What Is the Role of Module Evaluation Surveys in Measuring Teaching Excellence?

Written by John Atherton, General Manager (Europe and Africa), Explorance.

John Atherton blog image 27 Aug

Reading Time: Less than 3 mins

Synopsis: After a recent appearance at the Westminister Higher Education Forum, Explorance’s GM Europe & Africa John Atherton recounts recent trends and developments influencing measurement and assessment efforts in the UK’s Higher Education space.

Following the publication of Explorance’s Module Evaluation in a Pandemic and Beyond report in March, I was invited to speak at the Westminster Higher Education Forum on ‘Next steps for reforming the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and ensuring teaching excellence in HE’.

I took part in a stimulating panel discussion on ‘Measuring teaching excellence, student satisfaction and outcomes – the four aspects of assessment, reviewing the National Student Survey (NSS), and balancing between university experience and incentivising academic rigour’ alongside leaders from the University of Bristol, University of Westminster, Association of Colleges and Nous Group. You can see my event slides here.

Whilst I am by no means an authority on the TEF, or on HE policy, I was asked to share my experience working with universities through the way they capture, analyse and utilise feedback from students, and especially around module evaluation and other student surveys, to support teaching excellence.

I was able to point to research-informed evidence we have developed over recent years,  including our 2019 research report on The Student Voice and 2020 eBook on Engaging The Student Voice in Our ‘New Normal’, as well as many case studies of institutions we are supporting, including improving module evaluation as a measurement and as an indicator of NSS outcomes which inform the TEF.

At a high level, it is clear that the NSS and the TEF will remain, but also that they will evolve. The move to measure ‘student academic experience’, rather than ‘satisfaction’, can elevate the role of module evaluation surveys, as they are the primary and most frequent opportunity for students to provide feedback on their student academic experience.

Universities will continue to adapt and improve the process of capturing student voice to be as responsive as possible, not just to feedback given by students, but also make use of the other data that they collect at all levels across the institution. Module evaluation surveys are an effective measurement of teaching excellence.

The insight we were able to provide on student perspectives, taken from Module Evaluation in a Pandemic and Beyond, was particularly useful to share and I was able to offer five key issues for universities to consider going forward:

  • End-of module evaluation surveys are “here to stay” – but mid-module or interim Pulse surveys can often complement these.
  • Closing the feedback loop is the biggest challenge facing universities around module evaluation surveys.
  • Students want better and more open communication to help them understand what changes are possible in follow-up and therefore to manage their expectations.
  • There is a lack of understanding as to how their feedback is used (and benefits them), and is applied by their HEI for quality assurance and quality enhancement purposes.
  • There are inconsistencies in approach across the sector, but ‘partnerships’ between universities and Student Unions are on the rise.

It was a privilege for myself, and Explorance, to be approached to give our perspectives on this important topic at an event chaired by Lord Norton of Louth, Chair of the Higher Education Commission, and Daniel Zeichner MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Universities, and featuring the Office for Students.

It was particularly pleasing to see module evaluation surveys being given a seat at the top table in terms of discussion around the bigger issue of ensuring teaching excellence in HE.

John Atherton, General Manager (Europe and Africa), Explorance

John Atherton, General Manager (Europe and Africa), Explorance

Learn More About How Students in Higher Education are Rating Institutional Responsiveness 

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