I embarked on this project with much enthusiasm. I love my university and enjoyed every moment spent here but there is always room for improvement. To me, it wasn’t just about students’ views on feedback. It was the opportunity to change students’ experience at Southampton for the better and encourage academics, scholars and people across the SAA to communicate effectively, in an attempt to increase the quality of academic performance and support professional service evolution.
It goes without saying – it was a thought-provoking learning curve for both me and the interviewees. Being responsible for obtaining feedback from the Engineering Faculty challenged me to raise my game a notch and adapt to a whole new course I wasn’t familiar with. As a Humanities undergraduate, I often surprised myself taking a step back and comparing the way an Engineering student would think about his degree, plan his assignments, offer or respond to feedback, to the practices I had engaged myself during the student life cycle. The challenges can be very similar. While undergrads appreciate constructive, timely feedback leaving room for improvement, managing the expectations of students and staff is key when it comes to feedback. Often I found that individuals have their own perception of what feedback means or what it should be. Where students’ understanding of feedback is in discordance with academics’ view of it, a vicious circle is created. How can we give effective feedback and learn from it, if we expect different things? A long list of disappointments can be avoided by explaining the terminology, setting up a plan of action and constantly reviewing the practices. Students should know they are entitled to feedback, should know how to use or challenge it, but should also have the responsibility to generate it. That way, students would not be the only ones to apply the changes, but tutors too: when markers learn to give the feedback that students find most helpful, tutees can learn to make the most of it.
So we go back to the basics. Think outside the box. Being a Feedback Champion not only helped me find the hiccups in the way feedback is used in our university; it also made me understand that any changes I’d like to see implemented, I need to generate them myself. The first steps: talk to the right people, find the ones who are genuinely interested to make the change and watch it happen. If you’re a creative person or enjoy a challenge, this is definitely for you.
Is it worth it? Absolutely! Thanks to this project, I made new friends, changed my mentality and understood that, in order to progress, I need to hold myself accountable for my actions and results. So step up. For those of you who would like to join in but are unsure what they’re up for, fear not. It is an exciting learning curve and you get to leave your mark on how your university works. In a way, you decide the experience of the students that follow. It’s also a great way of testing your ideas, gaining confidence by seeing your actions affect the world around you in a positive way. Having all that added onto your CV is, of course, another achievement to look forward to! Good fight and good luck!
BA Film Studies Graduate
Faculty of Humanities