Actually putting students at the heart of Education – Plans for 2012/13

Aloha! Today is my turn to outline what I’m hoping to achieve over my final 11 months as a Sabbatical Officer.

In the past 12 months, lots of work has gone into preparing for 2012 (with it’s £9k fees and all), with a lot of projects now established to review and make improvements in a whole range of areas. This year, then, as well as ensuring they continue throughout the year and enhance the student experience, these are the three main areas I will be looking to address:

1) Identify, recognise and share quality feedback

Looking at student feedback, it’s quite clear where the University can continue to develop. To address this, I will continue to look at feedback, exams especially – ensuring that students receive approrpiate levels of feedback and access to exam scripts (as well as developing a policy of proof-reading the exams before they’re out…). Specifically, I’ll look to work on ensuring online submission and marking of work allows for greater tracking of quality, in terms of feedback timeliness and clearly highlighting how students can improve their work.

But that’s not all – it’s also important to recognise and quality feedback, because a lot of lecturers really do help students. To do this, I want to introduce a student-led Excellence in Teaching Awards night, where students take a lead in acknowledging their lecturers, and the whole University will be able to see the range of quality we have here at Southampton.

2) Developing the Student Voice

Last year was about implementing a new structure for representation, to fit alongside the University re-structure; now I want to focus on ensuring that the 600 reps out there are the best they possibly can be.

To do that, I want to significantly improve the training we provide reps, introduce sessions throughout the year, and also raise awareness of the roles within the student body with increased publicity. It also involves improving the way we monitor reps, to ensure that they are fulfilling their duty properly.

3) Amplifying Change and the Student Voice

With over 600 reps, if they all made just one difference in a year, that’s over 600 improvements to the student experience – but how many of these changes get back to the student body?

I want to develop clearer reporting structures for representatives to let us know what impact they have had, so that we can shout about it, as well as developing the communications within each Academic Unit by staff, showcasing what reps are talking about in meetings and what changes are being introduced.

An extension of that is reviewing how we reward and recognise those reps who have had an amazing impact on their course, and building on the Course Rep Awards that were introduced last year.

This role is quite unlike the others, in that it is predominantly spent interacting externally with University staff and pushing for improvements. With that in mind, I will certainly be looking to work with the University to enhance Employability, Personal Tutors, and Online Technology – but by enhancing the quality of the representatives, it increases the total impact had on the student experience to a much greater degree.

Let me know your thoughts below! Which areas do you think will have the greatest impact on your course?


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9 Comments on "Actually putting students at the heart of Education – Plans for 2012/13"

  1. Sasha
    15/08/2012 at 3:00 pm Permalink

    Hey Sash,

    I’m loving the goals, especially the Excellence in Teaching Awards night. I think that this is a crucial link to the education loop which now incorporates the academics and gives them some incentive from the students to provide a top class education, as opposed to the “pressure” coming from the University. I really hope it takes off.

    The other goal that I think is pretty major and will be awesome if it goes well are the reporting structures to the students. There’s one aspect that you touched upon which is the reporting from the reps to the students but I’m hearing more about the Universities “You Said, We did” thing. Are you involved in this and if so how can/does this fit in with the clearer reporting structures goal?

  2. Sasha
    15/08/2012 at 3:11 pm Permalink

    Thanks for the comment Jonny – the “You Said, We did” project is something I set up alongside Tessa Harrison, the University’s Registrar, last year! All last year, we collated all the different ways we receive feedback from students – reduced the number of surveys and centralised it – and then started developing plans to address the issues raised. This is standard practice in the University – but communicating it to students isnt – and this September, we’re finalising the messages that we send out to students, so people will see posters, websites, videos maybe, all highlighting the changes the University has made, because they do listen to students an awful lot!

    That’s the University side of it; the rep side is slightly different – in terms of showing students that their reps are doing their jobs, but there will be a close crossover, because if a rep has changed something – that’s equally the University listening and changing something, so I’ll be reporting to the Knowing Our Students group every 2 months with an update of changes the reps have introduced, and these will be communicated through the various methods.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Sasha
    15/08/2012 at 3:24 pm Permalink

    Yeah that helps a lot. That sounds awesome. I had been discussing it in the office here and the biggest annoyance for me and the other intern was the fact that we fill out these end of module evaluation forms and we don’t even know what happens with them.

    Looks like you’re already on it (and have been for quite some time) but I didn’t know that it was called you said, we did.

    Love it!

  4. Sasha
    15/08/2012 at 3:31 pm Permalink

    That’s the work on Module Evaluation – we trialled online surveys last year in Film, Philosophy and ECS – and now we know what needs doing to make it a University-wide scheme, and once that’s finalised, along with the actual questionnaire and the way it reports to Heads of Departments and students alike, then hopefully all the data will be published for students to see!

  5. Sasha
    21/08/2012 at 8:51 pm Permalink

    Some interesting goals Sasha.

    What is the ‘introduce a student-led Excellence in Teaching Awards night’ you mention?

    I think that the structure of representation is really great when used properly, I hope that the structure continues to grow and fulfil its potential through the increased training and monitoring of reps. I think it’s great that you will be working on ways to get the changes the make back down to students, improved communication is always a great thing in my opinion. Are you still hoping for representatives to have pre-briefs and de-briefs before university meetings as mentioned in your manifesto?

    Will you still be hoping to create a library building master plan as per your manifesto?

    I was also wondering why this year the sabbaticals have moved from having 1 main goal and 3 supplementary goals to 3 goals?

  6. Sasha
    21/08/2012 at 11:26 pm Permalink

    student-led teaching awards are cropping up all over the country, and in a nutshell, its students choosing who their favourite lecturers are in a variety of areas. very similar to our volunteering awards, but for lecturers – and a nice way to be positive and reflect on the fact that the university isnt all bad at all, and actually has a lot of talent worth celebrating.

    on pre-briefs/ de-briefs, we’re looking into the logistical nature of it, as if it is with every course rep before a meeting with a staff member, that’s a lot of meetings if every rep meets someone. but yes – looking at what meetings require information to be shared within SUSU, definitely, but its a case of working out what these areas are – they are certainly the university committee positions elected at union council, and could well include general working groups for university projects, although these are less of a concern as could be labelled as areas of interest, plus they will feed into higher committees where other students sit. but the principal of students going into meetings knowing vaguely what is going on is a no-brainer, otherwise it’s a waste of having a representative there.

    on goals for the year, last year we were “meant” to have 3, but were very stubborn and couldnt think of narrowing it down, so had 4 – those continuing this year forgot that, and also found it easy enough to have 3. either way, the number of goals is not the important factor, as its what we will be spending 70% of our time doing however many there were, so its the content underneath – and ive gone for course rep ones because that will be my focus of what i can really influence outside of meetings (which probably alone take up 70% of my time if not more, and its hardly suitable having 3 goals being “i will attend my meetings!”)

    thanks for the questions!


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