Monday, February 06, 2012

I haven't a clue if lecturers are doing their jobs, says minister

Barry Duggan writing in yesterday's Sunday Independent reports that Education Minister Ruairi Quinn says I haven't a clue if lecturers are doing their jobs. Well I have a simple answer to that - why doesn't the Minister find out?

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Minister Quinn, speaking in the University of Limerick, told students that it was "solely up to them to evaluate those who are paid to educate third-level students and provide feedback on their performances". I don't agree 100% with this. Student evaluation of lecturers is a vital part of performance measurement - but only a part. I have had spectacularly high ratings in the past, only to discover that only a small fraction of the class completed the evaluation survey. If only 5 students out of 50 respond - how useful is this as a measure of performance? (Students who are reading this - make sure you fill out the evaluation forms - we do pay attention!).

So how can the Minister discover if "lecturers are doing their jobs"? First - student feedback should continue to  be included - though I do feel that this should be more regulated and maybe even made compulsory, or only counts if a certain minimum percentage responds. Secondly - I believe (like the minister) that there is a responsibility on third-level College management to find a way to measure performance. The Minister refers to "anecdotal evidence" that would continue "to emerge" unless Colleges implement a "structured alternative". Anecdotal evidence is not enough, and neither is it fair to lecturers - I'm certain that it is not beyond the capabilities of Colleges and the Department of Education to come up with a better way. What I would hate to see would be one College doing one thing and another taking a completely different approach. 

Research carried out by Gabedi Molefe (2010) of the Faculty of Management Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, in South Africa (paper available here), shows that "a lecturer’s performance can be measured on the basis of seven performance dimensions". These measures (based on Robbins et al, 2007) are:
  1. Knowledge (subject knowledge)
  2. Testing (assessment) procedures
  3. Student-teacher relations
  4. Organisational skills
  5. Communication skills
  6. Subject relevance
  7. Utility of assignments.
Molefe concludes that these dimensions be used as a "guiding framework for development of policies and as an instrument for measuring performance of academic staff at universities". These measures should in turn take account of agreed "goals" and "workload considerations" of lecturers. It's only a suggestion, but maybe Molefe's ideas could form a starting point to satisfy the Ministers needs - otherwise he should lay off lecturers!

Molefe, G.N. (2010). Performance measurement dimensions for lecturers at selected universities: An international perspective. SA Journal of Human Resource Management/SA Tydskrif vir Menslikehulpbronbestuur, 8(1), Art. #243, 13 pages. DOI: 10.4102/sajhrm.v8i1.243

Robbins, S.P., Odendaal, A., & Roodt, G. (2007). Organisational Behaviour – Global and South African Perspective. South Africa: Pearson Education.

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