About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 6718-6722
Publication year: 2016
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0458

Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain

FROM STUDENT EVALUATION OF TEACHING TO THE WONDER OF WHY? A CRITICAL REALIST APPROACH TO QUALITY ASSURANCE

V. Gynnild

Norwegian University of Science and Engineering (NORWAY)
This is a theoretical and conceptual study motivated by a critical analysis of quality assurance (QA) procedures within a higher education context. Despite the rigorous application of agreed QA procedures, the course under scrutiny experienced high failure rates for years. Efforts were accompanied with the best of intentions, yet producing exceptionally meager results in terms of improved learning. This prompted an investigation of the QA system’s theoretical underpinnings, and its practical implications. The purpose was to find a better replacement.

The key issue is a review system that fell short of its aspirations. Data were collected by student surveys of teaching and in student response groups and the relevance of data collection methods was assumed rather than scholarly grounded. The overarching idea of ‘teaching’ was clearly based on the instruction paradigm rather than on the learning paradigm. The teacher’s presentation techniques and ability to structure course content were key issues, while students’ learning processes and learning outcomes were out of the spotlight.

Furthermore, no professional support was offered to assist in the interpretation and application of collected data. The legitimacy of data was determined by senior managers, embodying assumptions of professional knowing originating in business, including constructs such as ‘customer’ and ‘demand’. Satisfaction studies are frequently used based on this logic; however, the transition from ‘teaching’ to ‘learning’ challenges its relevance and legitimacy.

This study takes a radically new approach from the dominant positivist ontology to critical realism addressing the following question: What would be the potential gain of an ontological shift underpinning quality procedures, data collection and actions? Critical realism moves away from the tacit assumption of teaching as transmission to identifying structures and mechanisms to explain behaviors and learning outcomes. Critical realists argue that the positivist approach in QA confuses method and mechanisms. It is not the application of quantitative methods and analysis that makes the difference from the perspective of learning. Unfortunately, descriptive studies are frequently confusing correlation and causation.

Explanation requires theorizing of events after their occurrence. However, due to the complexity of social systems regularities do not automatically qualify for predictions. Still, by theorizing causal explanations chances are that academics come closer to understanding why events occur. Critique and emancipation are key themes as is properly understood evidence, aligned with theoretical argumentation. Critical realism, rather than disabling academic staff, equips them with emancipatory strategies and ways to make sense of experienced challenges.

This study argues for an ontological shift underpinning QA, including implications thereof. Examples of concrete measures will be presented and discussed. The aim is to get passed the current quality rhetoric to examine conditions of human agency and change. All of ‘science’ is socially constructed, but it is never the rhetoric per se that makes the difference. Critical realists argue that actions need to be grounded in ontology rather than in methodology.
@InProceedings{GYNNILD2016FRO,
author = {Gynnild, V.},
title = {FROM STUDENT EVALUATION OF TEACHING TO THE WONDER OF WHY? A CRITICAL REALIST APPROACH TO QUALITY ASSURANCE},
series = {8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN16 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-608-8860-4},
issn = {2340-1117},
doi = {10.21125/edulearn.2016.0458},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/edulearn.2016.0458},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona, Spain},
month = {4-6 July, 2016},
year = {2016},
pages = {6718-6722}}
TY - CONF
AU - V. Gynnild
TI - FROM STUDENT EVALUATION OF TEACHING TO THE WONDER OF WHY? A CRITICAL REALIST APPROACH TO QUALITY ASSURANCE
SN - 978-84-608-8860-4/2340-1117
DO - 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0458
PY - 2016
Y1 - 4-6 July, 2016
CI - Barcelona, Spain
JO - 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN16 Proceedings
SP - 6718
EP - 6722
ER -
V. Gynnild (2016) FROM STUDENT EVALUATION OF TEACHING TO THE WONDER OF WHY? A CRITICAL REALIST APPROACH TO QUALITY ASSURANCE, EDULEARN16 Proceedings, pp. 6718-6722.
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