I always read the Irish Survey of Student Engagement and it is generally a good read. It has evolved over the years from being a sort of customer satisfaction survey to a survey that, while still having a student-as-customer feel to it, tries to measure the extent to which our third level education system is consistent with a certain philosophy of education. If I say that the survey asks questions related to “solving complex real world problems” and “being an informed and active citizen” I think you’ll know what I mean. I don’t think there is a single question, for example, that really asks anything about the discipline-specific knowledge that the students have acquired and how it may or may not have transformed their lives in any way. Ultimately, the survey has a utilitarian feel to it and seems to reflect a view of education as a process of acquiring skills. In a way, it reminds me of the new Junior Cycle framework document.
But there are some good questions in there on feedback, staff-student interactions, general support provided by institutions and (to a small extent) the degree to which students are committing to their studies. All in all, though, I think it’s a missed opportunity because it doesn’t really drill down and discover what the real barriers are to student engagement. Some of the things I would like to have learned from this survey are:
How does students’ actual independent learning time compare with what is written in the module descriptors?
How does commuting or part-time work affect students’ capacity to learn and study?
How are students studying, i.e., are they using evidence-based methods? (See www.learningscientists.org)
How is the physical environment and facilities within their institution affecting students’ ability to learn and study?
Does sub-optimal timetabling impact on student’s’ learning?
What impact has the provision of online lecture notes had on study and learning patterns?
How well are students managing their time?
In other words, I wish the survey asked more questions that would help us identify how we, in partnership with our students, could improve the whole learning experience..