Thoughts following LLAS workshop on National Student Survey

The LLAS workshop on the National Student Survey (NSS) got some great feedback. We had participants from central admin departments as well as people in disciplines other than languages, linguistics and area studies. The NSS generates a substantial amount of data, yet it can difficult for academic staff (or university senior management for that matter) to know how to respond.

Some key thoughts, tips and observations from the workshop:

  1. The NSS is only part of the wider picture about how students feel about their experience. We need to look at other data, including module surveys and internal surveys. There was a concern though that some students are becoming ‘surveyed out’.
  2. The NSS was not designed as a Teaching Quality enhancement tool. It can be used to trigger discussions about QE, but it is not a tool in itself.
  3. Joint honours programmes pose a big problem for the NSS, academic staff and students. The student experience of two or more departments/ subjects can be very different.
  4. Your institution may ask additional optional questions on the NSS. Ask the department which deals with the NSS to find out if your institutions did ask additional questions and what the findings were. Students are also given the opportunity to make positive and negative open comments on their experience which are not made public.
  5. When departments are ranked against each other in accordance with their NSS scores by subject the differences between them look quite large, but they are not statistically significant.
  6. The subject of study is highly significant factor in contributing to the NSS scores and comparisons between departments within one institution do not make much sense.

The presentations from Angela Gallagher-Brett (LLAS) and Alex Buckley (Higher Education Academy) were much appreciated (a copy of Alex’s PowerPoint will be on the event website in the next day or two. Many of the above points came from Alex.

We have just funded ten projects on the NSS about how staff and students understand the NSS questions. Four of these shared some of their findings at the workshop. I am going through them with a view to producing a report which will be published on our website.

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