Students satisfied?

By David Kenney

Little more than half of former students agree their instructors showed concern about their progress, says a recent University of Calgary poll. The purpose of the survey involved the U of C’s internal program of performance evaluation and improvement.

Conducted last March and April, the Student Satisfaction Survey questioned 62.4 per cent of Fall 1998 and Spring 1999 graduates.

Initiated as a part of the provincial government’s Key Performance Indicators, the survey involved eight Alberta post-secondary institutes.

According to the survey, 73 per cent of students were satisfied with the overall quality of their educational experience at the U of C, a decrease from an 83.8 per cent rating in 1996.

First-year General Studies student Alexis Holiziki was surprised by this majority feeling. She believes that the 53 per cent instructor-concern rating echoes attitudes of fellow students.

“A lot of people feel that teachers are just repeating stuff straight out of the textbook, they’re not really teaching, they’re not interested in teaching, they’re better as researchers,” said Holziki.
Third-year Psychology student Coben Christiansen thinks instructors’ concern is genuine and consistent.

“I think professors are very concerned about progress,” said Christiansen. “They want to get through this as much as we do.”

Students’ Union President Rob South thinks the 10 per cent drop in overall student satisfaction should be a big concern for the university. Part of this he relates to provincial government underfunding. Despite any underfunding though, South believes the university needs to do a better job on areas they are solely responsible for, like parking and food services.

“I think that number [53 per cent] is indicative of our growing class sizes and how too much is trying to be packed into this institution,” said South.

“This institution is getting too big for a lot of students and too impersonal for a lot of students for which we don’t have the money to afford adequate human resources, and that’s being reflected in the satisfaction numbers.”

Currently the university is undergoing curriculum re-design and plans to use the survey results to help improve student services. Associate Vice-president Student Affairs Peggy Patterson sees the re-design as a way to help curb some of the issues the university is facing. Included in the re-design will be sections on instructor mentoring and how to provide more direct support to students.

“Certainly we’re concerned that faculty do need to demonstrate to students that they’re concerned about they’re progress, it’s hard to know how to do that in a large class setting,” said Patterson. “The larger classes get, the less connected faculty get from their students and they probably would value more direct contact.”

Regarding provincial government funding, Patterson thinks it’s hard to gauge the effect of better funding.

“I think it would be hard to separate the two, but frankly I don’t think I’d attribute the satisfaction directly to inadequate funding from the government,” she said.

“It’s difficult to say because regardless of whatever funding levels we would have, we’d be committed to providing a positive learning experience and increasing student satisfaction.”

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