Creating a positive student survey culture: closing the Course Experience Survey feedback loop

As a University, we place a lot of emphasis on working in partnership with students, to create a positive learning community in which students are fully engaged and motivated. Student surveys can play a significant part in helping create and sustain that partnership.

Overall, we are good at student surveys, our NSS response rate is well above the national average and last year our results went up on all questions. Moreover, our NSS results for student voice are very positive – the 2018 results put us as 25/151 HEIs in terms of satisfaction on this set of questions. However, looking at the breakdown for individual questions by Institute (now School) shows variation – with three Institutes scoring very highly and three showing significant room for improvement on the question ‘it is clear how students’ feedback on the course has been acted on’.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the different scores for this question correlate with survey response rates. Creating a positive student survey culture is part of the virtuous circle of good student engagement = strong student satisfaction. This is not something that can be addressed simply at ‘survey time’; it needs to be part of a broader strategy for engaged partnership with students.

Here are some suggestions about using the CES results and feedback to foster that positive survey culture.

We have also created some resources to download and share:

CES example communications plan

CES closing the feedback loop

For additional information please contact Carolyn Nisbet

Closing the feedback loop and working with students following the CES

It’s important to share results with everyone who provided feedback through the survey so that they can see the value in participating and buy into the process.

Explain the value of the survey process
Explain why the survey process is important to the course team, and why you want honest feedback on what works and what might be problematic or in need of improvement, and how it helps you provide the best student experience you can. Students will be much more convinced about the value of surveys if they see it is of value to the course team.

Connect surveys to outcomes
At each stage in the communication of surveys (from preparation to launch to collection and publication of results), try to link student feedback to overall Course, School and University, aims and values. Context can have a big impact on how the feedback process is perceived. Make it clear that student surveys are genuinely relevant to what you do rather than a checklist activity.

Use the data to drive a narrative
If possible present the results data in accessible ways to explain findings, for example use infographics. Show students how the results relate to what you hope to achieve or have been trying to improve in the student experience.

Structure your reporting so that you identify specific insights in the context of the student experience and identify clear priorities to demonstrate how next steps will have a positive impact on the overall student experience.

Work with students to identify priorities for action
Survey results (data and comments) provide a starting point for establishing more precisely what students think about the course, and for getting behind perceptions, and divided view on how well the course meets student expectations. Work with students to establish what is important (not necessarily the question that has the lowest or highest overall score), and what needs to be done to improve. Focus on two or three key priorities.

Involve the student representatives
Working out priorities and an action plan is obviously more manageable with a small group of student representatives. Ask them which two or three changes that could be made by working together, would make the biggest difference to the most students. Student Reps can be responsible for consulting more widely with students on the course.

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