What is Student Feedback?

Written by Explorance.

Student with headphones discussing with a teacher

Universities and other Higher Educational Institutions should be in a constant state of communication with their students. Whether it’s a check-in during class or an evaluation at the end of the semester, it’s your institution’s duty to collect regular student data to make informed decisions to improve the overall student experience.

Student feedback is a collection of remarks, opinions and sentiments toward a specific class, teacher, service, or educational institution. It can concern a very narrow subject (Wi-Fi, dorms, etc.) or have very broad implications, and it is at the core of the growth of any Higher Education Institution. It can be used to improve and grow curriculums, pinpoint gaps in a teacher’s ability, gather suggestions for potential campus improvements and much more.

When correctly executed, a student feedback program becomes the most important tool in an institution’s development. It can have a myriad of other positive effects, like providing students with a voice, improving teaching effectiveness and quality, closing the feedback loop, and fostering a general climate of collaboration and communication on campus.

This article will review the various types of student feedback, how they can be gathered, and their benefits. It will also provide you with some best practices to launch your student feedback program.

Different types of student feedback

Student feedback can be gathered in two general ways, informal and formal feedback. Most institutions only worry about formal feedback since it is the only type that can be thoroughly analyzed, but it is important to acknowledge that informal feedback can be just as important in certain contexts.

Formal feedback

This category encompasses structured student feedback-gathering programs such as teacher and class evaluations or student experience surveys about the institution’s performance. These are exclusively run by the university and analyzed to identify the larger trends affecting the student body at large.

Informal feedback

Informal feedback can refer to in-class discussions and student comments gathered by teachers on the spot as well as student comments on external review sites. Since they are not formal and pooled into a larger database, they are often considered unreliable data to inform larger decisions and discussions. However, any university or educational institution should recommend that their teachers welcome this type of feedback since it can be crucial to identify time-sensitive issues. Tools like Explorance BlueML allows institutions to take text comments from any source and turn them into actionable data that can then be used to make timely decisions.

Benefits of student feedback

The benefits of properly gathered and analyzed feedback are seemingly endless. When educational leaders have the correct data, they are able to make informed decisions that make students feel understood, creating a partnership with their learning population. Here are just a few of the benefits most commonly experienced:

Improved teaching quality

For many university instructors, the classroom can be a challenging environment. Despite their high level of technical understanding, instructors can often struggle to design course content in a manner that leads to student success. However, they are often none the wiser about this situation if they don’t receive student feedback to that effect.

Student feedback is the most efficient way to improve teaching quality without the awkwardness of having to communicate these issues directly.

Increased student engagement and motivation

Just like anyone else, students want to feel heard and that their voice has an impact. When they do, they are more likely to take their classes seriously and persevere through rough patches since they know their university has their backs.

Better student-teacher communication

Most students are intimidated by their instructors, and while they might feel comfortable asking them for advice or help in the class, they most likely won’t tell their instructors that their curriculum needs work. A formal feedback gathering program offers a safe space for students to give their opinions without feeling awkward.

How to collect student feedback

Starting to collect student feedback can be as simple as a few questions on a sheet of paper passed around a class at the end of the semester. However, if you want to truly use it as a vector of growth in your institution, you’ll need to make it a bit more sophisticated.

Asking the right questions

You should spend a long time devising a set of questions that represent your institution, your classroom, your student body and the issues they might be facing. Ideally, this should also be a collaboration opportunity between you, your teaching staff and your students. The best feedback gathering questions are always done when students are involved in the conversation from the start.

Tools and technologies for collecting feedback

While many institutions still rely on paper, technology platforms are an incredible asset that universities should rely on for student feedback gathering. Not only do they automate and streamline the process, but they also allow you to analyze the data you gathered much more efficiently than if it was done on paper.

Another interesting technological development is machine learning. Tools like Explorance BlueML allow you to analyze sentiment and identify keywords within large comment datasets. Since most universities have thousands of students at the same time, it has become a critical analysis solution for student feedback.

How to use student feedback

Gathering feedback from students in itself is an important act that makes students feel valued, but they will only feel heard if you act on the results. Student feedback should be an important deciding factor on all decisions within an educational institution, and there are virtually no areas where it can’t be a beneficial influence.

Analyzing and interpreting feedback data

It is crucial to have a discussion about analysis methods before you start the feedback-gathering process since it can influence the type of questions you ask.

For example, it can be a good idea to categorize answers by age or generation if your institution has a lot of adult-aged students. Same thing if you have atypical faculties that could have unforeseen requirements or problems.

Using feedback to orient decisions

Showing your students that their feedback has influenced your decision-making is essential to this type of initiative. You should be fully transparent with the results, posting them on a public forum to clarify the link between data and decisions for everyone involved.

There are three main areas where changes are most noticeable, and they should be your focus:

  • Teaching practices: While this can be a touchy subject in some cases, this is more about showing the students that their teachers are being held to the same standards expected of them. It also makes students partners in their own learning.
  • Curriculum design: Curriculums should never be designed in a vacuum. It is critical to listen to student feedback to inform how a curriculum is designed. This especially impacts incoming students – as they can see whether or not the feedback provided by their predecessors was implemented.
  • Campus facilities: At the end of the day, students are the ones benefiting from and using the campus facilities, and they should have the most say in their improvements and developments.

Student Feedback and Transparency

Student feedback used to be in the “nice to have” category, but it has quickly evolved into a crucial part of a Higher Education Institution’s operations. Technology has made extensive data analysis accessible to anyone, allowing institutions around the world to make informed decisions that involve all key stakeholders.

Student feedback isn’t just a better way to make decisions; it’s about your institution being more transparent and accountable to the students. It will make your university run more efficiently and become a selling point over time. Students want to attend a school that will grow and evolve with them in their most formative years. Proper feedback practices will benefit you and your students in the long run.

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