Getting Studentâ€™s Views A key part of the Course Rep role is to talk to other students and find out what they think of the course, not just about what needs changing but also what works well and can be built upon. Course Reps need to consult widely and liaise with students on their course.
This quick guide has been developed to provide you with some useful tips about the different methods you can use to get studentsâ€™ views and also makes some suggestions about presenting your findings.
Talking to Other Students on a 1:1 basis Students may come to you with a particular issue â€“ be sensitive and approachable. Ask if they would like to go somewhere private to chat. Try to get as much detail as possible about their concern and keep notes so that you have a record of what was said.
Identify whether this is a concern which is personal, or whether they feel other students share their concerns. If the latter, you will need to consider how you would be able to substantiate this with other students. Make sure you give feedback about the action you have taken
It may be that you want to find out the views of students by talking to them on a 1:1 basis. This will provide you with a lot of information about a topic, but you may only have time to ask a small number of people. Therefore think about: • Who do you need to talk to and why? There may be specific students that you want to target. • Where will you hold the sessions (place/timing)? • How long do you think each session will take? • What specific questions do you need answers to? • How will you record their views. It might be useful to have a sheet with the questions already typed out and space for you to write in below. • Once you have got their views, how will you provide an overview about what they have said? This type of survey (qualitative) provides a lot of information but because you only talk to a few people it is not reflective of the whole group. Therefore think very carefully about why you would want to use this approach.
Getting A Group Together to Discuss General / Specific Topics Getting a group together is a good way to explore an issue and provides a lot of information on a topic.
Think about when you will hold the session. Is it easy / convenient for people to attend? Do people know the time / date of the meeting is (publicity)? Have you got a suitable venue / room? Are people clear about the topic you want to discuss and why? How many people turn up? If you only get 10 out of a year group of 80 then you need to be careful about how you feedback their findings. The other 70 people may have different views, but you don’t know about these. Decide beforehand how you will capture people’s views. It may be useful to tape record the session (get agreement from people first) or ask a friend to write down the key points. It’s very difficult to run a session and write down what’s said at the same time. Think about your own presentation skills and how you run the session. It’s useful to set out the format of the meeting first, and some ‘ground rules’ (making sure everyone has an opportunity to speak, courtesy etc).
Asking Students to Fill In A Survey Getting people to fill in a survey is a good way of finding out about the views of a number of people. However, before rushing into designing a survey and handing it out, there are some things that you need to think about: • • • • • • • • • • • • •
What specific questions are you going to ask and why? Consider what the end report needs to look like/contain as you develop your survey Will people be interested enough to want to take part? How much time have you got to do this? Are the questions clear and unambiguous (everyone interprets them the same)? Make sure you remain neutral / don’t ask leading questions Keep the survey concise and focused. If its too long people wont answer it. Try not to ask for lots of personal details How many surveys will you send out and will you give/send them out/on-line etc? What is the cost? How will you get responses back if paper copies? Do you have/need the skills to analyse the responses (Excel?) Make sure you have somewhere secure to store the survey – there are laws about this!
A Bit More About Surveys…. •
Have you developed good response sets?. ‘Open ended’ responses allow people to fill in their answers in their own words – but this takes a lot of time to collate and analyse. Therefore closed response sets are useful. Simply asking people to fill in a box ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ though isn’t always a good idea. Try to incorporate scales (such as Agree Strongly, Agree to Some Extent, Disagree to Some Extent, Strongly Disagree) or ask for additional information on a few specific issues (for example, ‘if you answered ‘No’ please explain why). Make sure that your response sets are logical
Once you have got your responses back – • What is your response rate (how many back/how many sent out)? 50-60% is good. • Before you do any data entry or analysis, check the data for logic/accuracy • When presenting your date, use descriptive Statistics to describe the basic features of the data. They provide simple summaries about the sample and the measures. Together with simple graphics analysis, they form the basis of virtually every quantitative analysis of data. With descriptive statistics you are simply describing what is, what the data shows. • Make sure you store the data securely.
•Identify The Need/ Opportunity STEP 1 Design the Survey
•Set Objectives & Plan •Design & Pilot Questionnaire •Send Out Survey
STEP 2 Run the Survey
•Obtain Responses •Clean Data •Analyse Data into useful information
STEP 3 Reports, Analysis & Action
•Create & Present Reports
•Interventions and Actions
Other methods: Comment Boards / Suggestions Boxes Boards • Can be good way of getting views on a topic (positive and negative) • Need to have code of conduct (depersonalised, not abusive) • Need to be managed (you need to edit and remove any offensive materials) • Good way to show action – You Said / We Did
Boxes • Can be good way of getting views on a topic (positive and negative) • Anonymous • Need to be accessible, secure and managed
Presenting Your Findings • When your survey and analysis has been completed, the final step in the survey process is to present your findings, which involves the creation of a short report.
• This report should include a background of why you conducted the survey, a breakdown of the results, and conclusions and, dependent upon the project, suggestions/recommendations. • This is one of the most important aspects of your survey as it is the key in communicating your findings to those who can make decisions to take action on those results.
Background - before you start working on the details of your report, explain (briefly) the general background of your project. If you will be presenting the findings to your audience (the decisionmakers), you will need to make the basis for your project clear. Identify research objectives - outline the goals and objectives you set out to achieve. Before you constructed your survey, you had a plan as to the information you needed to get from your respondents. Once you had those goals in mind, your survey questions were chosen. Did your respondent's answers give you the information you sought after when you designed the survey? Make a list of the objectives you set out when you started, those objectives that were met and those that were not, and any other information relating to the planning process. Explain the data collection process - specify how your data was captured. Be specific as what type of survey you used - online, telephone, or paper-based etc. Also consider who and how many it was sent to, and how the analysis was conducted. Describe your findings - explain the findings from your project, especially facts that were important, unusual, or surprising. Briefly highlight some of the key points that were uncovered in your results. Label charts clearly. Finalise your thoughts and make suggestions / recommendations - summarise findings in concise statements so that an action plan can be discussed. Your conclusions and recommendations should be based on the data that you have gathered. It is from these final statements that committees / management will make their decisions on how to take action on a given situation. Be professional – think about the way in which information is presented, the language you use and the impact it will have. Think about impact and wider dissemination (see the example from York)
For more information About Surveys •
Writing Good Survey Questions • •
Dr Katherine Birch is very happy to help you design your surveys or to advise on projects etc. Contact her on email@example.com or pop and see her in FML 113.
Produced by LUH for Course Reps, this short guide explores some key methods for getting feedback and give tips to think about