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Informal Check-ins

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The University is requiring that for all modules, in both Semester 1 and Semester 2, academic units undertake an informal check-in mid-way through the semester (see student voice schedule). Getting early student feedback helps identify and resolve issues students flag. To support staff with these informal check-ins, a toolkit of methods has been produced.

The purpose of informal check-ins is to capture a snapshot of students’ satisfaction and opinion to allow changes to be made in line with existing policy and processes. Based on examples currently used by the School of Psychology, School of Criminology and using evidence and guidance produced by Higher Education Academy, the following examples have been identified as ‘good practice’. At the end of the resources section a link to three School practices at Newcastle University is also included.

Using a variety of evaluation methods avoids survey fatigue while still allowing students the opportunity to feedback on modules. Conducting informal check-ins allows staff and Module Leaders to act on issues within the cohort. If Schools wish to use a different approach to evaluation, they should seek the advice of the Educational Policy and Governance Service team.

Reporting

It is important that any information collected is considered and any actions fed back to the student body and is linked up with your School’s agreed approach to closing the feedback loop.

Timing & Frequency:
informal check-ins should be conducted in accordance with the Student Voice Schedule. This means for all modules, an informal check-in is required in both semesters 1 and 2.

Students should be advised in advance that feedback will be requested to allow time to reflect on aspects of their learning and suggest improvement.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Advantages and disadvantages to each method are detailed in Table 1 to allow selection of appropriate methods suitable to individual modules.

Table 1. A summary of some of the advantages and disadvantages of mechanisms used to gather student feedback
MechanismAdvantagesDisadvantages
In-class questionnaires
  • Inclusive (assuming a census and a good response rate)
  • Can provide quantitative and qualitative information
  • Depending on the degree of standardisation, can provide comparisons and trends
  • Does not require a great deal of time commitment from individual students
  • Frequency and number may induce questionnaire fatigue if taking multiple modules
  • Response rates may be low if using online methods
  • Time spent on analysis
  • Students may not get information on results and any actions taken
  • Actions may not be taken
Stop, Start, Continue, feedback
  • Inclusive (assuming a census and a good response rate)
  • Can provide quality qualitative information
  • Does not require a great of time deal  of time commitment from individual students
  • Frequency and number may induce questionnaire fatigue if taking multiple modules
  • May be costly in terms of time spent on analysis
  • Students may not get information on results and any actions taken
  • Actions may not be taken
Focus groups
& tutorials
  • Useful for engaging students in dialogue and highlighting issues of concern
  • Can provide a rich source of information
  • Good opportunities for dialogue and testing out ideas
  • Enables exploration of an issue(s) in depth
  • Facilitator can be neutral
  • Useful for more personal exchanges of views on the student’s experience
  • Can find out immediately how things are going
  • (Some) problems can be dealt with immediately
  • May be resource intensive (in terms of student/staff time, analysis and interpretation of results)
  • The student group may not be representative of the student population
  • May be intimidating for some students
  • Vocal students may dominate discussion
  • Compromises student anonymity and confidentiality
  • Requires specialist input to secure
  • Effective facilitation and discussion
  • Can be anecdotal – does not provide hard data

Adapted from Advantages and Disadvantages identified by HEA in “Collecting and using student feedback - a guide to good practice