Tag Archives: Higher Education

A SWOT Analysis of the Marketing Environment of Higher Education Institutions

This is an excerpt from a recent Working Paper.

How to Cite: Camilleri, M.A. (2019). The Internationalization of Higher Education in a Competitive Marketing Environment. Working Paper 0506-2019, Department of Corporate Communication, University of Malta, Malta.


Strengths

  • Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) raise their financial capital requirements by charging tuition fees to full time, part time and distance learning students; Government-funded HEIs may provide free or reduced tuition fees;
  • Many international courses are taught in English; The English language has become an important lever for international student mobility (ICEF, 2017);
  • Several HEIs provide work-integrated education; they deliver pragmatic, application-oriented programs. The students are may be expected to undertake industry placements as part of their studies. Therefore work-integrated education (WIE) may be a component of the HEIs’ curriculum.
  • Work-integrated education supports students to become all-round professionals with an appropriate level of operational experience. It equips students with a thorough understanding of the business and industry’s operations. WIE would usually take place in an organizational context that is relevant to the students’ future employment prospects. At the same time, the students would obtain communicative and transferable skills that will be valuable for their development. The focus is to help them acquire a range of valuable generic abilities, including people-skills through interactions with peers, subordinates and supervisors. After their working period, the students will be in a position to apply the theories that they have learnt in real-life settings. Hence, students develop their knowledge and skills in a professional environment, whilst increasing the chances of their employability prospects (Kolb & Kolb, 2005);
  • HEIs are increasingly establishing international collaboration agreements with other educational institutions, across borders. They enable student exchange programs and field trips. The classroom teaching is enriched with student exchanges and field trips that provide students relevant on-the-job training;
  • HEIs are building their alumni networks over the years. Many of their students have become business and industry professionals.
  • HEIs are often engaging with business and industry as they provide their consultancy and research services;
  • HEIs offer Executive Development Programs to industry practitioners, allowing them to update their skills, and to broaden their knowledge.

Weaknesses

  • Many HEIs are not managed as profitable organizations;
  • HEIs’ academic employees may become members in trade unions. The unions can use their bargaining power on the university’s administration;
  • HEIs can be slow to respond to the ongoing changes in the business and industry. They may need to adapt their curricula and courses to better meet the prospective employers’ requirements;
  • The HEIs’ academic members of staff may have long contact hours with their students (when compared to other institutions);
  • The HEIs’ academia are not always publishing adequate and sufficient research (when compared to other institutions);
  • The HEIs’ prospective students may be attracted to competitive institutions who are offering cheaper tuition fees. The international prospects will consider the HEIs’ locations and their living expenses;
  • The HEIs’ international marketing efforts may be focusing on limited catchment areas. They may be overlooking promising markets (Constantinides & Zinck Stagno, 2011).

Opportunities

  • HEIs may use educational technology to improve their students’ experience. Educational technologies could enhance the quality of online courses, particularly those that are offered to part-time, or distance learning students;
  • HEIs can utilize blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, wikis, electronic fora, webinars, et cetera to reach their target audiences. They may use social media and word of mouth marketing by communicating student testimonials, online reviews and ratings, in order to attract students from different markets;
  • HEIs could incentivize their educators and researchers to participate in academic conferences and to publish their work in highly-indexed journals;
  • The setting up of research (or special interest) groups could improve collaboration and teamwork among the HEIs’ members of staff;
  • HEIs’ academics should be encouraged to become members in editorial boards of leading journals;
  • HEIs can offer high-level consultancy and professional advisory services to private and public organizations;
  • HEIs may organize international conferences and fora that can be used as a platform for insightful exchange amongst academics, industry practitioners and tourism policy-makers;
  • HEIs can engage with alumni by involving them in social events, webinars and continuous professional development programs;
  • Industry professionals can be invited to speak to students on specific subject lectures. These experts may help students gain a deeper understanding of the industry;
  • HEIs’ academia should be encouraged to share their research expertise with business and industry to pioneer developments. They should promote their research outputs (Duque, 2014; Parameswaran & Glowacka, 1995). Relevant research can enhance industry performance and influence policy making;
  • HEIs can extend collaborative agreements in many areas, with reputable education institutions;
  • HEIs can obtain quality assurance and accreditations from international awarding bodies, for their educational programs. The recognition of their courses would necessitate a thorough assessment of their leadership, curriculum programs and skills, assessment methods, project work, student placements, student support, feedback and resources, et cetera;
  • The HEIs’ international admissions pages should evidence their ‘global perspective’ and could highlight their extensive range of services they offer to international students. For example, their course prospectus should be available in different languages;
  • There is an increased demand for higher education from mature students as the concept of life-long learning is being promoted in developing and advanced economies;
  • There are still untapped markets in Asia where students can’t access quality education at home. There is a business case to attract students from Africa as the continent’s youth population is rising (British Council, 2018);
  • The HEIs’ international students could be used as brand ambassadors and should be featured in their digital media;
  • HEIs may be supported by student scholarships (from governments, foundations or NGOs) and sponsorships that may be donated by industry partners.

Threats

  • Many HEIs’ national governments have already decreased (or cut) their public funding to HEIs (Estermann, 2017; Estermann, Nokkala & Steinel, 2011; Hoecht, 2006; Maton, 2005). Therefore, HEIs may have to raise their capital requirements through tuition fees and fund-raising activities;
  • There is a very competitive environment (in the global market). HEIs are increasingly targeting international students from many markets;
  • Many countries (including developing economies) have improved (or are improving) their educational systems. However, there may be students who decide to go abroad because they believe that there is neither capacity nor high-quality education at their home country (ICEF, 2017);
  • The ageing populations in many parts of the world, their greater life expectancies, coupled with lower fertility rates, means that populations in many countries are getting older. At the same time, the 15-to-24-year-old cohorts are shrinking. This key college-aged demographic will peak in Asia somewhere around 2020. Then it will start a gradual decline from that high point (British Council, 2018);
  • There may be political, socio-cultural and legal factors affecting the marketing of HEIs. International students may face travel restrictions. Rigorous travel formalities including the issuance of national visas and immigration policies, can affect the students choice of their prospective HEI;
  • Reduced scholarships and student exchange programs from foreign governments can have an impact on the number of students who may afford international mobility;
  • A growing number of Asian students are choosing to stay within their own region to study, and students from other countries – including African nations– are adding Asian destinations to their list of attractive options. Asian countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, among others, are increasing their capacity to absorb international students. Students and families are placing more emphasis on value, and on the return on investment from overseas education. Therefore, students may opt to study close to their home;
  • There are growing indications that major employers are placing less emphasis on reputable HEIs and their brand identities (ICEF, 2017).

References (of the full paper)

Altbach,P.G. 2004.Globalisation and the university: Myths and realities in an unequal world. Tertiary Education and Management,10(1): 3-25.

Altbach, P. G., Reisberg, L., & Rumbley, L. E. 2009. Trends in global higher education: Tracking an academic revolution. A Report for UNESCO World Conference of Higher Education. http://www.cep.edu.rs/public/Altbach,_Reisberg,_Rumbley_Tracking_an_Academic_Revolution,_UNESCO_2009.pdf accessed 20th February, 2018.

Beine, M., Noël, R., & Ragot, L. 2014. Determinants of the international mobility of students. Economics of Education review, 41: 40-54.

Bharadwaj, S. G., Varadarajan, P. R., & Fahy, J. 1993. Sustainable competitive advantage in service industries: a conceptual model and research propositions. The Journal of Marketing, 57(4): 83-99.

Binsardi, A., & Ekwulugo, F. 2003. International marketing of British education: research on the students’ perception and the UK market penetration. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 21(5): 318-327.

British Council. 2018. International student mobility to 2027: Local investment, global outcomes. https://ei.britishcouncil.org/educationintelligence/ei-feature-international-student-mobility-2027-local-investment-global-outcome (accessed 17th February, 2018).

Budde-Sung, A. E. 2011. The increasing internationalization of the international business classroom: Cultural and generational considerations. Business Horizons, 54(4): 365-373.

Camilleri, M. A., & Camilleri, A. C. (2017). Digital learning resources and ubiquitous technologies in education. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 22(1), 65-82.

Constantinides, E., & Zinck Stagno, M. C. 2011. Potential of the social media as instruments of higher education marketing: a segmentation study. Journal of marketing for higher education, 21(1): 7-24.

Cronin Jr, J. J., & Taylor, S. A. 1992. Measuring service quality: a reexamination and extension. Journal of marketing, 56(3):55-68.

Doque, L. C. 2014. A framework for analysing higher education performance: students’ satisfaction, perceived learning outcomes, and dropout intentions. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence 25(1-2): 1-21.

Estermann, T. 2017. Why university autonomy matters more than ever. University World News, (454), http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20170404132356742 (Accessed 28th February, 2018).

Estermann, T., Nokkala, T., & Steinel, M. 2011. University autonomy in Europe II. The Scorecard. Brussels: European University Association. http://agir-ups.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/University_Autonomy_in_Europe_II_-_The_Scorecard.sflb_.pdf (Accessed 28th February, 2018).

EUA 2017. EUA calls on governments to refrain from interference in university autonomy. http://www.eua.be/activities-services/news/newsitem/2017/04/03/eua-calls-on-governments-to-refrain-from-interference-in-university-autonomy (Accessed 26th February, 2018).

Friga, P.N., Bettis, R.A. & Sullivan, R.S. 2003. Changes. In graduate management education and new business school strategies for the 21st century. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2(3): 233—249

Helms, M. M., & Nixon, J. 2010. Exploring SWOT analysis–where are we now? A review of academic research from the last decade. Journal of strategy and management, 3(3): 215-251.

Hemsley-Brown, J., & Oplatka, I. 2006. Universities in a competitive global marketplace: A systematic review of the literature on higher education marketing. International Journal of public sector management, 19(4): 316-338.

Hoecht, A. 2006. Quality assurance in UK higher education: Issues of trust, control, professional autonomy and accountability. Higher Education, 51(4): 541—563.

ICEF 2017. Mapping the trends that will shape international student mobility. http://monitor.icef.com/2017/07/mapping-trends-will-shape-international-student-mobility/ (Accessed 28th February, 2018).

Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. 2005. Learning styles and learning spaces: Enhancing experiential learning in higher education. Academy of management learning & education, 4(2): 193-212.

Kotler, P., & Fox, K. F. 1995. Strategic marketing for educational institutions. New York, USA: Prentice Hall.

Lee, J. T. 2014. Education hubs and talent development: Policy- making and implementation challenges. Higher Education, 68(6): 807—823.

Marginson, S. 2006. Dynamics of national and global competition in higher education. Higher Education, 52(1): 1-39.

Maton, K. 2005. A question of autonomy: Bourdieu’s field approach and higher education policy. Journal of education policy, 20(6): 687-704.

Mazzarol, T. 1998. Critical success factors for international education marketing. International Journal of Educational Management, 12(4): 163-175.

Mazzarol, T., & Soutar, G. N. 2002. “Push-pull” factors influencing international student destination choice. International Journal of Educational Management, 16(2): 82-90.

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. 2011. Distance education: A systems view of online learning. Belmont, CA, USA: Cengage Learning.

Parameswaran, R., & Glowacka, A. E. 1995. University image: An information processing perspective. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 6(2): 41-56.

Pucciarelli, F., & Kaplan, A. 2016. Competition and strategy in higher education: Managing complexity and uncertainty. Business Horizons, 59(3): 311-320.

Russell, M. 2005. Marketing education: A review of service quality perceptions among international students. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 17(1): 65-77.

Schofield, C., Cotton, D., Gresty, K., Kneale, P., & Winter, J. 2013. Higher education provision in a crowded marketplace. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 35(2): 193-205.

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Measuring the Academic Impact of Higher Education Institutions and Research Centres

uni

Although research impact metrics can be used to evaluate individual academics, there are other measures that could be used to rank and compare academic institutions. Several international ranking schemes for universities use citations to estimate the institutions’ impact. Nevertheless, there have been ongoing debates about whether bibliometric methods should be used for the ranking of academic institutions.

The most productive universities are increasingly enclosing the link to their papers online. Yet, many commentators argue that hyperlinks could be unreliable indicators of journal impact (Kenekayoro, Buckley & Thelwall, 2014; Vaughan & Hysen, 2002). Notwithstanding, the web helps to promote research funding initiatives and to advertise academic related jobs. The webometrics could also monitor the extent of mutual awareness in particular research areas (Thelwall, Klitkou, Verbeek, Stuart & Vincent, 2010).

Moreover, there are other uses of webometric indicators in policy-relevant contexts within the European Union (Thelwall et al., 2010; Hoekman, Frenken & Tijssen, 2010). The webometrics refer to the quantitative analysis of web activity, including profile views and downloads (Davidson, Newton, Ferguson, Daly, Elliott, Homer, Duffield & Jackson, 2014). Therefore, webometric ranking involves the measurement of volume, visibility and impact of web pages. These metrics seem to emphasise on scientific output including peer-reviewed papers, conference presentations, preprints, monographs, theses and reports. They also analyse other academic material including courseware, seminar documentation, digital libraries, databases, multimedia, personal pages and blogs among others (Thelwall, 2009; Kousha & Thelwall, 2015; Mas-Bleda, Thelwall, Kousha & Aguillo, 2014a; Mas-Bleda, Thelwall, Kousha & Aguillo, 2014b; Orduna-Malea & Ontalba-Ruipérez, 2013). Thelwall and Kousha (2013) have identified and explained the methodology of five well-known institutional ranking schemes:

  • “QS World University Rankings aims to rank universities based upon academic reputation (40%, from a global survey), employer reputation (10%, from a global survey), faculty-student ratio (20%), citations per faculty (20%, from Scopus), the proportion of international students (5%), and the proportion of international faculty (5%).
  • The World University Rankings: aims to judge world class universities across all of their core missions – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook by using the Web of Science, an international survey of senior academics and self-reported data. The results are based on field-normalised citations for five years of publications (30%), research reputation from a survey (18%), teaching reputation (15%), various indicators of the quality of the learning environment (15%), field-normalised publications per faculty (8%), field-normalised income per faculty (8%), income from industry per faculty (2.5%); and indicators for the proportion of international staff (2.5%), students (2.5%), and internationally co-authored publications (2.5%, field-normalised).
  • The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) aims to rank the “world top 500 universities” based upon the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, number of highly cited researchers selected by Thomson Scientific, number of articles published in journals of Nature and Science, number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index, and per capita performance with respect to the size of an institution.
  • The CWTS Leiden Ranking aims to measure “the scientific performance” of universities using bibliometric indicators based upon Web of Science data through a series of separate size- and field-normalised indicators for different aspects of performance rather than a combined overall ranking. For example, one is “the proportion of the publications of a university that, compared with other publications in the same field and in the same year, belong to the top 10% most frequently cited” and another is “the average number of citations of the publications of a university, normalised for field differences and publication year.”
  • The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities Webometrics Ranking aims to show “the commitment of the institutions to [open access publishing] through carefully selected web indicators”: hyperlinks from the rest of the web (1/2), web site size according to Google (1/6), and the number of files in the website in “rich file formats” according to Google Scholar (1/6), but also the field-normalised number of articles in the most highly cited 10% of Scopus publications (1/6)” (Thelwall & Kousha, 2013).

Evidently, the university ranking systems use a variety of factors in their calculations, including their web presence, the number of publications, the citations to publications and peer judgements (Thelwall and Kousha, 2013; Aguillo, Bar-Ilan, Levene, & Ortega, 2010). These metrics typically reflect a combination of different factors, as shown above. Although they may have different objectives, they tend to give similar rankings. It may appear that the universities that produce good research also tend to have an extensive web presence, perform well on teaching-related indicators, and attract many citations (Matson et al., 2003).

On the other hand, the webometrics may not necessarily provide robust indicators of knowledge flows or research impact. In contrast to citation analysis, the quality of webometric indicators is not high unless irrelevant content is filtered out, manually. Moreover, it may prove hard to interpret certain webometric indicators as they could reflect a range of phenomena ranging from spam to post publication material. Webometric analyses can support science policy decisions on individual fields. However, for the time being, it is difficult to tackle the issue of web heterogeneity in lower field levels (Thelwall & Harries, 2004; Wilkinson, Harries, Thelwall & Price, 2003). Moreover, Thelwall et al., (2010) held that webometrics would not have the same relevance for every field of study. It is very likely that fast moving or new research fields could not be adequately covered by webometric indicators due to publication time lags. Thelwall et al. (2010) argued that it could take up to two years to start a research and to have it published. This would therefore increase the relative value of webometrics as research groups can publish general information online about their research.

This is an excerpt from: Camilleri, M.A. (2016) Utilising Content Marketing and Social Networks for Academic Visibility. In Cabrera, M. & Lloret, N. Digital Tools for Academic Branding and Self-Promotion. IGI Global (Forthcoming).

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The EU’s directive on the disclosure of non-financial information

eu

On the 29th September 2014, the European Council has introduced amendments to Accounting Directive (2013/34/EU) that mandates corporate business to disclose their non-financial performance. The EU Commission proposed non-binding guidelines on the details of what non-financial information ought to be disclosed by big businesses operating from by EU countries. This legislation respects environmental, human rights, anti-corruption and bribery matters as expressed in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the “Ruggie Principles”) and OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (ECCJ, 2014).

This recent EU directive has marked a step forward towards the hardening of human rights obligations for large “public interest entities” with more than 500 employees. At the moment there are approximately 6,000 large undertakings and groups across the EU. Public interest entities include all the undertakings that are listed on an EU stock exchange, as well as some credit institutions, insurance undertakings and other businesses so designated by Member States.

In a nutshell, these non-financial disclosures should shed light on the corporate businesses’ social and environmentally responsible policies and practices. They will feature a brief description of the undertaking’s business model, including their due diligence processes resulting from their impact of their operations. This EU directive encourages corporates to use relevant non-financial key performance indicators on environmental matters including; greenhouse gas emissions, water and air pollution, the use of (non) renewable energy and on health and safety.

With regards to social and employee related matters, the corporate firms ought to implement ILO conventions that promote fair working conditions for employees. The corporate disclosure of non-financial information can include topics such as; social dialogue with stakeholders, information and consultation rights, trade union rights, health and safety and gender equality among other issues. Businesses should also explain how they are preventing human rights abuses and/or fighting corruption and bribery.

Through this directive the EU commission emphasises materiality and transparency in non financial reporting. It also brought up the subject of diversity at the corporate board levels. It has outlined specific reference criteria that may foster wider diversity in the composition of boards (e.g. age, gender, educational and professional background). The EU Commission has even suggested that this transparency requirement complements the draft directive about women on boards.

This new directive still allows a certain degree of flexibility in the disclosures’ requirements. As a matter of fact, it does not require undertakings to have policies covering all CSR matters. Yet, businesses need to provide a clear and reasoned explanation for not complying with this directive. Therefore, non-financial disclosures do not necessarily require comprehensive reporting on CSR matters (although this is encouraged by the Commission), but only the disclosure of information on policies, outcomes and risks (ECCJ, 2014). Moreover, this directive gives undertakings the option to rely on international, European or national frameworks (eg. the UN Global Compact, ISO 26000) in the light of the undertaking’s characteristics and business environment.

It is envisaged that the first CSR reports will be published in financial year 2017 (ECCJ, 2014).

Links:

http://ec.europa.eu/finance/accounting/non-financial_reporting/index_en.htm

http://business-humanrights.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/eccj-assessment-eu-non-financial-reporting-may-2104.pdf

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-301_en.htm?locale=en
 

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Re-conceiving Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility for Education

employees

(This contribution also appeared on CSRwire)

During their learning journey, individuals acquire knowledge and skills that ought to be relevant for their prospective employment. The provision of their education is the responsibility of national governments. Yet, business and industry seldom offer continuous professional development and training to their human resources that supplement formal education (although they are rarely involved in setting outcomes of curriculum programmes). Very often, companies have to respond to challenging issues such as skill mismatches where candidates lack certain competencies that may be too deep to bridge through corporate training courses. Perhaps, global businesses may compensate to a certain extent as they can shift their operations elsewhere to tap more qualified employees. However, the constraints on their growth can be halted by the broad impact of inadequate education and training in some industries or regions. Therefore, corporations may possibly become a key player in addressing unmet needs in education. Several companies have the resources and the political influence to help improve educational outcomes which will in turn help them to nurture local talent. Leading businesses are already devising Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (CSR) programmes that are actively supporting education across many contexts:

For instance; Cisco (a provider of networking equipment), has created more than 10,000 networking academies in 165 countries. 4.75 million individuals have improved their employment prospects as they attended training to become network administrators. At the same time, these individuals have increased the demand for Cisco’s equipment. Similarly, SAP and Verizon have often partnered with local universities and education institutions in order to deliver courses, career coaching and customised degrees on site for employees. The companies have discovered that employees that pursue such programmes are more likely to remain loyal to their company. Naturally, it is in the interest of employees to attend educational programmes that may ultimately lead to their career progression and better prospects. Moreover, continuous professional development and training may considerably reduce high employee turnover. Interestingly, SAP employs people with autism in technology-focused roles. In doing so, SAP concentrates on these individuals’ unique strengths. This way, the company can gain access to a wider pool of untapped talent that will help to foster a climate of creativity and innovation. In a similar vein, Intel has also invested in training programmes and partnerships that strengthen education. The company has recognised that its business growth is constrained by a chronic shortage of talent in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) disciplines. Through programmes like Intel Math and Intel Teach, the global multinational has delivered instructional materials, online resources, and professional development tools for hundreds of thousands of educators across the United States. The students’ have acquired STEM and other 21st century skills, including critical thinking with data as well as scientific inquiry. This is a relevant example of a corporate business that has successfully addressed its workforce needs. Intel has recognised specific skill gaps in its central areas like technology and engineering. Accordingly, the company has committed itself for further investment in education. The company has created higher education curricula in demand areas like microelectronics, nanotechnology, security systems and entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, Intel’s efforts affected millions of US students. At the same time, the company has increased its productivity and competitiveness. In addition, there are many big businesses that contribute in stewardship, charitable and philanthropic causes. In the past, the GE Foundation has supported systemic improvements in urban school districts that were close to GE’s business. These investments have surely helped to close the interplay between corporate sustainability and responsibility (CSR) and corporate philanthropy, while strengthening GE’s long-term talent pipeline.

In a nutshell, this contribution redefines the private sector’s role in the realms of education. It posits that there are win-win opportunities for companies and national governments as they cultivate human capital. Indeed, companies can create synergistic value for both business and society. In the main, such a strategic approach can result in new business models and cross-sector collaborations that will inevitably lead to operational efficiencies, cost savings and significant improvements to the firms’ bottom lines. Notwithstanding, the businesses’ involvement in setting curricula may also help to improve the effectiveness of education systems in many contexts. Businesses can become key stakeholders in this regard. Their CSR programmes can reconnect their economic success with societal progress.

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Embedding Formative Assessments in Curriculum Frameworks

assessment

Educators who regularly engage in student-oriented approaches will inevitably need to adapt to different pupils’ needs, abilities, interests and learning styles. Nowadays there is adequate and sufficient evidence which suggests that educators who supplement or replace lectures with active learning strategies are improving their students’ learning and knowledge retention. At the same time, the students will become motivated as they participate in the discovery and scientific processes. Recent, academic studies have shown that educators are increasingly resorting to student-centred assessment approaches, including: Active Learning, Collaborative Learning, Inquiry-based Learning, Cooperative Learning, Problem-based Learning, Peer Led Team Learning, Team-based Learning and Peer Instruction among other methodologies. Therefore, educators are expected to identify their students’ learning needs and respond to them. Yet, they should also measure the progress of their pupils in their learning journey. This article maintains that (summative) assessments are a classic way of measuring student progress. Assessments are integral to the schools’ quality assurance, syllabi and curriculum programmes. In a similar way, such forms of tracking individuals’ performance and their progress are also applied in workplace environments by many employers. However this is only part of the story. To be truly meaningful and effective, assessments should also be “formative”. Educators may use tools and activities which are embedded in the on-going curriculum to garner students’ feedback at key points in the learning process.

Interestingly, educators are moving away from the conventional teacher-centred methodologies as they are enhancing their interaction with students. Formative assessments respond to the pupils’ individual learning needs as the educators are making frequent, appraisals of their students’ understanding. This enables them to adapt their teaching to meet the students’ requirements, and to better help everyone reach high standards of excellence. Educators ought to involve their students in their learning journey. This helps them to develop key knowledge, skills and competences that enable their intellectual growth. Nevertheless, although the educators seem to be incorporating various aspects of formative assessment into their teaching, it is less common to find it practiced in a systematic manner. Formative assessments are often present within individual teachers’ frameworks. It may appear that some of the emerging educational approaches are setting up learning situations as students’ are guided toward their learning goals. These approaches seem to be re-defining student success. To my mind, formative assessments are highly effective in raising the level of student attainment, as they are likely to increase the equity of student outcomes.  Formative assessments entice the students’ curiosity in the subject, as well as improving the students’ ability and aptitude to learn. Such student-centred methodologies emphasise the process of teaching and learning, as they involve students in their own educational process. It also builds students’ skills during peer and self-assessments, and help them develop a range of effective learning strategies. Students who are actively involved in building their understanding of new concepts (rather than merely absorbing information) and who are learning to judge their own quality and of their peers – are developing invaluable skills for lifelong learning. As a proponent of active learning my formative assessment strategies often feature role-playing, debating, student engagement in case studies, active participation in cooperative learning and the like. Such teaching approaches can be utilised to create a context of material, where learners work collaboratively. Needless to say, the degree of my involvement while students are being “active” may vary according to the specific task and its context in a teaching unit. Of course, there are different approaches to gauge students’ comprehension of what has been taught. A non-exhaustive list of formative assessment strategies can include:

  • Questioning strategies: During classroom interactions, students may be asked challenging questions. Questions often reveal student misconceptions. Questions can be embedded in lesson plans. Asking questions often gives me an opportunity for deeper thinking and provides me with significant insights into the degree and depth of student understanding. Questions will inevitably engage students in classroom dialogue that both uncovers and expands learning.
  • Criteria and goal setting: Students need to understand and know the learning targets / goals and the criteria for reaching them. Establishing and defining quality work together, asking students to participate in establishing norms and behaviours for classroom culture, and determining what should be included in criteria for success are all examples of such a strategy. Using student work, classroom tests, or exemplars of what is expected will help students understand where they are, where they need to be, and an effective process for getting there.
  • Observations assist teachers in gathering evidence of student learning to inform instructional planning. This evidence can be recorded and used as constructive feedback for students about their learning curve.
  • Self and peer assessments help to create a learning community within a classroom. Students will learn as they are engaged in metacognitive thinking. When students are involved in criteria and goal setting, self-evaluation is a logical step forward in the learning process. With peer evaluation, students see each other as valuable resources for checking each other’s quality work against previously established criteria.
  • Student record keeping helps students better understand their own learning as evidenced by their classroom work. This process of students keeping on-going records of their work will help reflect on their learning journey, as they examine the progress they are making toward their learning goals.
  • Portfolios, logbooks and rubrics: These instruments are widely used to provide an opportunity for written dialogues with students. Such tools help educators to evaluate the quality of their students’ work. On the other hand, students will use rubrics to judge their own work, and improve upon it.

Without doubt, there may be still some perceived tensions among stakeholders about formative assessments and summative tests. Education institutions have to be accountable for student achievement. They guide students to satisfy the requirements of their curriculum programmes. There may be a lack of consistency and coherence in policies between assessments and evaluations at both the institutional and classroom levels.  And there are different attitudes among educators about formative assessments. Perhaps, on-going assessments may be considered too resource-intensive and time-consuming to be practical. Educators are often faced with extensive curriculum and reporting requirements as they are often teaching to larger classes.

The right assessment systems foster constructive cultures of evaluation. Formative assessments are likely to help in promoting reforms for student-centred education. Ideally, information gathered through assessments and evaluation processes can be used to shape strategies for continuous improvement at each level of our education system. In classrooms, educators can possibly gather information on student understanding. Consequentially, this enables them to adjust their instruction to meet students’ identified learning needs. In conclusion, this contribution suggests that the locus of emerging educational strategies is pushing toward a proactive engagement in student-centred learning theories, where the student is placed at the very centre of the educator’s realms.

Also featured on the Times of Malta on the 27th October 2013.

Dr Mark Anthony Camilleri lectures at the University of Malta.

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Economic Growth Correlates with Investment in Education

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TimesofMalta.com

Now more than ever, today’s employees need to possess adequate skills and knowledge to enable them to perform a wider range of tasks and functions within their organisational contexts. The labour market has to become flexible and adaptable to the continuously changing market environment. Moreover, the educational institutions’ investments in curriculum development will help to provide incentives for individuals to commit resources to their careers. Many academic studies have shown that economic growth is increasingly correlated to the effectiveness of the countries’ educational policies and their related curriculum development programmes (OECD, 2012). Educators should ensure that their policies, systems and reforms contribute to the supply of well-skilled people for the labour market. Prospective students of continuous professional development programmes and of higher education courses may be new entrants (school leavers), people continuing to expand their existing knowledge and skills in their workplace or job seekers registering for employment. On the other hand, lower social capital investments can impact on a country’s economic growth prospects as well as on its productivity levels and competitiveness. This may translate in serious negative effects for the individual’s well-being as well as for the cohesiveness of society.

For instance, entrepreneurship programmes in post-secondary or tertiary institutions are usually based on multiple-skills approaches. Students who follow such courses acquire key competences in creativity, innovation as they enhance their business acumen. In addition, they usually develop their social skills, particularly if they work in groups. Students can learn how to work collaboratively in a team environment. Educators should try to adopt student-centred approaches, including case studies, active participation in cooperative learning, exercises such as role-playing, debating, and the like. In fact, assessments of entrepreneurship studies may also involve the delivery of a sales pitch and the drawing-up of a business plan. Both of these tasks can be carried out in groups of three or four students. Ideally, students should also demonstrate their written communications skills. They may be required to produce media releases which feature their unique selling proposition(s) to their chosen markets. Such methodologies may possibly entice students’ curiosity and motivation in the subject. In the process, the students will also learn how to work in tandem as they develop their interpersonal skills.

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In a similar vein, successful entrepreneurs also have to work closely with people. Perhaps, it is critical for business owners (including micro-enterprises) to foster great relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, investors and more. It goes without saying that some individuals may exhibit higher interpersonal traits than others, but others can learn and improve upon their existing skills. As prospective entrepreneurs, the students are expected to come up with fresh, innovative ideas, and make good decisions in their projects. Arguably, creativity, problem solving and recognising opportunities in the marketplace are some of the specific skills that may be acquired. However, it is important that the students’ decisions are based on relevant market research. The entrepreneurship programme will have to provide practical skills and knowledge to enable the student to produce effective goods or services in a profitable manner. One of the learning outcomes of this subject is to help students to set their goals and to create good plans to achieve them. Afterwards, the students can proceed with the organisation, leadership and implementation of their project. The students’ multi-skills will help them leverage themselves and to achieve a competitive advantage over others.

 

The theoretical aspect of the entrepreneurship studies teaches students how to develop coherent, well thought-through business plans. The students acquire sufficient knowledge of the main functional areas of business (sales, marketing, finance, and operations). In addition, the students are taught how entrepreneurs raise their capital. They will also learn about financial projections and how to determine the break-even point of their projects.

 

Indeed, the entrepreneurship studies focus on developing the students’ potential skills. Throughout such pragmatic educational programmes, the students will have to use their abilities and talents to operate resources or to manage others with a reasonable degree of confidence and motivation.  The students who are successful in their entrepreneurship studies nurture their skills, knowledge and competences. This contribution suggests that multi-skilling approaches in education can bring increased competitiveness and productivity in the labour market.

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Contemporary Pedagogical Philosophies

“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” (Dewey, 1897).

education

 

Introduction

Education equips individuals with the right skills, substantive knowledge and competences to pursue their own goals. It enables them to become an integral part of the community as fully-fledged, autonomous citizens. In its broadest sense, education is a means of “social continuity of life” (Dewey, 1916:3). Even Plato in ‘the republic’ inquires about morality and the good life. He posits that human beings should be active within their community. The Greek philosopher maintained that every aspect of our life creates ‘harmonious people’. He went on to say that morals and ethics are part of an even balance of wisdom, courage, and restraint.

The main philosophical thoughts and the theoretical underpinnings of education are important social domains which have attracted the interest of many philosophers for thousands of years. For instance, Socrates floated his idea that knowledge is a matter of recollection, not of learning, observation or study (Dillon, 2004). Pertinent literature review suggests that education is a transmission of knowledge. Education fosters enquiry and reasoning skills that are conducive to the development of autonomy (Phillips, 2009). The question of learning and how the educative systems work relate to individual capacities and potentialities. Of course, the processes (and stages) of human development are shaped by many factors. Individuals experience different environmental contexts and settings. Their home country also possesses its own features, which often transcend from norms, traditions and cultures. The institutions of education should adapt their curricula to align themselves to the particular social fabric. Consequentially, the background of students as well as their educational environments (in which they are placed) ought to be carefully considered. For instance, Dewey advocated that human beings should be categorised into classes. He compared individuals to organisms situated in a biological and social environment, where problems are constantly emerging, forcing the individual to reflect and act, and then learn (Reed, and Widger, 2008).

Individuals can improve upon their existing knowledge as they reflect upon their actions, whether they are at school or in their work phase. Students are individuals with their own trails of growth. Teachers and employers are there to guide and facilitate this growth. The educators’ duties and responsibilities are to help in the academic (and non-curriculum) development of students in their learning journey. Dewey’s educational theories suggest that education and learning are social and interactive processes, and thus the school itself is a social institution through which social reform can and should take place (Dewey, 1916). In addition, the author believed that students thrive in an environment where they are allowed to experience and interact with their curriculum.Essentially, Dewey suggested that all students should be given the opportunity to take part in their own learning experience. Apparently, this approach focuses on the needs of students, rather than of all those involved in the educational process. The discourse revolving around student-centred pedagogy was also replicated in subsequent years by Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. This perspective has many implications for the design of courses. In the student-oriented approach, the educator adapts to the pupils’ needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles.

Educators use more than one theory of teaching as they may be capable of wearing different hats with their students. They act as students’ philosophers, advisers, counsellors, motivators, demonstrators, curriculum planners, evaluators and the list goes on. Bloom (1956) has classified three types of objectives: Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor. Similarly, Tolman (1951) put forth the notion that there are three parts to learning which work together as a gestalt. These are the “significant” goals of behaviour, the “sign” or the signal for action, and “means-end relations” which were internal processes and relationships. The author believed that  learning is an accumulation of these sign gestalts, and that they can be configured into cognitive maps. The input from the environment is on-going, and it influences behaviour, in that it causes certain gestalts to be selected or not. In this sense, learning is unique to each and every individual.

Beyond the notions of behaviourism, constructivism and the relevant theories and styles, the literature review in this field of study suggests that learning is a process of active engagement as an individual and in social contexts. Recently, the latest shift in educational discourse had been the distancing away from the conception of “learner as a sponge” (Maillet and Maisonneuve, 2011) toward an image of learner as an active construct. Although Dewey reminded us that learners were not empty vessels, education in many jurisdictions was usually based on teacher-centred approaches (Cuban, 1993). Evidently, there was an erroneous assumption that if teachers speak clearly and students are motivated, learning will be successful. When the students do not learn, the logic is that they are not paying attention, or they do not care. These conceptions may have been grounded in a theory of learning that focused on behaviour. Behavioural-learning theorists maintained that if teachers acted in a certain manner, students will react in particular ways. Central to this notion of behaviourism was the idea of conditioning, where the individuals are trained to respond to stimuli. Eventually, the “cognitive revolution” in psychology put the mind back into the learning process (Miller, 1956).

Behavioural psychology (based on factual and procedural rules) has given way to cognitive psychology (based on models for making sense of real life experiences (Lesh and Lamon 1992:18). Kandel and Hawkins (1992) maintained that the brain actively seeks new stimuli in the environment from which to learn and that the mind changes through use. Learning changes the structure of the brain (Bransford et al., 2000). Research suggests that young learners from a tender age – make sense of the world by actively creating meaning while they are reading texts. They construct their perceptions of social reality by interacting with their surrounding environment, or simply by talking to their peers. Even if students are quietly observing their teacher, they can be actively engaged in a process of active learning and understanding. This cognitive turn in psychology is often referred to as the constructivist approach to learning.

 

Teaching Philosophies

Overall, a statement of teaching philosophy should provide a personal portrait of the writer’s view of teaching. The narrative description of one’s conception of teaching as well’s as one’s rationale and justification for how one teaches and why, may be expressed in a variety of ways (Lyons, 1998). The overarching question in a statement of teaching philosophy is: Why am I teaching? Other relevant questions which follow are: What are my teaching goals and objectives? What is the student-teacher relationship which I strive to achieve? What behavioural methods will I use? What motivates me to enhance my knowledge about the subject I am teaching? What values do I impart to my students? How do I make sure that I have taught my students successfully? What code of ethics guide me?

One of the hallmarks of a teaching philosophy is its individuality. Ideally, this personal statement should be of a reflective nature in its content. A teaching philosophy is all about a vivid portrait of an educator who is motivated about teaching practices and committed to career advancement. The act of taking time to re-consider one’s goals, actions and vision provides an opportunity for self-development. The main components of teaching philosophies are descriptions of how educators think learning occurs, or how they think they can possibly intervene in their students’ learning process. Of course, educators set goals for their students. They may also decide to plan how to implement them. For some purposes, including a section on one’s personal growth as a teacher is also important for self-development. This reflective component explains how one educator has grown in the teaching profession over the years. It illustrates what challenges exist at present as it identifies what long term goals are projected for the future. Whilst writing this section, the educator revisits one’s concepts and methodologies. This exercise can turn out to be stimulating as the educator revises the old syllabi and the instructional resources. It goes without saying that the educator will need to remain abreast with the latest academic and research findings in his / her field of studies. It is in the educators’ self-interest to communicate and collaborate with their peers. There is scope for lecturers to work together with other colleagues. They are often encouraged to participate in workshops to share knowledge about best practices as well as resources. 

In a similar vein, the teaching philosophy should be communicated to the students as it is in their interest to know what is required from them and why (see Cerbin, 1996). Given this information, students are triggered to engage in a more productive manner in their learning journey. It is also likely that students learn much better and succeed in their course. Some empirical studies have shown that appropriate communication with students helps to increase their retention (Thomas, 2009; Braskamp and Ory, 1994). Nowadays, many educators are implicitly exhibiting their teaching philosophies as these are often evidenced to students through syllabi, assignments, approaches to teaching and learning, classroom environment and student –teacher relationships (Thiessen, 2012) The goal of sharing a statement of teaching philosophy is to value and respect students. One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil (Nietzsche, 1891).

 

Conclusion

Literature review has revealed that many teachers are following the theories and principles which were discussed here. The theories I have described here have provided me with a good insight to develop and articulate my teaching philosophy. This contribution offers a good opportunity to rethink about your teaching practice. I believe that the best educators are the ones who use and create, adopt (or reject) theories of learning and teaching. These theories and principles are derived from many years of experience and careful inquiry as they are tested in class-room settings, critiqued by colleagues and continuously emerge from empirical findings and theoretical underpinnings.

 

“Education, therefore, must begin with a psychological insight into the child’s capacities, interests, and habits. It must be controlled at every point by reference to these same considerations. These powers, interests, and habits must be continually interpreted – we must know what they mean. They must be translated into terms of their social equivalents – into terms of what they are capable of in the way of social” (Dewey, 1897). 

 

References

Bloom, B.S. (1956) “Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals” Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York, Longmans, Green.

Bransford, J., A. Brown, and R. Cocking, eds. (2000) “How people learn: Brain, mind,experience, and school”. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Braskamp, L.A., and Ory, J.C. (1994) “Assessing Faculty Work: Enhancing Individual and Institutional Performance”. Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco.

Cerbin, W. (1996) “Inventing a new genre” The course portfolio at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. In Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review, ed. P. Hutchings. Washington, DC: American Association of Higher Education.

Cuban, L. (1993) “How teachers taught: Constancy and change in American classrooms 1890–1990”. New York: Teachers College Press.

Dewey, J. (1897) “My Pedagogic Creed”. Url: http://dewey.pragmatism.org/creed.htm accessed on the 25th April 2013.

Dewey, J. (1916) “Democracy and Education: an introduction to the philosophy of education”. Url: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/852/852-h/852-h.htm accessed on the 25th April 2013.

Dewey, J. (1938) “Experience and Education”. Url: http://www.schoolofeducators.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/EXPERIENCE-EDUCATION-JOHN-DEWEY.pdf accessed on the 25th April 2013.

Dillon, A (2004) Education in Plato’s Republic Url: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/submitted/dillon/education_plato_republic.html accessed on the 5th May 2013.

Kandel, E.R. and Hawkins, R.D. (1992) “The biological basis of learning and individuality.” Scientific American 267.3, pp.78-86.

Lyons, N. (1998) “With Portfolio in Hand: Validating the New Teacher Professionalism”. Teachers College Press, New York.

Maillet, B. and Maisonneuve, H. (2011) “Long-life learning for medical specialists doctors in Europe”. CME, DPC and qualification. Presse médicale (Paris, France: 1983), 40(4 Pt 1), 357.

Nietzsche (1891) “Decadence, and Regeneration in France (1891-95)” In Forth, C.E. (1993). Journal of the History of Ideas, 54:1 pp97-117.

Phillips, D.C., (2009) “Philosophy of Education”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edward N. Zalta (ed.), Url: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/education-philosophy/ accessed on the 2nd May 2013.

Plato. The Republic. 2nd ed. Trans. Desmond Lee (1987) Penguin Books, New York.

Reed, D.  and Widger, D. (2008) “Democracy and Education” by John Dewey. Url: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/852/852-h/852-h.htm accessed on the 4th May 2013.

Thiessen, D. (2012)”Classroom-based teacher.” Early Professional Development for Teachers 317.

Thomas, L. (2009) “Improving student retention in higher education”. AUR, 9.

Tolman, E. C. (1951) “Behaviour and psychological man: essays in motivation and learning”. Berkeley, Univ. of California Press.

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Student Centred Approaches in Higher Educational Settings

thinkers_cartoon

“One repays a teacher badly if one always remains nothing but a pupil.” Nietzsche (1891).

Traditionally, the teacher-centred learning involved the instructor’s active role, whereas the students exhibited a passive, receptive role. Of course, the student-centred learning has many implications for the design of the courses. In this perspective; within the student-oriented approach, the educator adapts to the pupils’ needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles. Handelsman et al. (2004) held that there is sufficient evidence that supplementing or replacing lectures with active learning strategies and engaging students in discovery and scientific process improves their learning and knowledge retention. Many educators are adopting a broad spectrum of the student-centred approaches, which include: Active Learning (Bonwell and Eison, 1991), Collaborative Learning (Bruffee, 1984), Inquiry-based Learning, Cooperative Learning (Johnson, Johnson and Smith, 1991), Problem-based Learning, Peer Led Team Learning (Tien, Roth, and Kampmeier, 2001), Team-based Learning (Michaelson, Knight and Fink, 2004), Peer Instruction (Mazur, 1997) among other methodologies.

As a proponent of active learning I suggest that exercises such as role-playing, debating, student engagement in case studies, active participation in cooperative learning and the like, may be used to create a context of material, where learners work collaboratively. Needless to say, the degree of the teacher’s involvement while the students are being “active” may vary according to the specific task and its context in a teaching unit (Bonwell and Eison, 1991). Examples of “active learning” activities include:

A collaborative learning group: Students are assigned in groups of 3-6 people and they are expected to work together, in tandem in a particular assignment. They are usually requested to answer a question to present to the class or to produce a project. A student debate: Students are urged to participate in activities by giving them the opportunity to express their views and opinions in verbal presentations. Debates will allow the students to take a position and collect information to substantiate their views and explain them to others. Class discussion are usually much more effective in smaller class settings. This educational setting allows the instructor to act as a moderator as s/he can guide the students’ learning experience, and foster the right environment. The students are requested  to critically reflect on the subject matter and use rationality to evaluate their peers’ positions. They are expected to discuss about any topic, in a constructive and objective manner. A discussion may be used as a follow-up activity when the lecture has already been delivered. Similarly, a think-pair-share activity is used when students are encouraged to reflect about the previous lesson. They are expected to discuss with one or more of their peers. Finally they are invited to share their concerns with the class as part of a formal discussion. The instructor is responsible to clarify any misunderstandings. In this case, the learners need a background of the subject to identify and relate what they know to others. Students need to prepared with sound instruction before expecting them to discuss any subject matter on their own.

A class game is a very innovative way to learn, as it provides an opportunity for students’ to review the course material. It also helps the them to enjoy the subject in creative ways. Different games may possibly include; jeopardy and crossword puzzles which keep the students’ minds going. Videos: It transpires that relevant video clips support students in their understanding. It is important that the video relates to the specific topic that students are covering at the particular point in time. The lecturer may possibly include a few questions before you start the video so to engage the students to pay attention to the video. After the video is complete, the students may be divided into groups in order to discuss what they learned. They may also be requested to write a review or points about the video clip or movie.

Evidently, it is up to the instructors to determine the educational goals and objectives. They have to analyse the environment in which they operate, identify the factors which may constrain their approaches, and choose any curricular model and methods that suit to their students. A diversity of approaches and varying methods are to be encouraged. This contribution suggests that a strategy that promotes a student-centred learning is likely to be very effective. Yet, I believe that there is a need for a fair evaluation of the students’ background before any approach can be considered to produce better results than others. The teacher’s duty and responsibility has inevitably changed to a  facilitator of learning. The learner-centred approach suggests that the students are the responsible participants in their own learning  journey.  Such a strategy puts the student at the very centre of the educator’s realms.

References:

Bonwell, C.C. and Eison, J.A. (1991) “Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ERIC Digest”, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports, The George Washington University.

Bruffee, K.A. (1984) “Collaborative Learning and the” Conversation of Mankind”, College English 46.7: pp635-652.

Handelsman, J. et al. (2004) “Scientific teaching”, Science 304.5670: pp521-522.

Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T. and Smith, K.A. (1991) “Active learning”, Interaction Book Company.

Mazur, E. and Hilborn, R.C. (1997) “Peer instruction: A user’s manual”, Physics Today 50: 68.

Michaelson, L., Knight A., and Fink, L., (2004) “Team- based learning: A transformative use of small groups in  college teaching”, Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Nietzsche (1891) “Decadence, and Regeneration in France (1891-95)” In Forth, C.E. ( 1993) Journal of the History of Ideas, 54:1 pp97-117.

Tien, L.T., Roth, V. and Kampmeier, J.A (2002) “Implementation of a peer‐led team learning instructional approach in an undergraduate organic chemistry course”, Journal of research in science teaching 39.7: pp606-632.

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