Posted by John Kleeman
I’d like to share an interesting application of Questionmark Perception at the University of Glamorgan, which is using self-assessment surveys to help increase student retention. Students answer questions about aspects of their studying and receive feedback to help them improve. These assessments provide useful data that the University has used to improve student retention. When discussing them with colleagues and students, the authors use the term “exercise” instead of “survey” or “assessment” – to describe something that is designed primarily to enable students to improve their own achievement and progression. The exercises are helping avoid situations that can lead to drop-out.
There are two exercises: an “Early Days” exercise for new students and a “Study Health Check Exercise” for all students. Both exercises are anonymous, use branching to direct students to relevant questions and give short, actionable feedback.
Early Days Exercise
The Early Days exercise goes to all new students six weeks into the academic year, and is heavily promoted so that most of them will take it. The exercise includes questions on study resources, the student’s attitude to his or her academic work and how the student is getting to grips with university life. See below for a screenshot of feedback for a couple of questions.
Study Health Check Exercise
This survey is sent out in the second term (semester) of the year. It similarly asks about the health of the student’s studying and learning, for example here is an example question and feedback:
The exercise asks about various factors that the University believes are important for successful study, and gives feedback to try and help with areas of concern or weakness. Student satisfaction with this exercise is above 90% – it’s easy to take and gives actionable feedback.
As well as helping individual students, the exercise also helps the University identify issues impacting retention. Cross-tabbing questions about whether the student has considered withdrawing or suspending study with other factors such as a student’s employment, family commitments etc. and motivation can help identify and highlight factors that lead students to remain at the University.
Thanks to David Lewis (pictured left with me, in the Faculty of Advanced Technology at Glamorgan), Julie Prior and Karen Fitzgibbon of the University of Glamorgan for sharing info on these exercises – you can see more here.
Some key reasons why these self-assessment surveys seem successful:
- They take only 10 minutes or so to complete
- They are well promoted
- They provide short actionable feedback
- They are genuinely anonymous
- They remain similar year on year, making them easy to maintain and useful for identifying trends
- They focus on specific issues the University has learned are important for retention and student success