Three tips to get the most out of your student surveys

By Tumisu CC0

It’s that time of year when we ask our students to fill in Unit of Study Surveys, plus the Feedback for Teachers Survey if you choose, so how can we make the most of this process? Get a good response rate and useful feedback from your students with these top tips.

This article was originally posted on the Staff Intranet and has been republished here with permission.

1) Let students know what it’s all about

If students understand why we’re asking them to fill in a survey, they’re more likely to do it. Let your students know why we survey them and how the results help you. Research shows that if you spend a bit of time in class explaining the purpose and importance of it, your students are more likely to fill in the survey. You could demonstrate in class what the survey looks like and the questions asked, explain how you use the results, and reassure students that the survey results are confidential. Remind students they can win fantastic prizes by filling in the surveys. For example, for the period 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2017, the Unit of Study Survey prizes are:

  • 1st prize: 13-inch MacBook Air
  • 2nd prize: iPad mini 4 Wi-Fi 64GB
  • 3rd prize: 38mm Apple Watch Sport

Find out more about the student surveys. A tip from an academic in Education (PG unit, n=62, survey response rate = 73%):

I think they felt their voices would be heard and that I would respond.

2) Remind students and give them class time

It’s clear that if you give students time in class to fill in the surveys online, you’ll get more responses. You can simulate the ‘captive audience’ concept of a paper-and-pencil survey by making time in class for students to do the surveys on their laptops, smartphones or tablets. Remind students about the survey through a variety of mediums: face-to-face classes, class emails, or Blackboard notices. An academic in Medicine (1st year unit, n=389, survey response rate = 68%) suggests:

We provided time to complete the survey during the revision lecture in Week 13 when we knew it would be attended by the maximum number of students. We reiterated that their feedback drives our course development and improvement.

3) Make the results count 

One of the best ways to show students why the surveys are useful is to give them real examples of how previous survey results have been used to make changes in your unit. So make the survey results count by discussing student feedback as a teaching team. For example, the School of Information Technologies, in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, found students wanted more quality feedback on practical work, so the unit coordinator and tutors met to find a way to complete marking in the lab.

If you are a unit of study coordinator, it would be great if you would complete the Close the Loop comment after you’ve received the Unit of Study Survey results. Just a simple acknowledgement and an initial response shows that we appreciate the time students take to fill surveys in, and that we are listening. An academic in Social and Political Science (3rd year unit, n=397, survey response rate = 65%) advises:

Talk to the students about why you value their feedback from the Unit of Study Surveys and how you use it. Discuss with your tutoring team why it is important for students to complete it.

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