Most higher education institutions, around the world, collect some type of feedback from students about their experience of higher education. 'Feedback' in this sense refers to the expressed opinions of students about the service they receive as students. This may include perceptions about the learning and teaching, the learning support facilities (such as, libraries, computing facilities), the learning environment, (lecture rooms, laboratories, social space and university buildings), support facilities (student accommodation, health facilities, student services) and external aspects of being a student (such as finance, transport infrastructure).1
Student feedback are perhaps one of the most widely used methods of evaluating learning outcomes and teaching quality. Students may have a certain bias which influences their Ironically, although feedback from students is tirelessly collected in many institutions, it is less clear that it is used to its full potential. Feedback from students has two main functions:
To be effective in quality improvement, data collected from surveys and feedbacks must be transformed into information that can be used within an institution to effect change. To make an effective contribution to internal quality improvement processes, views of students need to be incorporated into a regular and continuous cycle of analysis, reporting, action and feedback. (Figure below).
In order to effectively implement this Feedback cycle the institution should have in place a system for:
Note: If the feedback data is to be useful as an information resource, it is important that it is seen to be collected professionally and impartially, preferably by a unit outside the faculty structure.
In an era where there is an enormous choice available to potential students the views of current students offer a useful information resource. Yet very few institutions make the outcomes of student feedback available externally.
The predominant 'satisfaction' survey takes five forms:
Institution-level satisfaction: This survey is almost always based on questionnaires, which mainly consist of objective type questions and augmented by one or two open questions. Institution-wide surveys should provide both data for internal improvement and information for external stakeholders. It needs to be tailored to fit the improvement needs of the institution. Making use of stakeholder inputs (especially those of students) in the design of questionnaires is a useful process in making the survey relevant. Finally, reporting needs to be to the level at which effective action can be implemented.
Faculty-level satisfaction: Faculty-level surveys should not clash with institution-wide surveys, where both coexist, it is probably better to attempt to collect faculty data through qualitative means, focusing on faculty-specific issues untouched by institution-wide surveys.
Program-level satisfaction: Feedback on programs is extracted through qualitative discussion sessions, which are minuted. Here the focus is on the teaching and learning, course organization and program-specific learning resources.
Module-level feedback: Feedback on specific modules or units of study provide an important element of continuous improvement. The feedback tends to focus on the specific learning and
teaching associated with the module, along with some indication of the problems of accessing module-specific learning resources. It both formal and informal, feedback from students to teachers about the learning situation within the module or unit of study. It not need to be reported externally but should form part of internal program reviews.
Teacher-appraisal by students: The use of student evaluations of teacher performance are sometimes part of a broader peer and self-assessment approach to teaching quality. In some cases, they are used as part of the individual review of staff and can be taken into account in promotion The views on individual teacher performance is usually deemed confidential and subject to closed performance-review or development interviews with a senior administrator or head of institution. (This article is review of "Student Feedback: A report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England" , Lee Harvey, October 2001, Centre for Research into Quality, University of Central England )