How are Business Schools capturing, and acting on, student feedback?

Discover five trends in Business Schools’ collection and use of student feedback, based on a new report from Explorance

Changes to teaching and learning, initially as a result of Covid-19, raised serious questions about how the student voice is captured and acted on, especially given higher education’s reliance on face-to-face approaches for doing so, and how this links to student satisfaction.

Institutions are adopting a number of approaches when it comes to ‘listening’ to students’ views about their teaching and learning experience (and wider student experience) and what comes back should be a critical informer of strategy development. It is a huge issue, and a huge challenge for the sector, which needs insight on ‘how’ to do this.

Examining global perspectives on student feedback

Feedback Matters: Business and Management Education Focus Report, a new report from Explorance, examines how student feedback – including feedback derived through evaluation surveys – influences institutional enhancement. It also poses the question: ‘How can the student voice deliver transformational business and management education?’

Based on in-depth thinking from senior academic and professional staff from Business Schools, as well as business and management faculties, around the world, the report shares strategies underpinning student insight; differentiated approaches to capturing, and responding to, student feedback; and how challenges are being addressed. It also highlights best practice case studies on student voice policy and implementation, and delves into the future for teaching and learning in business and management education, including how student feedback will support this evolution.

With perspectives gathered from Australia, Egypt, Sweden, UK and the US, the report shows just how seriously student feedback is being taken and how business and management education providers are collecting and responding to feedback about different aspects of the experience at different points in time. This is, of course, not just an issue facing business and management education – it affects the whole university sector – and indeed, two other reports we have published in the past 18 months show that student ownership and engagement is fundamental to the success of this process.

Five trends in student feedback

So, as Business Schools and university-based business and management faculties have ramped up their approaches to student engagement/student feedback, what are the common trends emerging that institutions need to know?

1* Institutions have successfully ‘pivoted’
Covid-19, and the move from face-to-face to online learning, means that alongside traditional end-of-module evaluation surveys, many institutions have embraced mid-module surveys for assessment of teaching and learning. Pulse surveys – providing quick and light-touch feedback – have also risen in prominence given the need for institutions to better understand how students are feeling at any given time. These are used for course evaluation and wider assessments of student sentiment and wellbeing.

2* Students don’t know how feedback is used
Students’ perceptions – and lack of understanding – as to how their feedback is used, how it might immediately benefit them, and how it is applied by their institution for quality assurance and quality enhancement purposes, is a problem. While there is a clear expectation from student leaders that institutions should actively listen to course evaluation feedback, better and more open communication is required to help students understand what changes are possible in follow-up and, therefore, to manage their expectations.

3* ‘Closing the loop’ remains the biggest issue
Closing the feedback loop is, and has been for a long time, the biggest challenge facing institutions around course evaluation surveys and one that is still not addressed sufficiently. Students expect to see change as a result of their feedback. However, there is a lack of consistency in how the sector approaches this and closes the loop. Institutions need to be much clearer on how they act on course evaluation survey feedback and be more transparent on what they can and cannot do in response.

4* Opportunity to delve into demographics
For a long time, institutions have talked about the need to better understand how different groups of students view their course. For example, through an analysis of feedback based on the characteristics of populations, such as age, race and gender. Delving deeper into who is satisfied or dissatisfied with their education experience could support student progression, satisfaction and (for those who may be unhappy) retention. This has fallen off the radar during the pandemic, but a number of institutions are now picking up projects to better understand demographic data. They are also capturing the views of students on different modes of delivery.

5* Course evaluation surveys are here to stay
Academic leaders generally share the opinion that traditional module evaluation surveys remain a hugely valuable component of capturing student feedback, with student reps highlighting these as ‘robust and measurable’. End-of-semester summative evaluation surveys – which provide standardisation on questions that enables comparisons between courses/between cohorts –  are being complemented with formative feedback. This gives lecturers the opportunity to seek feedback through bespoke, non-standard, questions during a module. Evaluations are also generally all done online now.

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Whatever direction the pandemic, or other global events, take over the next 12 months, and their impact on teaching and learning, student feedback is a proven approach to informing quality assurance and enhancement within institutions. Given the rich data they provide, surveys will remain the primary channel for student feedback on the educational experience. Institutions questioning where they put their efforts – or new beginnings – post-Covid, should consider combining the best of old and new ‘normals’.

John Atherton is General Manager (Europe and Africa) at Explorance, which helps Business Schools and universities improve teaching and learning through the way they capture, analyse and respond to student feedback.

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