4 Mar 2021

SPOTLIGHT ON... New College Lanarkshire's review of their course rep and feedback systems

New College Lanarkshire Students’ Association has been reviewing how effective their course rep system is at allowing students to get involved in qualitative feedback processes and have their voices heard. Read on to find out more about their work…

After discovering gaps in the feedback system, the SA worked closely with the College Quality team to review the system and identify where gaps were and work in partnership to develop solutions to fill them. We looked at whether student reps were engaging, and what actions were being taken when we received meaningful feedback. We also looked at whether student reps and the association were fully involved in course reviews and how this engagement could be improved.

The SA and Quality team created a robust action plan that staff and students can be confident in. The project was broken down into several key areas to work on.

Firstly, the SA looked at embedding a new three-tier rep system (Class, Faculty and Curriculum reps). This system has been in place for just over a year and feedback so far suggests more engagement from both staff and students.

The three-tier system was introduced to allow more flexibility and a graduated level of responsibility within the roles to accommodate students that are interested in representing their peers, but perhaps cannot commit to as many additional responsibilities as others, or feel they lack some confidence to speak on another’s behalf.

A ‘regular’ Class Rep is a basic level of representation within a classroom. These Reps will receive all communications from our Learner Engagement team and the Students’ Association. They will be asked to disseminate specific information and collate feedback and responses, as well as helping to signpost classmates to appropriate internal support services.

These Reps are nominated and elected by their classmates and are also invited to attend training opportunities to enhance their knowledge and understanding of their role, as well as for their own personal development.

The next level of responsibility within this model is the ‘Curriculum Rep’.

There may be around 6-8 classes of various study levels within a Curriculum Area of a Faculty, each with their own regular Class Rep. A Curriculum Rep would be selected from these Reps to act on behalf of all classes in their respective area.

Their main responsibilities are to communicate with the Class Reps in their area and collect any feedback, collate and organise the responses and present the findings at curriculum area meetings with course leaders and other staff members.

This individual would be appointed by staff after a discussion and will generally be someone with a drive to represent a larger number of people and who is confident in communicating with staff in a formal setting to discuss issues that have been raised.

The final level of representation within our model is the ‘Faculty Rep’. This individual is appointed by the Faculty senior management team from the group of Curriculum reps within their faculty.

They will be someone with a keen interest in being involved in the decision-making processes of the Faculty and how it impacts the learning experience of all students.

They will be invited to senior level meetings and will be the student voice within these forums. These individuals could potentially become strong candidates in future Students’ Association elections due to their enthusiasm to be a strong communicator and represent the student voice within the college.

We have recognised that many students that may want to be a Rep will have different levels of commitment and skillsets. We aim to provide a continuous series of relevant training opportunities and we feel that this model allows those that want to do more for their peers the opportunity to do so, and we will fully support their development.

The new robust system to be rolled out in the new academic year 2021

A new approach to Course Review has been designed in reference to the student experience questions within the sparqs and Education Scotland Learner Engagement Toolkit (published in November 2020). The Class Reps will use the Course Review documentation, alongside the feedback from the Be Heard Faculty events, to meet with the curricular delivery teams to discuss learning, teaching and assessment approaches and resources.

The Course Review approach is currently being piloted within one Faculty to obtain feedback to refine the content, with a proposed cross-college launch in August 2021. Part of the planned approach for August is to further enhance the process of the Be Heard Faculty events and the Course Review. Training will be provided by sparqs’ staff to highlight the importance of learner engagement and how the evaluation processes lead to improvement.

The current cross-college evaluation approach is also under review for future development. During this review, the cross-college self-reflection questions within the toolkit will be considered to ensure key criteria are captured.

The feedback obtained from the Be Heard events, Course Board Reviews and the cross-college evaluation will assist in ensuring a robust 360° approach to organisational evaluation.

The new Toolkit from sparqs and Education Scotland

The new sparqs/EdS toolkit for effective learner engagement was launched during the process of our action plan, which was perfect timing for fitting in with our new project.

The toolkit supported us in engaging staff and students in faculty Be heard meetings. We also dissected the questions and embedded them in other feedback processes, allowing students and staff to confidently gather feedback. The SA and Quality team will produce a thematic report that strengthens and empowers the student voice.

Faculties are already producing action plans that have come from the Be Heard meetings that are then taken to their management meetings for discussion. The toolkit has been a great resource for helping us engage staff and students in the way we gather meaningful student feedback, and in what we do with that feedback.

For further information, please contact John O’Hara, Senior Learner Engagement Officer, John.O’Hara@nclan.ac.uk or Lorna McMullen, Quality Development Officer, Lorna.McMullen@nclan.ac.uk

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