All entries for Wednesday 04 July 2007

July 04, 2007

Would you recommend Warwick University?

A few weeks ago I completed the Academic Satisfaction Survey. Like many such surveys there were some strange questions. Number 28, for example asked me

(to) indicate the level to which (I am) personally satisfied with (my) aware(ness) of which services are available to me and what they are for

Well, as any student of epistemology will tell you, if you are not aware of something, you won’t know that you are not aware. Or as Donald Rumsfeld famously put it, there are not only unknowns but also unknown unknowns. Then there was question 11, which asked the subject how many hours he or she spent studying outside timetabled teaching, without specifying the whether that should be per week, term or year.

Still the most important question was number 34:

Thinking about your whole university experience, with hindsight, if you were able to choose again, how likely is it that you would choose to study at Warwick?

My answer to this was “Not sure”. I’ve no doubt that I’ve learnt many things during my five years of undergraduate part-time study at Warwick, but I have found one thing rather irksome. That’s the individualised nature of the learning process. While I accept that students in higher education must direct their own learning process, I question whether isolation in private study is the only way to achieve this. Is there no room for teamwork?

Many people’s experience of paid work does involve a fair degree of teamwork. In my last job, for example, I would write technical documents which would be reviewed by my peers. The review was an important part of the work process. It was also an educative process, for both author and reviewer, in giving and taking constructive criticism as well as in understanding the points made by the other parties. It’s a pity that in my Warwick experience I’ve encountered so little teamwork, so little interaction with other students on academic matters outside the seminar room. As far as I know most mature students (if not others?) have had much the same experience.

So if I knew back in 2001/2 what I know now, one of the key criteria I would use when assessing a higher education institution would be the extent to which it offered a collaborative learning environment. If one seemed to have a better practice than Warwick, I’d go for it.


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