The Student Voice

Everywhere we turn across the education sector, we hear about how important it is to capture the student voice.

Policy makers, stakeholders, influencers, students, staff and academics are all aware of how critical it is to hear what students have to say – and, in the UK, the National Student Survey (NSS) has a specific section devoted to Student Voice.

But what do you do with the student voice data when you have it? And how do you ensure that your students have influence over enhancements to teaching and learning?

How do you listen to and act upon student feedback?

A recent, evasys-supported report from HEPI ‘What is the student voice? Thirteen essays on how to listen to students and how to act on what they say’ (HEPI Report 140) provides contributions from student representatives, academics, a vice-chancellor, a former NUS President and survey experts; it offers advice and expert guidance on engaging with students.

With an overarching theme that authentic engagement delivers the most value all round, and that ensuring that students know that their voices are being heard and acted upon is mission-critical, the report includes an essay from Dr Helena Lim, evasys Head of Opportunities, citing that closing the student feedback loop at course and module level is a key tool in positive student engagement.

Entitled ‘The Virtuous Loop: Capturing the student voice through course and module evaluation’, the essay highlights surveys as a critical component of voice capture and takes a deeper dive into how specific institutions are managing survey processes and closing the loop with students post-survey.

Additionally, there are details on why timely reporting to staff is also an important loop to close, as well as insights from students’ union reps on how it feels to have that feedback loop closed.

What does closing the loop entail?

So, what does closing the feedback loop look like for an institution? When students are providing rich data through detailed responses to surveys, they need to know that their efforts matter.

Closing the loop means engaging academics in the entire process, with timely reflection and response to module outcomes being shared with students as quickly as possible. Students need to be informed of how feedback has shaped teaching practice and how delivery has evolved from previous cohorts.

Closing the loop also means letting students know why comments and suggestions cannot be acted upon, so they understand that they have still been heard and the reasons why enhancements can’t be made in that particular case.

And it becomes a self-fulfilling process. Students are more likely to complete future surveys if they know that their feedback is important to lecturers, departments and the whole institution. Closing the feedback loop ensures continued engagement with future evaluations and makes students feel part of the greater good for their peers, and for those that travel behind them.

When students know that their voices are heard it has wider implications for an institution than just positive student engagement. As evasys UK Managing Director, Bruce Johnson, pointed out when HEPI Report 140 was launched:

“The way a university approaches and acts upon the student voice can make a tangible difference to future outcomes for the institution – we see this time and time again across our customer base.  Those who consistently close the student feedback loop by offering reflection and proposed action to issues raised evidence positive pull through in sector-wide results such as the NSS.  Student surveys are a valuable tool for capturing the student voice, but a critical element is in response to that voice.  This is what facilitates true partnership working with students to enhance their learning experiences.”

Bruce Johnson MD EvaSys UK closeupBruce Johnson, evasys, Managing Director

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