Using Student Feedback Teams for Course Improvement

How can you gather more timely, insightful feedback from students?

The success of a class is a collaborative effort between faculty and students, and open and clear communication contributes to this success. End-of-course evaluations (e.g. TRACE) offer one opportunity to gather feedback from students for refining your course, but they can come after the point at which you can reshape the course for the students who have shared their feedback with you. Mid-term evaluations offer another way of getting feedback from students early enough in the semester so that the feedback is more formative for the current semester. However, Student Feedback Teams, also known as Student Management Teams or Student Quality Teams, open the opportunity for more frequent feedback and shared responsibility for course success, making instruction in your course much more iterative and dynamic, fitting the needs of your students (Handelsman, 2012; Nuhfer, 2008; Troisi, 2015).

A Student Feedback Team, or SFT, is a group of three to five volunteer students who regularly meet and work collaboratively with their instructor to improve the learning community within a course. Typically, these volunteers meet about every two weeks as a team, with the instructor joining them every other meeting. Some instructors, particularly in accelerated courses, choose to meet more frequently. The goal of SFTs is to break down communication barriers, collaboratively working to enhance the course for the entire class. The SFT process provides a continuous feedback loop that is more interactive than the one-way process of end-of-course evaluations.

Research on learning has demonstrated that student motivation determines, directs, and sustains what they do to learn (Ambrose et al., 2010). The SFT process can help increase student perceptions of autonomy, which has been shown to improve motivation. The collaborative nature of SFT’s also can potentially improve the climate of a course. Research on SFTs (Schmidt et al., 2005; Troisi, 2014) has shown that use of the teams results in:

  • More effective learning
  • Improved interest in course materials
  • Lessing of tension in class
  • More creativity
  • Higher student self-esteem

Instructors interested in learning more can schedule a confidential consultation with one of the Center’s learning scientists to discuss how to implement and support Student Feedback Teams in their classes by emailing learningresearch@neu.edu.

References

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Handelsman, M. M. (2012). Course evaluation for fun and profit: Student management teams. In J. Holmes, S. C. Baker, & J. R. Stowell (Eds.), Essays from e-xcellence in teaching (Vol. 11, pp. 8–11). Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology website: http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/eit2011/index.php.

Nuhfer, E. (2008). A handbook for student management teams. Retrieved from http://profcamp.tripod.com/New_PM_Intro_SMT.pdf (Original work published 1991).

Schmidt, S. J., Parmer, M. S., & Bohn, D. M. (2005). Using quality circles to enhance student involvement and course quality in a large undergraduate food science and human nutrition course. Journal of Food Science Education, 1, 2-9.

Troisi, J. D. (2014). Making the grade and staying engaged: The influence of student management teams on student classroom outcomes. Teaching of Psychology, 41(2), 99-103.

Troisi, J. D. (2015). Student management teams increase college students’ feelings of autonomy in the classroom. College Teaching, 63(2), 83-89. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/87567555.2015.1007913.