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Investigating feedback on your course

Tuesday 24 March 2009 Feedback

It’s clear that feedback is a national problem, but is it a problem for students on your course?

There are many ways that you can investigate feedback on your course to build a strong case for change:

  • Look at the minutes of past staff-student liaison committee reports to see if students on your course have raised any issues recently to do with the feedback on their assessed work in the past. If they have, and the issues are unresolved, table the subject as an agenda item for your next meeting;
  • collect student feedback – hold a meeting, canvas for opinions in a lecture, send out an email or questionnaire, and compile this information to build a report to give to staff at your next meeting. Ask staff to respond to you and let students know how they will investigate or resolve your concerns during the meeting or in time for the next meeting. Don’t forget to ask students for suggestions on how feedback can be improved too;
  • read through the NUS' feedback principles – would you say that the feedback on your course consistently reflects these principles? For example, would students like feedback on their exam papers, or does feedback take a long time to be given to students on your course? Is the feedback they receive clear, concise and unambiguous?
  • use the NSS -  Look at what final year students thought on your course of study last year about issues such as feedback on the National Student Survey. You can do this by visiting www.unistats.com and perform a search to find the figures for your programme, or for your university or college. Compare these to what students think about feedback on other courses, and speak to the course reps on courses where students are happier with feedback for suggestions on how feedback can be improved. You can also request in-depth results for your course and actual anonymised comments made by students in the NSS from your students’ union;
  • ask for access to past module or course evaluation questionnaires to help you get an idea of what students are thinking about this issue from a staff member at the institution;
  • check what your department’s policy is on feedback, for example, how easily can students access feedback on exams, and how quickly feedback may be received? Compare this to the kind of feedback students on your course say that they actually receive or need, or the feedback policies in other departments;
  • visit your students’ union – your union student officers will be able to give you help, support and advice on how to take this forward;
  • start a campaign: Heriot-Watt University Students’ Association used the results of the NSS to highlight poor satisfaction with feedback among students. They ran a postcard campaign on feedback, entitled, “Is this all your work is worth?” which looked to highlight best and worst practice in terms of feedback within the institution. They had an overwhelming response to the campaign with students asking that exam scripts be returned with feedback included. Students used stickers to request exam feedback when submitting their exam scripts. Because of this, the University agreed to return exam scripts across the board and are now using a new feedback policy;
  • talk to other course reps – use existing forums or the NUS Course Reps network to find out what other course reps have done about this issue locally and nationally!
  • contact us – NUS can also support and advise you on how to take action on feedback.  Email us at coursereps@nus.org.uk

Feedback: The facts

Did you know…?

  • One third of students across the UK are unhappy with assessment and feedback. The National Student Survey shows that almost one third of UK students are unhappy with assessment and feedback across the board;
  • statistics from the 2007 NSS show students who defined their ethnicity as ‘Asian’ or ‘other’ are 6 per cent less satisfied with feedback and assessment than their peers who defined themselves as ‘white’;
  • a recent NUS HSBC Student Experience survey revealed that only 25 per cent of students said they received verbal feedback while 72 per cent expressed a preference for receiving feedback in this manner;
  • in the same survey, 55 per cent of students said that they received feedback within three to four weeks of submission; however a staggering 25 per cent of respondents said that it takes five weeks or more to receive feedback from coursework. In addition, there seems to be much inconsistency regarding the speed of feedback within individual courses as 18 per cent of respondents answered that it was impossible to say how long feedback takes as it varies so much.

Further information: