Nurturing learning development through student feedback
Keywords:student evaluations, feedback process, student engagement
Student evaluations of both teaching and student services are increasingly embedded into higher education. There is debate surrounding the reliability, effectiveness, and bias of such evaluations (Hefferman, 2022) and National Student Survey (NSS) results (Office for Students, 2022) show that students typically respond poorly to questions relating to their learning community and their opportunities to give feedback on their experiences (student voice).
After receiving ethical approval to conduct research on evaluations, four students and a member of staff worked together to address how staff and students within the School of Mathematics and Statistics engage with student evaluations. Two surveys were conducted, the first aimed at staff (63 responses, 90% response rate) and the second at students (53 responses, 17% response rate). The results suggested that both staff and students agreed that evaluations are necessary and useful in building relationships. While staff implement the feedback they receive, students currently do not see it, and their learning may not benefit from being part of this process.
When asked to describe the purpose of student evaluations, participating staff expressed that they provide students with opportunities to have direct input to courses, influence their learning environment, and feel part of the school. Students expressed that their feedback could improve a course’s content, quality and delivery, and provide a learning opportunity for lecturers. Students indicated a preference for informal mid-term feedback since they could see their feedback acted upon in real time. In response, we propose the use of student evaluations as a feedback dialogue tool to encourage and enhance relationships between staff and students and help develop self-regulated learning. We will exemplify a feedback system that uses short, direct, and frequent surveys that students complete at the time of learning (Rowland, 2021), providing time to reflect on learning and creating a line of dialogic communication with the lecturer who can respond to the feedback to inform future learning. The system is applicable to any continuous student-staff learning-focused interaction.
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