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Evaluating evaluations: A case study in peer mentoring

By Erst Carmichael


ABSTRACT What is the most effective method of evaluating the programs offered to undergraduate and postgraduate students by Language and Academic Skills staff? We know that many students benefit from the diversity of approaches taken in our work, but are we evaluating these such that the funding bodies are convinced? There is no doubt that we need to evaluate programs, but should we be pressured into only using the statistical number-crunching game of quantitative reporting, at the expense of a more in depth understanding of the potential benefits? This is not simply an argument for the superiority of qualitative investigation, but rather a call for the recognition of the value of alternative evaluations, which may not be as measurable in terms of economics. Such is the dilemma for a Student Peer Mentoring program at UWS, which has predominantly relied on analysis of surveys and focus groups over the past six years, with intermittent comparisons of grades. While it is meaningful to compare the grades of students participating in the Peer Mentor program with nonparticipants from the same cohort, success in the mentored subject is not the only objective of the program at UWS. A degree of adjustment to the university setting, and development of independent learning and collaborative learning skills is also considered important, such that a first year student may for example better cope with a failure in a subject and not automatically ‘drop out ’ because of it. So, can we effectively evaluate the first year experience in other than economic terms

Topics: Evaluation, quality
Year: 2011
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