Monday, 9 December 2013

Feedback Focus Groups

After a month of hard work and campaigning, F3EDFORWARD month culminated with our feedback focus groups, which took place on 29 November in the IC. We wanted to host a lunch as we thought that a free lunch would be a great way to draw in hungry first years in-between lectures! Furthermore, we wanted to create an informal environment allowing people to have a drink and chat. We worked with a small group of 8 level one students from different departments and faculties. Having smaller groups enabled everyone to have ‘their turn to talk’ and it allowed us the time to question what people were saying to us. It was certainly a case of less is more!

We started off the focus group with a short introduction about the role of the SALTs and a brief overview of our project. We then split the group into 4 and had 3 SALTs with each team; one to facilitate, one to ask questions and a support. In our team, we were fortunate to have representatives from arts and humanities, sciences and engineering and law, which was a good mix. It became obvious that there were huge variations in the types of feedback that the first years had been receiving and there was some clear dissatisfaction. Science faculty students complained about MOLE tests where they received a mark but no feedback. In contrast, Arts and Humanities students were struggling with not having received any feedback as their assessments were taking place in January and they had done no assessed work so far. It became increasingly obvious that the nature of feedback depended on the type of work which was being undertaken and this has led to significant differences between subject areas. This has huge implications for our project as a cross faculty initiative; specifically how can we design feedback tools that can be applied over such different subject areas which have such different types of assessment?

Level one students also talked about the role of their mentors/personal tutors as good sources of information on receiving feedback and where they go for help and guidance. This is a way of receiving help with feedback that we hadn’t previously considered. It was encouraging to see how important feedback was to the students who arrived for the focus groups and the depth of the data and discussions we had will be invaluable for our research. It was a good finale to such a busy month!

Stay tuned to our blog post over Christmas! We’ll have a post-up each week about what’s going on. The team is currently in the process of dealing with all our data and we will be writing a report over Christmas about our findings.

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