More learning needed at Nova Scotia universities, new report suggests

Haley Ryan, Metro Halifax
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HALIFAX - The next time someone hears about the ranking of a Canadian university, or how many tenured professors they have on staff, Jonathan Williams hopes they question whether students are really learning.

A student walks past a building at Dalhousie University in this photo from October.

Williams, the executive director of Students Nova Scotia, said their new report Focus on Learning: A Student Vision for Improving Post-Secondary Education in Nova Scotia, illustrates the need for schools to track and improve student learning through outcomes and other tools.

“We do need to say what we expects our students to learn, and we need to measure whether or not they’re learning that,” Williams said Wednesday.

Williams said there needs to be more of an emphasis on what students learn and the quality of education rather than the reputation of a school, how much research and papers they produce, or what the class sizes are going in.

“Those things don’t reflect really whether students learn,” he said.

The report suggests a full review of the current teaching practices in universities, creating a separate fund tied to initiatives to train current and future professors, develop common learning outcomes shared across the province, and implement the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA) which measures what students are achieving in each program and holds university’s accountable.

Learning outcomes are all about letting students know what they can expect from a degree, whether it be a bachelor of arts, sciences or a doctorate program, and being clear about whether or not they’re achieving those things, Williams said.

After holding focus groups with students, Williams said most overall satisfaction is “quite high” at universities and colleges in the province, and the report is not meant to say we have poor quality of post-secondary education.

“We just need to get more focused on what students are supposed learn, and whether or not … the environment is supporting them.”

Organizations: Students Nova Scotia, A Student Vision for Improving Post-Secondary Education

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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