Student voice: a powerful informer of business education transformation
The University of Edinburgh Business School was recently invited to contribute to a publication which examines how student feedback – including feedback derived through all-important course evaluation surveys – positively influences institutional enhancement.
Feedback Matters: Business and Management Education Focus Report, produced by Explorance, convenes in-depth thinking from experts in business schools and university-based business and management faculties and shares strategies underpinning student insight; differentiated approaches to capturing, and responding to, student feedback; and specific challenges and how these are being addressed.
It also highlights best practice case studies on student voice policy and practice and delves into the future for teaching and learning in business and management education, including how student feedback will support this evolution.
This is an issue that is of the highest strategic importance to the University of Edinburgh Business School, as in 2020 we developed and implemented a new Student Voice policy and are therefore always pleased to share our learnings.
Our aims are to foster student reflection on their own efforts and engagement; review and where appropriate amend our programmes, courses and extensive student development programmes; inform students about action taken where possible and reasons why action could not be taken if relevant; identify and celebrate good practice; and focus on enhancement.
The policy is implemented though means such as mid-course feedback, end-of-course course enhancement questionnaires, end-of-programme mini surveys, as well as Student-Staff Liaison Committees (SSLC), ‘Town Hall’ meetings and informal and ad hoc feedback. Our strategy is therefore to collect and respond to feedback about different aspects of the experience at different points in time – while a course is ongoing, when a course has ended, and when a student completes their programme of study.
As part of the mid-course feedback event, the course organiser will respond either immediately or subsequently, whichever is feasible. Through the ‘feedback on feedback’ process, they will respond to the course enhancement questionnaire via two responses: one to the incumbent class recognising their feedback and with proposed action, where relevant, and to next year’s class acknowledging the feedback from the previous year with information about action taken.
We are supported in this by a number of student representatives on school and programme level, who work as a conduit between the student body and the school. Placing students at the centre of governance, the two school representatives are full members of the School Executive and school or programme representatives may lead on the SSLC meetings and the ‘Town Hall’. This is an invaluable aspect.
Jointly reflecting on the strategy and progress, 2021-22 Undergraduate School Representative Florence Barnard and 2020-21 Undergraduate School Representative Pippa Gosden, reported: “The business school is placing increasing emphasis on the importance of feedback in improving student experience. Through schemes such as course, programme and school representatives, as well as public Student Council meetings, the student voice is not only getting louder, but being heard. The feeling of working with the representatives is really empowering and as a student you feel your voice is being heard. It is especially rewarding when the School listens and acts upon our advice.”
Beyond our school, it is interesting to note that Explorance have said in their own coverage of Feedback Matter that the insight emerging “shows just how seriously the student voice is being taken and how business schools and university-based business and management faculties are collecting and responding to feedback about different aspects of the experience at different points in time”.
They also suggest that institutions have ramped up and diversified their approaches to student engagement/student feedback during Covid and, as aligned to our experience, “it is also clear that student ownership and engagement is fundamental to the success of this process”.
Whatever direction the pandemic or other global events take, and their impact on teaching and learning, effectively capturing student voice is a proven approach to informing quality assurance and enhancement within business schools. In our case, the combination of rich data from our various surveys combined with substantial student engagement provide us with rich insights into the student experience.
Dr Inger Seiferheld is Director of Quality and Accreditations, and Helen Ryall is Head of Student Experience at the University of Edinburgh Business School