Exploring the elusive shape of service outcomes: Reflections on evaluating learning advice services

Kirsten Reid1, Xiaodan Gao2

1 Student Learning, Victoria University of Wellington, P O Box 600, Wellington 6140, Kirsten.reid@vuw.ac.nz
2 Student Learning, Victoria University of Wellington, P O Box 600, Wellington 6140, Xiaodan.gao@vuw.ac.nz

As part of good practice and for the purpose of continual improvement of service quality, Student Learning at Victoria University of Wellington regularly conducts service and programme evaluations. These include the end of year Student Learning Survey and bi-annual peer observations and tend to focus on student satisfaction and/or perceptions of our services and programmes. In response to the New Zealand government’s call for tertiary education institutions (TEIs) to report on “the services the TEI is providing, how well it is providing them, and the effects of the services on the student community (impacts/outcomes)” (Office of the Auditor-General, 2012, p.28) we have been looking at ways in which we can carry out evaluation beyond that of student numbers and satisfaction.  This is not a straightforward task. As Alach (2015, p.1) notes, the value and validity of methods and practices of performance measurement in higher education are the subject of much debate.  This paper reflects on our journey to date to re-define and re-design our evaluations so they allow us to more effectively measure our service outcomes and the possible impact on students.


Alach, Z. (2015). Performance measurement and accountability in higher education: The puzzle of qualification completions. Tertiary Education and Management. DOI:10.1080/13583883.2015.1122828.

Office of the Auditor-General. (2012). Education sector: Results of the 2011 audits. Wellington, New Zealand: Office of the Auditor-general.


Xiaodan Gao works with students at all levels. Her research interests include international education, transition for international postgraduate students and cross-cultural communication.

Kirsten Reid is a Senior Learning Advisor at Victoria University of Wellington. She works mainly with postgraduate and undergraduate international students and has a particular interest in academic writing and oral presentations. She is also interested in supporting students from refugee backgrounds.

International students’ perceptions of the learning environment and support services at a New Zealand university

Anil Kumar Kaushik1, 3, Terry McGrath2, 3

1Doctoral Student, Institute of Education, Massey University, New Zealand
2Senior Consultant , International Student Ministries of New Zealand
3International Post Graduate and Mature Students’ Club, Massey University, New Zealand

During the last ten years increasing attention has been given to reducing costs in universities and enhancing financial returns. This attention places demands on support services tasked with providing support for international students and with increasing the revenue stream from international education. Increased diversity of cultures, nationalities and education backgrounds stemming from  an  international  student  body of  size  and  substance  places demands for enhanced support services both in terms of academic and living support. Several questions come to mind: How well do universities provide good levels of support to international students and how do international students perceive the teaching-learning environment of the university and availability and quality of support services? This paper reports findings from interviews of selected international students at one university, Massey University in New Zealand. The purpose of these interviews was twofold: To evaluate the teaching-learning  environment  of  the  university  and  to  examine  the  quality  of  support services available to the international students. The findings revealed many differences between the expected and the perceived learning environments and support services. These differences suggest opportunities exist for some improvements in academic support to international students. In relation  to the life, social and community support available to students, the majority of students reported positively and appeared satisfied with the services. The majority of students admired the International Student Support Office (ISSO) staff and reported that staff went the extra mile to support them. The findings suggested a need to acknowledge  the  differences  between  the  previous  teaching-learning  environments  of students in their home countries and the current New Zealand educational system and act accordingly to ensure a smooth transition to the foreign system of education. Findings also suggested there was room to consider adding other dimensions to the support services to enhance international students’ adjustment in the educational and vocational system of New Zealand and ensure an intentionally quality fit and compliance with the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students.

Key Words: Pastoral care, learning & teaching, support services.


Anil Kaushik has a background in education in India and is currently completing his PhD at Massey University in Education. A lively interest in the experiences of international students in the Education environment has led to an interest in researching and commenting about those experiences. Anil has served on the executive of the international postgraduate and mature students club one of the largest clubs in the university and in that role has had extensive involvement with a wide range of international students.

What do ‘good teaching’ and ‘effective learning’ look like at university? Insights from international (and other) students

Vivienne Anderson1, Ana Rangi2, Esmay Eteuati2, Rob Wass1, Clinton Golding1, Rafaela Rabello1

1 Higher Education Development Centre, PO Box 56, University of Otago, 65-75 Union Place West, Dunedin, New Zealand
2 Humanities Divisional Office, PO Box 56, University of Otago, Whare Kete Aronui – Arts Building, 95 Albany Street, Dunedin

Literature and public discourse on teaching and learning in university contexts has often reflected a view of international students as necessarily different to so-called ‘local’ students. However, increasingly, critical scholars are calling for university teaching (and research about teaching) that is responsive to students’ actual voices, and not grounded in culturalist assumptions about their sameness, difference or learning styles. This paper reports on the preliminary findings of an ongoing pilot project aimed at foregrounding diverse students’ conceptions of ‘good teaching’ and ‘effective learning’ in university contexts. Our study involves up to 40 high achieving ‘international’, ‘local’, Māori, and Pacific Island students (7-10 students from each cohort) at a New Zealand university. Specifically, we use focus group interviews, critical incident technique, and ‘photovoice’ to explore four research questions: (1) how do students conceptualise ‘good teaching’ and ‘effective learning’ at university; (2) which data collection approaches do they prefer; (3) which elicit the richest insights into students’ conceptions; and (4) how can students’ conceptions inform research, support provision, and staff development? The study’s rationale is multifaceted. Theoretically, the study is a response to calls for researchers and university teachers to remain open to both commonalities and differences between students. Practically, our study is intended to build a staff network spanning the university’s international, Māori, Pacific, and academic development portfolios, as a basis for ongoing collaboration and more comprehensive staff development and student support approaches. Also, our aim is to foreground student success; participating students form a kind of ‘advisory panel’, and receive recognition for this at the project’s conclusion. Methodologically, our study is piloting ways of eliciting students’ tacit knowledge concerning ‘good teaching’ and ‘effective learning’ in (and in relation to) university lectures and tutorials in the Humanities Division, as a basis for a future, larger study. The paper is structured as follows. We begin by outlining the study’s rationale, theoretical framework and methodology. Then, we share some preliminary findings from our international student cohort, comparing their conceptions of ‘good teaching’ and ‘effective learning’ with those articulated by the other students involved in the study. We conclude by highlighting our ‘next steps’ in terms of both the study and our use of its findings.


Dr Vivienne Anderson is a senior lecturer at the University of Otago Higher Education Development Centre. She works with staff and students across the university in an academic development role, and researches questions relating to higher education policy and practice.