Two points though. Is a pure lecture necessarily bad? And, and this is a warning, as 70 is the largest class they experience our students report that it is too large, one would expect the same would be true for 35 if that was mixed with 20s elsewhere. Universities have very, very deep cuts to make here. As soon as you begin that narrative you end with only sizes of ten or less being acceptable.
Another interesting measure is support. What support is required? If we look to FE here we see nothing short of regular coaching on each assessment. If you set a task, provide some lectures closely related, provide a guide as to expectations at the various academic levels and consider this education (which in fairness it is) expect criticism. In a culture accustomed to not thinking anything short of paragraph by paragraph guidance is consider poor.
I didn’t used to like sprouts, I do now. Likewise my tolerance, enjoyment even, of lectures has increased with age. Be prepared for you best lecture to be considered dull unless it consists of videos, anecdotes, glib truisms and extreme brevity (avoiding theory and critique at all costs). Then, when you deliver this brave new style of edutainment, be prepared for the lack of support claim detailed above.
We could go on, but what really worries me is inter-university comparison. I will guarantee that graduates of Oxbridge and the like will praise their alma matters to the heavens. Regardless of actual levels of support and interest no one wants to point out the Emperor is naked – especially after you have invested tens of thousands on the privilege. They have a vested interest that their institutions stay on top.
I suggest you go back to your staff rooms and prepare for the new term. Study PR, managing expectations, customer satisfaction, managing performance measures (not performance), and if you have time, your subject.