Quantifiable feedback: can it really measure quality?

Published date01 December 1998
Date01 December 1998
AuthorKeyth E. Richardson
Subject MatterEducation
The VTC is responsible for vocational train-
ing and education within Hong Kong and
operates two technical colleges that offer
higher diplomas. In line with current educa-
tional thinking there is a need to demonstrate
the quality of these courses. The VTC ratio-
nale for compiling information on quality is to
enable a course team to review its perfor-
mance, and to improve areas of perceived
weakness. It will also provide college manage-
ment and the VTC with data on the relative
strengths and weaknesses of each unit and its
delivery from the students’ viewpoint. The
operational details have been delegated to the
colleges, and in turn to the departments. The
VTC requirements are that student feedback
of a quantifiable nature is collected, analysed
and used, and that this feedback covers teach-
ing, learning, and assessment.
This paper reviews the decisions made on
how to obtain this feedback, in particular the
tools selected, and the effectiveness of such
tools, in producing meaningful data both to
grade the course units, and to enable con-
structive changes to take place. It considers
the decisions made on the procedures adopt-
ed, and reviews the results of these procedures
in providing the feedback required. Thus it
follows through a policy, to a procedure, to an
outcome of the procedure, reviewing the
entire process. Questionnaires from two
academic years are considered in this paper,
and their results analysed and compared.
This is a strategic issue the major purpose
of which is to enhance the quality of educa-
tional provision within a department via the
implementation of college policy. Active
implementation of the results of the student
feedback obtained and the proposed effects
on the course are described within this report.
The proposed changes will be an organic
process. They will need time to grow and are
affected by the environment. Becher and
Kogan (1980) describe how concern about
change is often expressed by those who have
too little time to implement the changes
forced upon them. Time is not an issue here
as, although the departmental policy was
approved on July 15 1996 by the Academic
Review Committee (ARC), it was not a for-
mal policy until the 1996/97 academic year,
and will not be audited by the ARC before
1997/98. The audit is to check that the policy
as agreed by the department is implemented,
Quality Assurance in Education
Volume 6 · Number 4 · 1998 · pp. 212–219
© MCB University Press · ISSN 0968-4883
Quantifiable feedback:
can it really measure
Keyth E. Richardson
The author
Keyth E. Richardson is Course Leader for the Higher
Diploma in Travel and Tourism Management, Hotel
Catering and Tourism Department, Hong Kong Technical
College, Chai Wan, Hong Kong.
This report is an investigation into how the Department of
Hotel Catering and Tourism Management at Hong Kong
Technical College (Chai Wan) responded to a policy
decision of the Vocational Training Council (VTC) to obtain
quantifiable student feedback on each course unit, and to
grade each unit on a five-point scale. It considers how the
management of the department made policy decisions
that would enable them to meet the VTC requirements, but
would also provide data from which it would be possible
to identify areas for improvement. Data were collected
from several sources including: the VTC academic quality
policy; meetings with the head of department, the course
leader for the hotel and catering higher diploma, and the
Principal Lecturer responsible for the department’s quality
policy; feedback from staff and students. The report
concludes that there is merit in such a process, but that to
focus on the numerical value of a unit as an indicator of
quality is to ignore the detail that is involved. The reflec-
tions on the quality achieved, and how to improve it, are of
more value to the teaching team and the students than the
VTC requirements for a single grade

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