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City University London best practice highlighted in report on effective course evaluation

A senior academic from City University London has contributed to a new research report into the issues facing HE institutions in gaining and implementing student feedback on courses.
by Luke Nava

Professor Susannah Quinsee, the University's Director of Learning Development, is quoted in the report, Effective Course Evaluation - The Future for Quality and Standards in Higher Education, which was published on Thursday 1 September 2011.

The report was commissioned by Electric Paper, which works with over 600 universities in the UK and worldwide to help them evaluate their courses via its automated paper and online survey management system EvaSys.

Interviews with 10 academics and student representative groups found, generally, that:

  • Many universities seeking feedback on courses and lecturers via surveys struggle to achieve a meaningful response from students
  • Student representatives have indicated that students are not effectively engaged in the feedback process and, for some, providing feedback can even be intimidating
  • Universities need to work harder at feeding back to students the actions they will
    be taking as a result of input provided for course and lecturer evaluation surveys
  • End-of-module evaluation is a particular stumbling block in the provision of feedback to students - and feedback can be slow - but moving to mid-module evaluation can help to improve the process
  • Ideally students want the opportunity to express their views on course improvements at a time that their feedback benefits them directly
  • Universities need to embrace new technologies to improve turnaround time - but effective feedback can be gained via a combination of paper and online surveys
  • Universities should establish a more consistent (centralised) approach to survey administration - including a standard set of survey questions - to enable effective benchmarking at course and institutional level
  • In-class student involvement in survey administration can increase commitment as they are stakeholders in the process.

As a potential model of best practice, Professor Quinsee said that City University London was three years into a JISC-funded four-year project on curriculum design, and staff have looked at the issue of effective course evaluation. "What we're finding is that evaluation for a lot of students is not meaningful because they are being asked to give feedback on a course or module they are just completing and are therefore not going to feel the benefits of any improvements made. Ideally you would want to explore in-module evaluation, which we are doing, but that takes a lot of time both in terms of implementation and analysis."

She went on to say that, following the arrival of Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Curran, the University has introduced a centralised modular evaluation system. "We now have a standard set of questions for surveys, managed centrally, which individual schools can add to if they wish, and the results of these are now part of staff appraisals."

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