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Blind sea captains and sunken treasure: exploring
the NSS through the eyes of ‘Captain Cat’
http://whatsbehindthenss.blogspot.co.uk/
‘To begin at the beginning…’
• Exploring the NSS in art and design.
• What’s behind the NSS?
• Research findings.
• Recommendations and ways forward.
‘The only sea I saw Was the seesaw sea..’
Discuss the NSS in art and design: what are the issues
and challenges?
‘……Titbits and topsy turvies, bobs and
buttontops’
• Course feedback
mechanisms
• Timetabling and course
communication systems
• Orientation to HE study
• Learning and teaching
• Assessment and
feedback
• University culture and
professional preparation
• Learning support
• Value for money
‘clocks with no hands for ever drumming out time
without ever knowing what time it is’
“Our timetables are shocking.
There is no communication
between technicians and
academics. We are running with
so many timetables that
everything clashes.”
‘ Dreams of the deep…’
“There are some students
who still expect staff to tell
them what to do. I am not
sure that the constant
tutorials help with this as we
become like children by
having these tutorials every
week. They look at my work
and then I make
improvements. But I wonder
how much was this my work,
or the tutor’s?”
‘ Fascinating journeys and secret destinations’
“The staff are passionate about what they are teaching and very
enthusiastic. This enthusiasm from the teachers is very infectious,
especially when we get constant feedback during the day.”
“The professional practice lectures are really good. We have had the
opportunity to talk to artists who have given really good advice on how
to get studios and how to get your work out there”
“You are basically given a framework by the tutors, then it’s up to you
to work hard.”
“Since year 1, my confidence has really grown. I never thought I’d be
able to do a presentation in front of class groups. “
‘Jellyfish slippery’
“We started off turning up at every lecture and presentation, but now we
think: why bother? As no one else is.”
“We have to rugby tackle tutors. In any creative course, you need the
confidence to get help. Those students who don’t are f***ed. “
“Our tutor will say great, love it and then two weeks later, in a formative
assessment, one tutor will say love it, the other will say scrap it….It’s all about
shaping you for the working world.”
“Recently I was at a crit with nine students, four of whom walked out in
tears.”
“Tutors have this mind-set that if they’re really mean, it will energise you to
do better.”
‘ The long drowned ……..’
“We took it all very seriously as we wanted to
be sure our message got across, if we wanted
to get improvements.”
“I’m not sure whether we’re commenting on
last year, rather than for all three years. It was
not made clear to us. Therefore, I answered
most of the questions with this year in mind.”
‘….Salt deep’
“There’s so much work goes into the final pieces, why are
we then put into shitty rooms which don’t enhance the
work? The organisation was dreadful. The organisation of
assessment days is awful.”
“It’s a lot of just doing your own work by yourself and in
your own time. The tutor’s role is to say it is right/wrong.
In that sense it has not been value for money. I am glad I
am not paying £9k.”
“Overall, I do not think you get enough for your money.”
‘ Knit one slip one Knit two together Pass the slipstitch
over...’
Recommendations from UCA:
• Engage students in regular and iterative dialogue from year one onwards.
• Discuss ways in which the NSS can feed into broader staff development, including
PGCert course.
• Close the feedback loop by publishing changes made in response to the NSS to
level 1 and 2 students.
• Emphasise the intrinsic value of an arts degree.
• Encourage discussion in first year around independent learning, contact time and
what is meant by feedback.
• Communicate assessment criteria more clearly in order to relieve pressure on
office hours.
• Foster a personal tutoring‘ culture or create more mentoring opportunities across
year groups.
• Promote awareness to students of the importance of the NSS.
Any other suggestions?
Want to get involved?
If you would like to find out more about our
research, or share approaches, please contact
Annamarie McKie at the University for the
Creative Arts. amckie@ucreative.ac.uk

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Heroes and monsters: Blind sea captains and sunken treasure

  • 1. Blind sea captains and sunken treasure: exploring the NSS through the eyes of ‘Captain Cat’ http://whatsbehindthenss.blogspot.co.uk/
  • 2. ‘To begin at the beginning…’ • Exploring the NSS in art and design. • What’s behind the NSS? • Research findings. • Recommendations and ways forward.
  • 3. ‘The only sea I saw Was the seesaw sea..’ Discuss the NSS in art and design: what are the issues and challenges?
  • 4. ‘……Titbits and topsy turvies, bobs and buttontops’ • Course feedback mechanisms • Timetabling and course communication systems • Orientation to HE study • Learning and teaching • Assessment and feedback • University culture and professional preparation • Learning support • Value for money
  • 5. ‘clocks with no hands for ever drumming out time without ever knowing what time it is’ “Our timetables are shocking. There is no communication between technicians and academics. We are running with so many timetables that everything clashes.”
  • 6. ‘ Dreams of the deep…’ “There are some students who still expect staff to tell them what to do. I am not sure that the constant tutorials help with this as we become like children by having these tutorials every week. They look at my work and then I make improvements. But I wonder how much was this my work, or the tutor’s?”
  • 7. ‘ Fascinating journeys and secret destinations’ “The staff are passionate about what they are teaching and very enthusiastic. This enthusiasm from the teachers is very infectious, especially when we get constant feedback during the day.” “The professional practice lectures are really good. We have had the opportunity to talk to artists who have given really good advice on how to get studios and how to get your work out there” “You are basically given a framework by the tutors, then it’s up to you to work hard.” “Since year 1, my confidence has really grown. I never thought I’d be able to do a presentation in front of class groups. “
  • 8. ‘Jellyfish slippery’ “We started off turning up at every lecture and presentation, but now we think: why bother? As no one else is.” “We have to rugby tackle tutors. In any creative course, you need the confidence to get help. Those students who don’t are f***ed. “ “Our tutor will say great, love it and then two weeks later, in a formative assessment, one tutor will say love it, the other will say scrap it….It’s all about shaping you for the working world.” “Recently I was at a crit with nine students, four of whom walked out in tears.” “Tutors have this mind-set that if they’re really mean, it will energise you to do better.”
  • 9. ‘ The long drowned ……..’ “We took it all very seriously as we wanted to be sure our message got across, if we wanted to get improvements.” “I’m not sure whether we’re commenting on last year, rather than for all three years. It was not made clear to us. Therefore, I answered most of the questions with this year in mind.”
  • 10. ‘….Salt deep’ “There’s so much work goes into the final pieces, why are we then put into shitty rooms which don’t enhance the work? The organisation was dreadful. The organisation of assessment days is awful.” “It’s a lot of just doing your own work by yourself and in your own time. The tutor’s role is to say it is right/wrong. In that sense it has not been value for money. I am glad I am not paying £9k.” “Overall, I do not think you get enough for your money.”
  • 11. ‘ Knit one slip one Knit two together Pass the slipstitch over...’ Recommendations from UCA: • Engage students in regular and iterative dialogue from year one onwards. • Discuss ways in which the NSS can feed into broader staff development, including PGCert course. • Close the feedback loop by publishing changes made in response to the NSS to level 1 and 2 students. • Emphasise the intrinsic value of an arts degree. • Encourage discussion in first year around independent learning, contact time and what is meant by feedback. • Communicate assessment criteria more clearly in order to relieve pressure on office hours. • Foster a personal tutoring‘ culture or create more mentoring opportunities across year groups. • Promote awareness to students of the importance of the NSS. Any other suggestions?
  • 12. Want to get involved? If you would like to find out more about our research, or share approaches, please contact Annamarie McKie at the University for the Creative Arts. amckie@ucreative.ac.uk

Editor's Notes

  1. Low scores in the NSS – nss has only become important in the last few years The introduction of fees of up to £9,000 per year in England from September 2012 means that understanding the student voice in higher education is becoming increasingly important. The NSS is a key contributor to the data which helps to inform student choice. Therefore, understanding student interpretations of the questions is critical recommStaff and students alike expressed concerns about the reliability and validity of the NSS due to the vagueness and ambiguity of the questions. Double-barrelled questions were a particular problem (e.g. questions 5, 6, 10). Virtually all the project leaders called for a widescale revision of the questions to make the NSS more useful for quality enhancement. However, a recent review of the NSS did not recommend any changes: ―We conclude that the core NSS should remain as it is for the present, with its continuing usefulness and relevance being the subject of annual consideration by the HEPISG [Higher Education Public Information Steering Group].‖ 6 it is likely therefore that the existing questions will not be changed for a least a few years. 6 Staff and students also expressed surprise that selecting ‗neither agree nor disagree‘ is considered a negative rather than a neutral answer when used in unistats7, newspaper league tables and the proposed KIS. One institution advises: If you think that overall the course was very good, even if there were one or two bad experiences, you should not feel shy about using `5´s (or `1´s for that matter). Similarly if a question is not relevant simply mark it NA rather than giving it a `3´.8 endations Actions colleagues will take or will recommend to Heads of Departments and/or senior managers at the nine institutions include: 1. Using the NSS questions on first and second year questionnaires. 2. Encouraging students to make more use of timetabled advice and guidance sessions. 11 www.llas.ac.uk So we know that students struggle with the questions…but how about the responses they give? What does this tell us about their experiences on art and design courses? And what might this tell us in terms of student satisfaction, to help improve our ratings? Could looking into these areas reveal some hidden secrets, some areas to address in terms of the art and design learning and teaching experience?
  2. Problematic NSS scores, Student achievement, Blair’s research, culture of QERPS, metric/performance obsessed Metric obsessions…but what is really behind the poor scores…is it interpretations of questions, or something about art and design pedagogy? Increasing marketization, diversification, declining resource (HEFCE and BIS budgets are falling), 5 years of stability, followed by 5 years of declining resource, David Willetts intending to introduce ‘KIS 2’ which will drill down even further into the course experience, open data/open access, more competition, more choice, will drive markets and efficiencies. Blair, B, Orr, S. & Yorke, M. (2012). ‘Erm that question…I think I probably would’ve just put something in the middle and moved on to the next one, because I think its really unclear’. How art and design students understand and interpret the National Student Survey. London: Group for Learning in Art and Design. Vaughan, D. & Yorke, M. ‘I can’t believe it’s not better: The Paradox of NSS scores for Art and Design. London: Group for Learning in Art and Design. National Student Survey (NSS) – a measure of student satisfaction, final year undergraduate students rate their courses and institution on a 1-5 scale over 22 questions each relating to various sections of working (e.g. Teaching, Assessment & Feedback). The score represents the percentage of final-year undergraduates declaring themselves satisfied or very satisfied with their course, averaged over the seven sections of the survey Informing Level 2 students about previous actions taken in response to the NSS. Discussing ways in which the NSS can feed into broader staff development, including courses for early career teaching staff. Promoting more staff use of discussion boards in the institution‘s VLE as a means of providing feedback. Encouraging tutors on skills modules to put more emphasis on transferable skills. Developing a better understanding between staff and students of staff availability. Communicating assessment criteria more clearly in order to relieve pressure on office hours. Harmonising teaching and assessment for different languages. Where there are exceptions a case should be made to the students. Making more of the first year experience by engaging students with what to expect from assessment and feedback, independent learning… Introducing more opportunities for students to take ownership of their learning, eg learning agreements Fostering a ‗personal tutoring‘ culture in the department. Building in more opportunities for vertical integration and students to mentor others Promoting awareness to students of the importance of the NSS.
  3. NSS Focus groups – 4 groups of between 10 and 12 students Tried to get a good balance of courses and asked students to declare whether they had a specific learning difficulty or were an international student. Lured them in with the offer of book vouchers or money off printing. The questions we used were from the NSS, but our main research questions were as follows: What reasons do students studying arts disciplines provide for the scores they have given to the NSS? Are they any university wide issues uncovered by this research? We grappled with a lot of qualitative data, what to do with it, how to present it as we quickly realised these very very rich findings that not only could influence our approaches at UCA, but could have some relevance in the sector. We looked through the transcripts identifying some common themes, then we grouped them into the headings you see. We presented a report to the VC and circulated a summary to Heads of School and Course Leaders. Difficulties of the transcripts Some quotes from students eep learning experiences
  4. UCA students are very positive about systems that are effective, including blogs and texting. They are particularly complimentary about the more personalised systems that fit within their academic and personal lives. They see these communication channels as key to feeling part of the community of a course and for receiving key information from course staff. They appreciate the dynamic, shifting timetables, but value a bit more routine, for example to know which days they will have tutorials. They are frustrated by room clashes and inconsistent communication about changes. They are confused by the array of communication methods used by course staff (social media, UCA email, myUCA, etc) and would prefer a more constant platform for communication. Many describe having to create alternative platforms with which to communicate with each other because they see UCA systems as not meeting their needs. Students would like systems that are less passive and more active, so they can interact more with the resource. For example, they would like to be able to share and upload work and to have a search facility to find online resources and course staff contact details.
  5. Aspirations/Student achievement – one of the key findings was that the course had not been value for money Many students have high expectations of the courses and sometimes there are mismatches between application and admission. Students do not necessarily have a Foundation degree and for many it is a shock to get used to the freedom and autonomy in an arts degree. . First year students value the importance of vertical integration and of speaking to 2nd and 3rd year ‘mentors’ to get an understanding of what is expected of them. However, they reveal frustrations with courses not providing enough opportunities for this and of being worried about the support provided for students who are struggling with the rigours of academic study. Students value being given examples of what is expected of them on a course and often describe a disconnection between interview and starting on course, feeling they have not been given a clear picture of the course learning experience. Many students are struggling with the hard work expected of them and value regular tutorials and constructive assessment and feedback. Early on, students need help with self-directed study, otherwise, even when in their final years, for them “self-directed study is nothing study”. Deep learning experiences Graduate attributes Transition/enculturation to study?
  6. Positive experiences of the creative arts, highlighted in a recent Guardian article…Lets stop being defensive about the value of arts degrees.. Subjectivity v objectivity debates (Eisner, conoisseurship) Students at UCA describe some deep learning journeys which prepare them for the world of work and encourage them to develop skills and confidences in pitching ideas and developing their own criticality. They appreciate having live projects and benefit when they have enthusiastic and dedicated tutors and technicians.
  7. Hidden curriculum, slippery pedagogies, art and design pedagogy, tacit knowledge, non inclusive practises, are we inclusive, all nighters, traditional models of teaching expected to suit diverse groups . They described having to stay up all night working, having to spend evenings and weekends doing course work and, on one course, of an expectation they made at least one visit to London every week. First year students value the importance of vertical integration and of speaking to 2nd and 3rd year ‘mentors’ to get an understanding of what is expected of them. However, they reveal frustrations with courses not providing enough opportunities for this and of being worried about the support provided for students who are struggling with the rigours of academic study. Students value being given examples of what is expected of them on a course and often describe a disconnection between interview and starting on course, feeling they have not been given a clear picture of the course learning experience. Many students are struggling with the hard work expected of them and value regular tutorials and constructive assessment and feedback. Early on, students need help with self-directed study, otherwise, even when in their final years, for them “self-directed study is nothing study”.
  8. Unit feedback had fallen out of favour – “We took it all very seriously as we wanted to be sure our message got across, if we wanted to get improvements.”   “I’m not sure whether we’re commenting on last year, rather than for all three years. It was not made clear to us. Therefore, I answered most of the questions with this year in mind.”   The research suggests that many students see filling out the NSS as the only opportunity to feedback on the course, and get improvements made. Those students who did not use the NSS in this way usually described other opportunities for feedback within their course, such as the student rep systems and use of Unit Feedback forms. For the NSS, some students reported being given guidance by tutors as to what to write. Some filled it in with reference to their last year only, others to the full duration of the course. Rescuing pedagogy and reviewing tired pedagogies…the need to be more inclusive… The findings from this research reveal some positive experiences of deep learning for creative arts students: they describe fascinating journeys of being ‘plunged into presenting’, developing new confidences to ‘experiment and play’ through expansive curriculum design and of being ‘constantly challenged to take the work into new realms’ through passionate and enthusiastic tutors. The findings also capture some uncomfortable truths about pedagogy, that suggest a more hidden curriculum which is not learner-centred, or inclusive and which might be in serious need of updating.
  9. Wounding experiences which stay with you in terms of your course experience Need to have regular and iterative dialogue with students Unit Feedback, course reps, course meetings, course boards turn into workshops (Univ of Lincoln)
  10. Give out recommendations 3. Providing a more comprehensive introduction to the library resources. One colleague plans to recommend making library sessions obligatory. 4. Informing Level 2 students about previous actions taken in response to the NSS. 5. Discussing ways in which the NSS can feed into broader staff development, including courses for early career teaching staff. 6. Promoting more staff use of discussion boards in the institution‘s VLE as a means of providing feedback. 7. Encouraging tutors on skills modules to put more emphasis on transferable skills. 8. Developing a better understanding between staff and students of staff availability. 9. Communicating assessment criteria more clearly in order to relieve pressure on office hours. 10. Harmonising teaching and assessment for different languages. Where there are exceptions a case should be made to the students. 11. Fostering a ‗personal tutoring‘ culture in the department. 12. Promoting awareness to students of the importance of the NSS.