Advent Calendar Day 24: Beyond Student Satisfaction

In a series: ADEPT Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar 2016
1 Theme 3 Topics View

In Day 24 of ADEPT's Teaching & Learning Advent Calendar, Dr Carole Davis advises looking beyond student satisfaction.

This is the Day 24 post of ADEPT’s Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar, sent as an email on December 24th 2016.



Image shows an orangutan facing the camera and giving a thumbs up.

Beyond satisfaction

Today’s contribution comes from Dr Carole Davis, Head of the Educational Development Team at QMUL. Carole has picked out this excellent quotation from bell hooks:

“Students  do not always enjoy studying with me. Often they find my courses challenge them in ways that are deeply unsettling. This was particularly disturbing to me at the beginning of my teaching career because I wanted to be liked and admired. It took time and experience for me to understand that the rewards of engaged pedagogy might not emerge during a course.”

From Teaching to Transgress : Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks

There’s increasing external pressure, especially with the advent of the Teaching Excellence Framework, to pursue student satisfaction at any cost. Teaching in higher education can come to feel more like customer service. Of course, it’s great to listen to students and to hear their voices: dialogue with students is exceptionally productive for learning. But that doesn’t mean that higher evaluation scores are precisely synonymous with better teaching. I’ve seen institutions publicly praise departments and even individuals for high student evaluation scores – and while I’m sure those individuals have worked hard, using student evaluation as a proxy for quality is a dangerous and lazy road to go down. You wouldn’t want to hire a personal trainer who always made you feel great; I wouldn’t want a teacher who didn’t challenge me either. It’s unfair to make students responsible for evaluating quality, especially if that then influences reward. Students have their own learning to get on with, and their lecturers need the freedom to challenge them. That’s where the best-quality teaching happens, and we need to preserve that – even if it comes at the expense of ‘satisfaction’.

P.S. The above comments are by me (Emma Kennedy) not Carole – so if you disagree, please contact me and not Carole!

Photo by Erica Cartmill.