Student Voice and Engagement

This page gives an overview of student voice and engagement for individual teachers and for academic departments.

Other pages in this section areNight photo of the Sheffield University Student Union, lit up with multi-coloured lights:

Academic representation 

Student-staff partnerships

For more information about module/programme feedback surveys, please see the Tell US Google site:

Tell US

What is the student voice?

Student voice is about the different mechanisms we can use for listening to all of our students. These pages focus on student voice in learning and teaching.

What is student engagement?

Student engagement is about involving students in meaningful partnerships with staff around the processes of designing, delivering and enhancing learning and teaching.

Why engage the student voice?

Listening to what students have to say can:

  • Enhance individual teaching practice
  • Inform department and faculty priorities

Providing opportunities for students to feedback on and be involved in programme design will help to:

  • Ensure that programme content is relevant and interesting to students
  • Engage students with their academic learning

Engaging with the student voice is a key component of the Programme Level Approach. View the PLA Google site.

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Engaging the student voice. How does it work in practice?

This diagram shows the cycle of student voice work:

  1. Listen to the student voice
  2. Analyse the student voice
  3. Agree upon action to be taken
  4. Take action
  5. Close the feedback loop

Throughout the process, a team approach is taken and students are involved at every stage.

Student Engagement Cycle

Although there are multiple ways of listening to student voices, it is important to take a holistic approach within programme teams and departments.

Think carefully about how to gather, analyse and act upon information so that the process is meaningful and has an impact on the quality of learning and teaching within the department. You can use our reflective questions to help your thinking. To ensure that students see value in the process, keep them informed of changes being made (and those which can’t be made) as a result of their feedback.

The context in which faculties and departments work varies across the institution, nonetheless, there are some established steps to take to ensure good practice when engaging the student voice.

Listen to the student voice

You can listen to students in a number of different ways and it is important to consider using a variety of methods when doing so. It is also important that students are able to recognise consistency across their programmes in the way these are used.

Listening can be an ongoing process and may include:

  • Informal conversations with students in the classroom and outside of it.
  • Asking students for feedback on post-it notes within/as part of teaching sessions.
  • Departmental suggestion boxes (digital or physical).
  • Conversations between students and Academic Reps (both in person and voiced through various forms of social media).

There will also be specific, timed points in the year when you make a request to listen to the student voice, such as:

  • Planned in class ‘stand-ups’ (run by staff, reps or both) to gather views.
  • Listening to the collective views of students at SSCs and other departmental L&T meetings.
  • Student focus groups or ‘Town Hall’ meetings.
  • End of module feedback surveys via Tell US.
  • End of programme feedback surveys via Tell US.
  • The NSS and other national surveys.

Further information:

Analyse the student voice

The variety of methods you can use to capture the student voice is likely to result in a large amount of student voice data.

It is important, therefore, to have clear policies and processes for handling this information and for informing students about why you are collecting the information and how you will use it.

Different data may be used at different levels. For example:

  • An individual lecturer may gather informal feedback verbally and on post-it notes, as part of their own reflective practice, to make improvements to their teaching.
  • Module evaluations are likely to be shared more widely across teaching teams in the department.

Give consideration to:

  • What happens to the various forms of data and who is responsible for collating and disseminating it.
  • Data analysis methods. Depending on the type of data this may be individual staff, teaching teams or for discussion across the department.
  • The extent to which students are involved in viewing and lending further meaning to the data.
Agree upon and take action

The analysis of student voice data will bring about a need to discuss and agree upon actions to be taken. This is an opportunity to engage students in meaningful partnerships in which they are at the centre of driving changes forward, rather than a process of change being enacted on them.

When deciding upon what actions could be taken it is important to consider:

  • Who is involved in conversations about taking action. Discussions should take place at SSCs and relevant departmental meetings, but may also be opened up to the wider student body through focus groups, larger scale meetings and surveys.
  • Are there clear and transparent lines of communication between SSCs and other departmental meetings in which decisions are made. The decision making process should be made clear to all students and this is especially important where student involvement is limited.
  • Whether there is a need to open up the conversation to the wider student body. This may present opportunities for partnership working or for a bigger scale consultation to take place on a particular issue.
Close the feedback loop

When actions have been taken it is important to communicate this effectively with the student body. Even when those changes can’t be made immediately, it is important to have open and honest conversations about the process of making changes.

It is important that this isn’t thought of as a one off event to solve and clarify things which have taken place throughout the year, but as part of ongoing dialogue with students which involves them in the process of making change.

Closing the feedback loop involves:

  • conversations with students about changes being made to their course as they are happening.
  • platforms being provided to reps to facilitate these conversations. Preferably planned into timetabled teaching.
  • the use of digital technologies to back up what you articulate during classes. For example sharing information with students via Blackboard, a dedicated Google Site, providing a space in which they can respond to changes to ensure ongoing dialogue. This could be sharing Tel US module survey results (a 'student friendly' version is provided by the system to all departments).

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Further information

Links and downloads

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