The TEDS Team has been receiving inquiries and feedback about student surveys in 2020 S1. A common question is whether it is “worth” doing surveys this session at all, given the disruption to both teaching and student learning, and the general stress and anxiety of the COVID-19 situation.

At the PVC-L&T Forum this week, Professor Dominique Parrish made it clear that student surveys in Session 1 should be treated as purely formative, due to the highly unusual circumstances in which our teaching, learning activities and assessment are taking place. It’s well understood by the University that, despite the massive effort that staff are putting in to doing our absolute best for our students, the learning experience for students will not necessarily be all we would like it to be. The decision to conduct at TEDS survey is up to individual teachers and unit convenors.

That still leaves us with the original question: Is it “worth” doing student feedback surveys this time around?

Here are some reasons to seek students’ feedback, even (or especially) at this challenging time.

1. Seeking students’ feedback through a formal survey can provide valuable information about how they are experiencing learning in this session, that would otherwise be unavailable to you.

It’s precisely the current disruption and disconnection that makes it important to seek student feedback. You’re not seeing them in person – if they’re lucky they’ll get a glimpse of each other online in a Zoom tutorial. You’re not able to use your experience and intuition to detect the puzzled look, the frown, the question on the verge of being asked… the everyday feedback that we use in almost unconscious ways to adapt to our students’ needs. A TEDS survey can’t replace this immediate feedback, but it is an alternative way to gather information for reflection on how you connect with students in the online environment.

2. Seeking students’ feedback can help build engagement, partnership and a sense of belonging.

Here’s a student’s Tweet from Monday 23rd March, post “lockdown”:

It speaks volumes about the impact of the current situation on students’ engagement with and attachment to their courses of study and the University itself. And let’s face it, staff are going through some similar experiences – physically separate from campus, friends, colleagues and social support, concerned about families, coming to grips with learning and communication technologies and tools that are new to them, figuring out how to do assessment tasks differently, and worried about wellbeing, income and job security. We have probably never had so much in common with our students.

Now is a good time to build empathy and partnership around that shared experience, to show that you genuinely care about what students are experiencing, and that you genuinely want their feedback so that you, your Faculty and the University as a whole can learn to better support students in the next stage of their learning and of the COVID-19 response, whatever that might be.

3. Even if response rates are down, students’ comments will provide valuable information.

With students physically separated from the campus and meeting the challenges of a shift to online delivery and largely asynchronous interaction with each other and their teachers, and with all surveys being conducted online, we would not be surprised to see students engaging somewhat less in TEDS surveys this session.

Nevertheless, you can still gain valuable data and insights from students’ qualitative responses, especially if you communicate to students that you are genuinely interested in hearing about their experience of learning in a new environment. Students’ comments enable you to gain insights into their experiences and perspectives, and to reflect on and enhance your teaching practice. They may also help you reflect on your own response to the uncertainty and ambiguity of the current situation, which in turn can help you build your own resilience in challenging times.

In summary…

In turbulent times such as these, we might not get as many responses to our surveys as we would like, and there might be some venting due to frustration and disappointment – but this is also a really good opportunity to demonstrate to students, through our empathy and shared experience of change, that we genuinely want to understand their experience this session. This builds our educational partnership with students, and helps to maintain their sense of attachment to the University and their learning pathway, despite the way The Virus has turned our lives upside-down this year.

Convinced? We hope so!

Now check out this post on Practical tips for making the most of your TEDS surveys

Note: The Learning Innovation Hub is currently consulting to develop a student feedback survey aimed at gauging students’ overall experience with the University’s L&T response to the COVID-19 situation. This survey will largely consist of open-ended items and will be delivered in Week 10. The results will be aggregated at the level of year and demographic cohorts, and at course level, rather than at unit level. This survey will not replace unit-level LET and LEU surveys.

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Posted by Cathy Rytmeister

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