22 SES 06 A, Teaching, Learning and Assessment in Higher Education
Dutch universities of applied sciences aim to prepare young people for the labour market and society. In the last decennia, enrolment has increased significantly. But not every student that starts a study, finishes it; a little over half of the student population manages to successfully finish their study within five years (CBS 2013). This leads to both direct and indirect costs for Dutch society (WRR 2009). Numerous initiatives are therefore taken to improve student achievement in Dutch higher vocational education (Middelkoop & Meerman 2014).
We will examine the visions that Dutch teachers in higher vocational education have on student achievement and the goals of the central school management. This leads to the following central questions:
1 What vision(s) do Dutch teachers in higher vocational education have on student achievement?
2 What impact does the vision of teachers have on their approach towards their teaching practice?
There is increasing attention for improving student achievement in the Netherlands. Plans were and are developed and executed to improve student achievement, focusing explicitly of students with lower achievements. The approaches of these plans can be characterized by a top down approach. Research on student achievement suggests however that a bottom-up approach focusing on the role of the teacher might be more effective (Middelkoop & Meerman, in press).
One of the most prominent researchers in this field is Robert Marzano, who conducted a meta-analysis on the results of 35 years of research to what determines student achievement in the (American) educational system. Hattie (2008) more recently conducted an even more extensive meta-analysis. Both researchers define broadly the same critical factors for student achievement.
Marzano states that student achievement is affected by factors on three levels, which together determine student achievement:
- School-level factors, that are ‘under the jurisdiction of the school as a whole’. (Marzano 2003, p. 15).
- Student-level factors: characteristics (i.e. intelligence) of the student. Effects can be overcome by actions at the level of the school or the teacher (Ibid., p. 125).
- Teacher-level factors: The most influential category of the three. Comprised of factors determined by the impact that a teacher can have on student achievement (Ibid., p. 71). Marzano identifies instructional strategies, classroom management and classroom curriculum design.
Marzano (2003) describes ‘in school’ factors. Student achievement is also influenced by factors outside the influence of the school. Approximately 20 percent is said to be determined by the school, 30 percent is determined by social context and 50 percent by student background characteristics. However, Marzano states that student background characteristics ‘can be mediated by school-based interventions’ (2003, p. 123). The potential influence of the school is therefore substantial.
But what is student achievement exactly? This question is closely related to the debate about the goals of (higher) education. A long standing debate exists on the question what those goals are and what student achievement entails. The programs aimed at improving student achievement that were described above mainly focus on improving the efficiency of the higher education system: the aim is to let more students graduate. It seems to stem from a broader societal trend of measuring actions and policies (Verhaeghe 2011), that is translated in (higher) education (Onderwijsraad 2013, p. 27) Although there is nothing wrong with this in principle, it is not automatically related to the quality of education, leading to a debate (e.g. Kneyber & Evers 2013) on the question whether a focus on efficiency leads to lowering of standards. The discussion about the quality of education and the goals of education seems marginalised in the Netherlands (Biesta 2012, p. 15), but is crucial when talking about student achievement.
Biesta, G. (2012), Goed onderwijs en de cultuur van het meten – ethiek, politiek emn democratie. Den Haag: Boom Lemma uitgevers. Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (2013), Statline, kerncijfers hoger onderwijs. Internet: www.cbs.nl (geraadpleegd 13-11-2013) Hattie, J. (2008), Visible Learning: A Synthesis of over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. London: Routledge. Marzano, R (2003), What Works in Schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria: ASCD. Kneyber, R. & J. Evers (2013), Het alternatief – weg met de afrekencultuur in het onderwijs. Amsterdam: Boom. Meerman, M., Spierings, J., Segers, J. & N. Bay (2009) Een ontwikkeling in kleur. Docenten leren op de werkplek omgaan met het multiculturele beroepsonderwijs. Amsterdam: HvA-DEM. Middelkoop, D. van & M. Meerman (2014), Studiesucces en diversiteit – en wat hbo docenten daarmee te maken hebben. Amsterdam: HvA-CAREM. Middelkoop, D. van & M. Meerman (in press), Coping with international migration and diversity – how do teacher teams in Dutch higher vocational education relate to their diverse student population? Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ADAPT labour Studies Book Series. (expected to be published July 2014). Onderwijsraad (2013), Een smalle kijk op onderwijskwaliteit – stand van educatief Nederland 2013. Den Haag: Onderwijsraad. Vereniging Hogescholen (2013), Feiten en cijfers - Afgestudeerden en uitvallers in het hoger beroepsonderwijs. Internet: www.vereniginghogescholen.nl (geraadpleegd 25-9-2013). Verhaeghe, P. (2011), De effecten van een neoliberale meritocratie op identiteit en interpersoonlijke verhoudingen. Oikos, 56, p. 4-22. Internet: http://www.psychoanalysis.ugent.be/pages/nl/artikels/artikels%20Paul%20Verhaeghe/De%20effecten%20van.pdf WRR (Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid) (2009), Vertrouwen in de school – over de uitval van ‘overbelaste’ jongeren. Amsterdam: University Press.
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