Our obsession with metrics turns academics into data drones

Nov 29, 2015 by

Universities’ growing addiction to tracking progress will destroy the very things we are supposed to nurture

I’m an academic with more than 15 years experience in higher education; my partner works in a state-run nursery school. The age gap between our students is, at the very least, 14 years. Nevertheless, there is one word that unites us: metrics. The desire to measure attainment, progress and calculate “added value” is becoming increasingly pervasive in both of our sectors.

My partner has to track pupils’ progress within the endemic reporting culture of primary schools – to find the baseline, then monitor the gap between target and attainment on a half-termly basis. Pre-schoolers are no longer allowed to develop at their own pace; they are on an educational metric track for the rest of their school lives. Less creative little human beings; more lines on a spreadsheet.

We, in universities, are a bit behind when it comes to continuously monitoring progress, but we are undoubtedly on the way. “Learning gain” is the new buzz term, meaning that students (and their future employers) will be able to chart the leaps made during the university years. Studying for a degree is not enough; young people need transferable skills, evidence of extracurricular activity and graduate “attributes”. Whether this is because these are good things in and of themselves, or because they improve our employability data, has never been quite clear to me.

Source: Our obsession with metrics turns academics into data drones | Higher Education Network | The Guardian

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