The mechanisms for collecting, analysing and using student feedback vary, but there is generally a focus on teaching, the curriculum (including course content and delivery), the student experience and the nature of general support provided to learners, such as IT support and resources. Additionally, the data collected in such surveys may be used to inform organisational/institutional research.
Student feedback plays an important role in the enhancement of course design and teaching practices. There are also Quality Assurance requirements regarding the collection of student feedback. Within the University of Warwick, the use of student evaluation questionnaires (See Best Practice Guide for designing student questionnaires) and Staff Student Liaison Committees are common practices. At a national level, the results of the first full National Student Survey (NSS) to be conducted in the UK are due to be published in summer 2005 and will be an essential element of the revised quality assurance framework for higher education, as part of a package of new public information on teaching quality. This study aims to help inform prospective students and their advisers, alongside other information on teaching quality, in making choices about what and where to study. It also aims to contribute to public accountability, and to provide information that will help institutions to enhance teaching quality, by supplementing internal feedback mechanisms.
Whilst student feedback can be a very significant indicator of teaching quality, it is rarely sufficient on its own. There are differing opinions about the value of student feedback (See Aleamoni, L., 1987. Student rating myths versus research facts. Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education, 1: 111-119 and Shevlin, M. et al., 2000. The Validity of Student Evaluation of Teaching in Higher Education: love me, love my lectures? Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 25, 4, 397-405.)
Feedback should always be presented in digested form. The conditions under which the data is collected, including the size of sample and the method of analysis must be clear. The inclusion of comparative data from other years or similar courses offer a means of "benchmarking" and showing that the feedback is indeed exceptional. More detailed advice on obtaining and presenting student feedback can be found in Obtaining & presenting student feedback.
The majority of student feedback is collected at the end of, rather than during, a taught module, when it may not be easy for a learner to make an objective comment and when some of the outcomes of learning may not yet be apparent. Equally, it may not be possible to make changes in response to the feedback that affect the module while it is being run. It may therefore be better to develop approaches to formative student evaluation to promote enhancement while the curriculum is being delivered (See Common methods of collecting student feedback) or consider an in-depth evaluation of the curriculum after graduation, when the student has had some time to reflect on their learning in places of work. Whenever student feedback is collected, it is important to “close the feedback loop” and inform students of the action(s) you have taken in response to their feedback (Closing the feedback loop).