Teaching and Learning Activities
Student voice and support case studies
Developing novel approaches to provide support, advice and guidance for students: Kevin Deighton
Widening participation in higher education has increased the range of student support needs to maximise engagement, progression and academic success. Maintaining engagement across large and diverse student cohorts represents a relatively new challenge and it seems apparent that traditional approaches to advice and guidance provision to enhance the engagement and outcomes for students may not always be possible or effective. This has stimulated a growing need for institutions to develop evidence-informed resources to enhance the provision of advice and guidance for university students.
This case study will discuss the outcomes from a cost-effective targeted text messaging intervention to more effectively support students and to provide relevant advice and guidance. The provision of text messaging highlighted the support available to students and appeared to improve relevant outcomes including progression rates, grades and attendance. Although this represents a starting point for discussions, further consideration of how to engage students with the advice and guidance available is required. Methods for identifying the students who may benefit most from accessing advice and guidance should also be considered, as well as how messages can be tailored to minimise genericism across cohorts.
Ultimately, it is hoped that discussions around this topic will stimulate ideas for more effectively providing advice and guidance to students.
NSS Qu 13: I have received sufficient advice and guidance in relation to my course
Planning progressive study support : Jackie Campbell & Meg Soosay
At Level 4 it is about transitioning to university, finding a peer-group and integrating student expectations into teaching. An integrated approach ensures that students view what they study as relevant to progression and employment. This approach encourages them to be goal-driven and, early on in their course, students evidence this by recording their expectations into an online Personal Development Programme (PDP). Academic advisors access the information during one-to-one student meetings. Recognising individual abilities allows tutors to provide tailored advice. Students receive feedback in class and are given strategies for self-assessment, which helps build resilience.
By Level 5 we expect a level of ownership of their work, assessments are more open to interpretation allowing students to direct their own learning. We encourage students to reflect on their work; this is assisted by peer review and group activities. A team project challenges the students to consider other students’ learning strategies and skills towards a shared objective. Many are uncomfortable with the lack of autonomy; the tutors aim to gently guide them through this towards a stronger project. L5 is also a year when we encourage and support students in taking a year out in industry - a process based on their individual aspirations.
At Level 6, students work on their final-year projects and are expected to synthesise knowledge and apply that to practical solutions. Understanding individual aspirations are more important than ever to get students to apply creativity in exploring new and innovative areas. The study guidance provided at L6 gets students to focus on becoming well-rounded graduates. A graduate who successfully secured a good IT position recently said: “I believe in the saying that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation, and I would be a fool not to thank you for preparing me well enough so I could attain this job”.
NSS Qu 14: Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices on my course
Feedback case study: the loop : Brett Lashua
Too often, feedback is an afterthought, an afterword; it happens too late, at the completion of a semester or year’s work. Additionally, no matter how much, how constructive, or how “forward” it may be, when falling as the last step in a chain, feedback (ironically) also risks being just the first step in a conversation. How rarely do students then respond, in turn, to instructors’ feedback? In this, feedback is the closing of a conversation.
Feedback, in popular music, is neither start nor end; it’s a loop. Feedback happens when outputs (e.g., sounds from speakers or amplifiers) are re-routed back into a system as inputs (e.g., returning through a guitar pickup or a microphone) in a chain, or circle. Thinking through module, level, or course feedback as a loop is useful—it invites consideration of where conversations (“inputs”) begin, and where outputs may become further inputs, and on and on. Rather than kicking off conversations, or closing them off, they’re generative; they build. (Anyone who’s ever stood in front of a guitar amp that is feeding back will know just how generative this can be.) How then, can feedback processes become more generative like in a feedback loop?
This isn’t new: twenty years ago, Powney and Hall (1998) also visualised a loop in their student feedback studies. They offered that “student satisfaction alone provides inadequate evidence of quality of provision and of effective learning” (p. iv). That measure is an afterthought. They advocated “a more active role in formative course evaluation” (p. iv) for students, through a variety of formal and informal approaches during a course—i.e., more feedback inputs and outputs. This, they concluded, would help “close the loop” by providing feedback about students’ programs of study (i.e., NSS question 23: “I have the right opportunities to provide feedback on my course”). Rather than closing, how might we get in the loop, and also turn up the volume?
Powney, J., and Hall, S. (1998) Closing the loop: The impact of student feedback on students' subsequent learning. Edinburgh: Scottish Council for Research in Education.
NSS Qu 23: I have the right opportunities to provide feedback on my course
Effective use of student voice mechanisms to involve students in course enhancement : John Goodwin & Lizzy Cartwright
The Course Representative and School Forum systems, organised in partnership by the Students’ Union and University, provide great opportunities to hear student views and opinions, and to communicate back any changes and improvements that have been made as a result.
Some excellent examples can be pointed to in the School of Cultural Studies and Humanities, who have achieved well-attended School Forums that have resulted in timely and visible improvements. This School benefits from a particularly engaged School Representative, Lizzy Cartwright, who plays a key role in organising and leading the Forums, and utilises a range of methods to gather feedback from the students she represents. There is also demonstrable support from staff at all levels within the School, including the Dean who allowed students to play an active role in shaping the development of the new social learning space in Broadcasting Place.
Lizzy is also supported by officers and staff in the Students’ Union to extract key details from School Forum discussions and provide a report to the relevant School Academic Committees. This approach recently resulted in a change to the ‘Theory and Practice’ module on the English and History course, which will now incorporate developing a skills-based CV instead of a Lit Review assignment, after students commented that they didn’t know how to articulate the skills they had learnt on the course in the wider world. Lizzy also points to the fact that she leaves each meeting with a clear understanding of any actions that have been agreed, even if they were compromises or explanations of why feedback may not be acted on, so that she can relay this information back to Course Reps and the students they represent.
NSS Qu 24: Staff value students’ views and opinions about the course