Sunday, 29 January 2012

What do students think of H809?

We've been comparing the last few years of pass rates and survey feedback on H809 with other postgraduate courses, and have found some interesting things.

Firstly many students tell us that they expected the module to be particularly difficult. And it has to be said that although the workload per week is (since 2009) no more than average, it is challenging work: H809 involves critiquing published empirical research in detail. So that's why we recommend you take it only once you've got at least some experience of reading and understanding academic literature.

But it turns out that H809's completion rates and pass rates are as good as (and often better than!) other postgraduate courses.

It also turns out that - and we've probably been a bit shy in trumpeting this -  satisfaction scores in relation to the teaching materials and the quality of the study experience are high. Even more humbling: we also get high scores in relation to the items “I enjoyed studying this module” and “I would recommend this module to other students".

So maybe we need to revise the title and the module description to stop the module appearing quite so daunting...?

Of course it's not perfect by any means: many students would like as much forum discussion in the second half of the module as the first. That's something we're working on. Some students would also like all the research papers studied to be of the highest quality. However I should probably admit that we include some papers that, ahem, allow the forum discussions to appreciate certain limitations that can be found in published research... In any case, we tend to replace 10-15% of the readings each year, to keep the module up-to-date, so truly hated papers don't tend to last long.

Many students are surprised how relevant H809 is to their own professional context, perhaps expecting a dry exposition of theories of measurement and philosophical angst about the validity of qualitative research (although we do have theories and angst, if that's your thing!). A few students have found that not all the research papers focus on topics that were directly relevant to their own particular educational contexts. This is perhaps understandable given the diverse range of jobs our students have; and in any case some papers are included to introduce innovative research methods that aren't yet widespread. In any case, over 90% of students who expressed a view last year indicated that they would be able to apply what they had learned on H809 to their own professional context. Nevertheless, we're adding a new survey activity that we think will be of direct use in very many educational settings.

We'll see if this year's improvements work for those who are starting the next presentation in a few days' time.

By the way, when we're planning the annual improvements to the module, we look back over not just the survey results and pass rates, but also the feedback that individual H809 alumni have sent me personally over the years. We don't always act on such feedback: what one may hate, another may love. But this kind of feedback is often particularly helpful in being specific about where we can make improvements.

So if you've not previously completed a survey or sent me feedback, please feel free to say in the comments below what you thought of the module, mentioning which year you did H809. (NB you can say nice things too!)