All entries for Tuesday 13 May 2008

May 13, 2008

NSS fakery

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According to this BBC news report, a member of staff at Kingston University has been caught on tape encouraging students to rank Kingston highly when they complete their National Student Survey forms. It’s pretty sad really, but the lecturer’s comments about the consequences of a poor ranking:-

If Kingston comes down the bottom, the bottom line is that nobody is going to want to employ you…

... and on what constitutes feedback at a university:-

Feedback, in terms of this questionnaire, means what happens in seminars. Every seminar you have you get some interactive feedback from the person giving it. So if I ask a question and no one answers, and I start banging my head on the table, that is feedback. If I’m smiling and going ‘yeah great’, you’re getting feedback. If you get a mark for a piece of work, that’s what we mean by feedback.

made me at least half smile. But the most telling part of the article is the comments left by other readers, who point out that Kingston is by no means the only institution which encourages its students to respond positively to the NSS, that this is exactly what you’d expect to happen in a league table, targets-driven culture, and that people often choose to do a survey precisely because they have some kind of axe to grind, skewing the results. So we’re caught in a weird kind of Catch-22 trap where everybody wants to come high up in whatever survey or league table is currently in the news, but nobody really believes that the surveys represent any kind of objective truth. Strange.

Edit, Wed 14th May: In a follow-up story the BBC states that hundreds of students emailed them after the first story was published, stating that similar pressure was applied at their institution. Interestingly, in the comments on this follow-up, the only two comments from students asserting that this practice does not happen at their institution were from Oxford (attention drawn to the survey but nothing more), and Cambridge (Students’ Union boycotts the survey because it doesn’t reflect life and work at Cambridge accurately).

Mac desktop music video

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Cute video using the Mac desktop to illustrate a song (“Again & Again” by The Bird & The Bee):

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