Dr Asha Venkatesh tells us about introducing SCEF feedback sessions to communicate with students about the impact of their feedback on course design and development.

Background: In Years 1-3 of the MBChB Programme teaching occurs in blocks of human body systems (e.g. nervous system), covering normality and disease with end-of-block Student Course Evaluation Forms (SCEFs) and an Annual Course Review at the end of the academic year. While SCEF reports give us an indication of teaching and learning issues, they may not always provide sufficient detail. Qualitative free text responses are helpful but not always present. Figure 1 shows a question in a Year 2 SCEF (GI block October 2017) where students seemed to have an issue but no further details were identified. Annual course reviews, apart from being quite broad-brush would only allow for changes to be made for the subsequent academic year.

Please click here for Figure 1.  

Another problem was diminishing SCEF response rates, in one instance to as low as 17%. While the cause of this may be multifactorial, free text comments such as “I don’t know if anybody reads these SCEFs…” indicate students lack awareness of how staff use SCEFs to improve the course. They may therefore be unlikely engage with the process to provide good quality feedback. (Brennan and Williams, 2006).

Solution: “‘Closing the Loop’ refers to ways in which student feedback influenced course provision and in turn was mirrored back to enhance students’ learning.” (Powney and Hall, 1998)

In 2016 we introduced SCEF feedback sessions, to communicate with students about the impact of their feedback on course design and development. We took SCEF reports back into the lecture theatre and opened the floor up for discussions. From the outset, the sessions inspired in-depth discussion and a forum for students to express their opinion on what mattered to them. It afforded us an opportunity to incorporate immediate improvements/ modifications where needed thus improving student experience. In the case of the HRP session, following a SCEF feedback session, in December 2017 we introduced a more focussed session at a different venue conducing to group discussions leading to improvements in SCEF the same academic year (Figure 1, nervous system block) and free text comments such as “HRP was excellent, love the new format so much more than the old way in the lecture”. There was increased engagement with SCEFs and while this enthusiasm appears to have tailed off in 2018 technical issues and proximity to assessments might have contributed. (Figure 2)

Please click here for Figure 2.

Evaluation: Student opinion on SCEF feedback sessions was sought. Table 1 shows some representative quotes.

I found these sessions very very useful. A lot of the time, as students you question why the university do things the way they do, and it can sometimes feel like your concerns are not listened to. However ..(this session) allow us to explain why we had these issues with the course, and on the majority of occasions you could provide a perfect explanation as to why the course was run in this way.

It provides a great opportunity to explore the SCEF forms and allows students to explain their point further if unclear and also to see whether this is a common issue that most students experience. They complement the SSLCs/Executives as this provides the whole year group the opportunity to understand and appreciate the ongoing work to improve our course

I believe the SCEF feedback sessions were useful as it’s a good opportunity for teaching staff to inform us how our views/opinions on the course have been received and if any changes have been implemented. It’s nice to know our views have been appreciated and taken seriously.

 

Table 1: Feedback from students about the SCEF feedback sessions

Impact: In addition to allowing incorporation of immediate course improvements and gathering increased good quality feedback from students the success of the scheme has led to the Year 3 MBChB lead team implementing these sessions in 2017-18 after the students requested this.

Conclusion: SCEF feedback sessions are easy to introduce and run. For the course organiser, they provide improved insight into student issues and experiences and an opportunity to incorporate immediate positive changes.  For the students, it provides a palpable feeling of empowerment and involvement in course design. In summary they are a very effective way of closing the feedback loop.

References:

  1. Brennan, J. and Williams, R., 2006. Collecting and using student feedback: a guide to good practice. Learning and Teaching Support Network.
  2. 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.