Teaching Council Policy Guideline: Feedback procedures of the degree programmes at the University of Tampere

The Teaching Council has approved this document on 27 May 2013.

This is a summary of the guideline. Whole document can be found from the page Teaching Council Policy Guidelines in intra.

NB: This is an unofficial translation. In the event of any discrepancies between the Finnish and English versions, the original Finnish version shall prevail.

Background and starting points

To develop university education, reliable and up-to-date information is needed on how the University succeeds in its educational mission and what factors have influenced the success in this mission. In addition, we need an understanding of what this information in fact reveals and how it can be applied to develop education, as well as proper procedures for decision-making based on this information.

Collecting and using information is an essential part of the quality management of education. Quality management refers to the procedures and systems that the University employs to guarantee and improve the quality of education.

In general, the term quality management refers to the comprehensive system of planning, implementation, assessment and development that creates and maintains trust in the organisation’s ability to meet the expectations placed on it.

Feedback can be defined as such comments on performance, work or procedures that aim to develop activities to improve performance.

Collecting feedback information without making concrete decisions based on it does not constitute quality management. Information is collected on factors that can be influenced. Feedback information is used to analyse at which stage of the studies eventual problems have emerged, after which the corrective actions are targeted at the causes of those problems. For instance, problems related to theses often stem from earlier stages of the degree studies.

The University of Tampere continues collecting feedback on the following topics and using this feedback to improve education:

Student feedback

  1. Students’ competence and their skills development during university studies
  2. Students’ personal experience of their learning and skills development
  3. Students’ personal learning activities (what they have done to learn)
  4. Instruction as a tool for enabling students’ learning (including instruction and assessment methods)
  5. Other factors that have enhanced or prevented learning or the progress of studies (learning environments)
  6. International student exchange (students received or sent abroad by the University of Tampere) and studying in international Master’s programmes
  7. Students’ study ability, wellbeing and personal experience of equal and impartial treatment

The abilities acquired through education that are needed to integrate into working life (surveys during the studies).

Alumni feedback

  1. Integration into working life (how the alumni have integrated into working life and how their education has supported this integration)
  2. The professional advancement of the alumni in their career.

In this document, the feedback described in points 2–8 is collectively referred to as student feedback. The feedback collected in connection with the implementation of course units in practice is called course feedback. The feedback described in points 9 and 10 is referred to as alumni feedback. To improve education, also other types of working life feedback may be collected and used, such as employers’ views on the successfulness of education.

Students are members of the University community – not customers or consumers – and the University of Tampere does not collect customer feedback on its degree programmes. By contrast, customer feedback is collected within continuing education as necessary.

Principles

The University of Tampere adheres to the following principles:

  1. Feedback on instruction and studying is collected systematically and regularly to develop instructors’ professional competence, instruction, learning processes and the fulfilment of the University’s educational mission.
  2. Feedback is collected on instruction offered in domestic and international Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral degrees as well as on Open University courses.
  3. The University standardises methods of collecting, analysing and using feedback. Faculties and degree programmes may make their own decisions within the framework of relevant regulations, the University’s guidelines and this policy guideline.
  4. The student feedback procedures of the Faculties are planned in relation to the common procedures of the University. In principle, the Facultiess do not collect feedback on the same issues as Study Services in order to avoid overlap, unnecessary work and a decrease in the motivation for providing feedback (see chapter 4). The feedback procedures of the University, in turn, are planned in relation to national procedures.
  5. Instructors provide students with feedback on their learning and skills development in connection with assessing the coursework. The feedback may be given orally or in writing.
  6. The University also develops methods for assessing the mastery of modules that are more extensive than course units. The mastery of the study modules of sustainable development and internationality are also assessed. Assessment should at least be included in the student’s personal study planning process (HOPS).
  7. Improving the feedback system and procedures is governed by the idea of a competence-based curriculum adopted by the University: What skills are pursued and how can these skills be achieved? How is the accrual of skills assessed and what are the key points in the student’s path in the light of skills assessment?
  8. With the help of student feedback, students and instructors are guided to understand that the learning outcomes can be achieved through students’ personal learning activities. The University supports students’ learning activities by providing instruction, academic counselling and other interaction that promotes learning, as well as other learning resources.
  9. Collecting and handling feedback as well as making decisions based on it are part of the normal quality management and development of education. Feedback is collected and handled without putting unnecessary pressure on students or staff.
  10. Special attention is paid to the effectiveness of feedback and to how the actions prompted by this feedback can be observed by students, instructors, the leadership of the Faculties and the University as well as by interest groups.
  11. According to the policy guideline University of Tampere – a Good Academic Community. approved by the Teaching Council on 11 June 2012, it is required that “students give feedback to help improve teaching, study guidance and assessment”. However, a student is not strictly required to provide student feedback without a special reason. If sufficient grounds for obligation exist, this should be specified in the Curriculum. Students may provide course feedback on every course they have completed.
  12. Feedback concerns the entire Faculty; students, instructors and Study Services all participate in planning how to collect, handle and use feedback. The Faculties can organise their feedback procedures in degree programmes.
  13. Collecting, analysing and using feedback is an essential part of education management. The heads of the degree programmes and Master’s programmes are, according to the Rector’s decisions of 13 June 2012 and 7 March 2013, responsible for collecting and using student feedback in these programmes and for addressing any identified problems. Ultimately, the responsibility for student feedback issues in Faculties lies in the hands of the dean.
  14. The Teaching Council discusses feedback issues on an annual basis.

Feedback system in Faculties

Each faculty of the University of Tampere as well as the Language Centre and Tampere University Library have a system for collecting information on the success of the University’s educational mission and for developing education. The system is documented in each Faculty's operations manuals.

The Faculties’ feedback system includes the following elements:

  • Describing the purpose for collecting feedback and other information
  • Describing the comprehensive system of feedback procedures in the Faculty
  • Describing how the collection, analysis and use of feedback and data from the information systems is planned and managed,  as well as how different actors (staff, students, alumni, most important interest groups) participate in the process
  • Collecting feedback and other information in a sufficiently reliable and consistent way that motivates students and instructors
  • Analysing the collected information
  • Compiling central observations and conclusions to sketch areas of development, which are then prioritised
  • Utilising information in the Faculty’s annual planning, curriculum design and annual preparation of teaching schedules, as well as in the annual development discussions for instructors
  • Setting up a working group or other organ appointed by the dean – such as a working group for curriculum design – that includes student members and that analyses feedback for further use and improves methods of data collection, analysis and use
  • Documenting and communicating concrete decisions made on the basis of feedback and other information
  • Assessing the effectiveness of the feedback system.

The role of University Services and its support for Faculties

Study Services, a unit that operates under University Services, plans and coordinates the comprehensive system of student feedback at the University of Tampere.

Study Services is responsible for

  • collecting alumni feedback that concerns the entire University
  • conducting systematic collective student surveys that concentrate on the different stages of university studies
  • completing tasks relating to the national student feedback survey for universities
  • completing other surveys and reports concerning the entire University
  • maintaining and developing necessary registers.

Study Services plans how to collect feedback in its area of responsibility, collects and analyses this feedback and annually delivers a summary of this analysis to the Teaching Council to help them draw conclusions and establish possible policy guidelines.

In addition, Study Services hands this summary over to Faculties to support them in the development of education. Study Services also delivers register information for the use of the Faculties.

Additionally, Study Services provides the curriculum design working groups of the Faculties with Faculty-specific information and special remarks every three years when the Faculties begin the process of reforming their curricula.

Study Services prepares feedback form templates for the Faculties to use in collecting course feedback, as well as issues guidelines on how to modify these model forms for the individual needs of each Faculty. In many cases, collecting both numerical and verbal feedback might be useful.