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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Quality Assurance in Education, Volume 23, Issue 3
There have been a number of leading thinkers in the broad quality management movement who have informed discussion and debate about quality and the philosophy and practice of quality improvement. One of the most prominent was Dr W. Edwards Deming. One of the matters in modern management that Dr Deming took great issue with was the matter of performance-related pay. Deming used his famous “red beads experiment” to demonstrate that, in most cases, there are many variables that the individual has no control over. Outcomes are, rather, statistically determined and the “winner” or “best worker” in one round becomes the “poorest worker” in the next round of the experiment. In these circumstances, it is inappropriate to hold people accountable for things that they have no control over. Similarly, it is equally inappropriate to reward people for outcomes that they could not be responsible for because of the large number of variables that lie well beyond their control. Nevertheless, performance-related pay dominates in some jurisdictions.
In recent times, a group of educators and managers in Atlanta have been incarcerated for their role in falsifying the outcomes of standardised tests over a period of several years. The educators and managers had earned performance-related pay – or had been allowed to keep their jobs – on the basis of the falsification of outcomes of the standardised tests. It is unfortunate that the initial purpose of national standardised testing was forgotten – improvements in the standards achieved by school students by identifying and adopting good, proven practice – because, in some cases, people were being held accountable for variables over which they had no control, while, in other cases, they were being given substantial financial rewards, resulting in a corruption of the process. There are many principles that were laid down by the formative thinkers in the quality movement that we should revisit on a regular basis to remind us about the underlying philosophy of quality, quality improvement and quality enhancement in the sphere of education.
The first paper in this issue, by Daniel Lang, reports on the development of quality assurance processes for the higher education sector in Ontario, Canada. The paper traces the various stages of institutional quality assurance over time and outlines the current situation that is characterised by institutions having autonomy that enables them to engage with innovation in teaching and learning whilst, at the same time, ensuring that the quality and standards of the higher education system are maintained. This is a challenge for higher education in every jurisdiction.
The second paper, by Michelle Morgan, investigates the impact of prior learning experiences on success rates in postgraduate taught courses at a UK institution. This is a good example of a proactive approach to diagnosing the potential causes of attrition and seeking to address them before they result in a failure to complete a taught course of master’s degree program.
Noha Elassy, in the third paper in this issue, explores the relationship between quality in the higher education sector and the related issues of quality assurance and quality enhancement. In some respects, this mirrors the development in the broader community where the starting point was quality of products followed by quality assurance and then total quality management characterised by continuous improvement. The inherent complexity of the educational environment with its multiple stakeholders really requires that quality, quality assurance and quality enhancement be understood from the perspective of the multiple stakeholders in the education sector.
The fourth paper, contributed by Mahsood Shah, Leonid Grebennikov and Chenicheri Sid Nair examines the important issue of graduate capabilities. One of the important stakeholders in higher education includes the employers of graduates of higher education institutions. Employers clearly have an interest in the quality of teaching and learning, in that it contributes to the development of graduates with appropriate capabilities and attributes. This paper provides an insight into the employers’ perspective on graduate attributes over an extended period.
In the fifth paper in this issue, Chenicheri Sid Nair, Jin Li and Cai Li Kun present research on the perceptions of academic staff of the evidence that is commonly used in academic institutions in the processes of staff appraisal at a Chinese university. The staff surveyed expressed a wish to improve their teaching, but were not convinced that the evidence used in the process and the people involved as appraisers produced the optimum outcomes in terms of improving teaching in the classroom.
The sixth paper, by Simon Roberts and Tim Stott, examined the outcome of research on the effects of age grouping on the outcomes of undergraduate degree study. Most jurisdictions manage the intake of students at various levels of education on the basis of age grouping, with selected ages and dates being chosen for eligibility for inclusion in an age grouping cohort. In many cases, particularly with children entering school, there is an observed disadvantage for the youngest in the cohort relative to the children who may be as much as a year older than the youngest. The authors investigate this phenomenon in the university sector to see if this disadvantage still persists.
In the final paper in this issue by Dodik Siswantoro, the author investigated the case of accounting students who studied Islamic accounting as part of their accounting degree program in Indonesia. The author tested the students’ knowledge of Islamic accounting principles before and after the presentation of Islamic accounting principles in the course. Knowledge of the principles improved over that time.
This issue contains a wide variety of topics from a variety of jurisdictions; however, all the articles demonstrate the many different facets of quality in the education context. All of these, from the first paper looking at the system of quality assurance for a Province in Canada through to the final paper evaluating the students’ knowledge improvement as a result of a course taught in Indonesia, contribute to the understanding of the dimensions of quality in the education context.
John F. Dalrymple, Co-editor, QAE