Guidance on Interpreting and Responding to Feedback

This page gives guidance and examples to help you analyse and respond to student feedback in module evaluations, including support for colleagues who receive no module evaluation feedback, and on feedback for merged modules. 

The effective translation of student feedback into the enhancement of student education can be challenging for several reasons:

  • Data may be non-representative (particularly where response-rates are low) 
  • Students may not always effectively evaluate their learning experiences 
  • Comments can be out of context, difficult to interpret, or unconstructive 
  • Student feedback may be contradictory
  • Staff may experience emotional reactions to feedback

The following practices can help to engage with student feedback, and determine how you want to respond to it.

Analysing feedback

Consider how you think the module went: Before you read your module evaluation report, reflect on what you hoped to accomplish in the module, and how the class has met those goals. This can help to put student comments in perspective.

Group comments thematically: For ease of interpretation, group your comments by theme, or organise them into strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to spot trends and areas that require attention. Some colleagues prefer to read all comments, and then set these aside for a time before returning to them to consider themes.

Identify outliers: Outliers are comments that differ substantially from the rest of the data you have gathered. You should always consider outliers – whether positive or negative – in context, and balance them against other feedback received. 

Contextualise your module evaluations: You will likely have received other feedback – formal or informal – during the semester. Take this into account when reading module evaluations. It is also helpful to consider what other contextual factors have influenced student experience. Ensure that you are working with both the Likert-scale data and free-text comments. Where possible, use the comments to contextualise the numeric data. 

Use CSVs: Explorance Blue allows you to download your data as a CSV, which can be opened in Excel. This lets you see each (anonymised) student’s comments in relation to their Likert-scale question scores. This can be particularly useful in understanding outliers. 

Responding to feedback in the Student Report

Below are some pointers for responding to student feedback, as well as some examples of wording. A step by step guide for using the Explorance Blue Student Report can be found here. Student reports should be written with a student audience in mind, and colleagues should ensure that students are not identifiable from their comments. 

You don’t need to address everything: Even if you identify several themes in the feedback, you should only select a small number of these to address with students rather than attempting to cover everything. The themes you choose may be the most common threads, or perhaps those that you would consider most impactful. You might also use the space to update students on issues already discussed in class.

Example: Thank you to everyone who provided feedback. You raised a variety of points, and the teaching team and I will be considering these carefully over the next few months. 

Two of the key issues that students raised were organisation and access to resources. As discussed in the week 10 lecture, we are aware that students were sometimes confused about where to find course materials. Following school-wide discussion at Student Staff Partnership Forum, it has been agreed that all materials will be stored on XX platform. 

Dealing with differing opinions: It is common for student comments to contain differing, even contradictory opinions on major themes. We advise that you acknowledge this difference in your response – this helps students to understand the complexity of student education and that more than one voice needs to be heard. 

Example: It was clear that students across the module had differing opinions on group work – some of you found this to be your favourite part of the module, while others did not find it to be beneficial. While we consider groupwork to be an essential skill to develop within our industry we recognise that additional support is required where groups are not cohering. 

Articulating changes to students: If you make changes in response to student feedback, it can be helpful to indicate why you think these changes are valuable. You can also use this as an opportunity to reiterate strengths that already exist on the course.

Example: Several students noted that they wanted further exposure to Adobe. I appreciate that students felt time working with this software to be beneficial, and I will be dedicating more seminar time to this next year.

You don’t have to change anything: Not all student feedback can or should be enacted, and students do not necessarily expect that every piece of feedback will be implemented. However, it is important that students are told why certain changes will not be made, or may not be possible or beneficial. 

Example: Some students requested that we move back to the old format of closed book, knowledge-recall examinations. Our move away from this format of exams is in line with the University of Leeds assessment strategy and there is clear research showing our new form of examination is of benefit to students. There is also considerable support available for the new format of examinations. Please see XX and XX. 

Check for shared understanding: Sometimes students feel that something has not contributed to their learning, even if there is other evidence to suggest that your approach is working. It is possible in these cases that students are not understanding the goal of activity. In this context it can be helpful to reiterate this goal and consider how this can be communicated in future.

Example: Some students felt that more time should be dedicated to practical experience in the field. This module, however, was specifically focused on the theoretical underpinnings of our field. A variety of practice-oriented modules are on offer in Year 2. 

Acknowledge if feedback is unrepresentative: If very few students responded to your evaluation, make note of this (even if briefly) and be clear that this affects your ability to understand the broader experience of the course. 

Example: Thank you to all students who completed their module evaluation. Unfortunately, the number of responses was very low and therefore has made it difficult to adequately reflect on the feedback received.

Dealing with negative feedback

This year we have developed guidance for students on how to give effective and constructive feedback. Students are directed to this guidance (available on the For Students module evaluations webpage) when they receive invitations to complete module evaluation. The guidance provided states that feedback should be:

  • Respectful
  • Depersonalised
  • Balanced
  • Accurate and specific
  • Constructive

If you are concerned about the feedback that you have received or have found this distressing, please contact the Module Evaluation Team so we can offer further support.

Support for colleagues with no module evaluation responses 

A small number of modules have received no module evaluation feedback, making it challenging to answer the first two questions of the Student Report. Below, you can find guidance and suggested wording for dealing with this situation. The guidance below relates to two scenarios: one in which staff have access to student feedback from other sources, and another in which no student feedback is available. 

Using student feedback from other sources: 

Colleagues are welcome to incorporate student feedback from other sources into the Student Report. Such feedback may include: 

  • Discussions or questions in class 
  • Non-confidential feedback gathered and delivered by Course or School Representatives 
  • Feedback received via other module evaluations relating to the same or similar teaching content 

While it is possible to use this feedback to respond to the Student Report, it is recommended that the lack of module evaluation responses is explicitly acknowledged. Possible wording can be found below: 

Question: Provide a brief summary of the key themes arising from the student feedback. (This may include strengths/positive aspects and suggested areas for improvement.) 

Example Answer: Whilst there were no student responses to this module evaluation (please consider responding to the opportunity to feedback in the future – your views are important to us) feedback offered in class/ by Course Reps/ on other versions of the module suggests…  

If no student feedback is available: 

In an instance where a colleague has received little or no feedback from students, it is recommended that this is acknowledged for the first two questions of the Student Report. Colleagues should then use the questions to reflect on the delivery of the module. Possible wording can be found below: 

Question: Provide a brief summary of the key themes arising from the student feedback. (This may include strengths/positive aspects and suggested areas for improvement.) 

Example Answer: Whilst there were no student responses to this module evaluation (please consider responding to the opportunity to feedback in the future – your views are important to us), I have reflected on the delivery of the module and… 

Question: Outline how the themes identified will inform the development of the module and teaching and assessment practice. (You may also wish to refer here to feedback from prior years or received via other mechanisms eg. Course Representatives.) 

Example Answer: As above 


Feedback for merged modules 

Currently on Explorance Blue, modules are disaggregated in the same way as they are on Banner. This means that some module leaders may have received requests to complete two Student Reports across one merged module. In this instance it is suggested that the same report is used for both versions of the module. Text can be copied and pasted into the second response form.  

Seeking support

Module Evaluations Team: The Module Evaluations Team can offer signposting to support. If you have feedback on your experience of the Student Report or the Module Evaluation process, you can also share this with them anonymously via this form, or via email.
School and Faculty support: OD&PL’s list of student education support at the University of Leeds identifies academic roles and teams that can help in the development of student education practice. 
Peer support: It can be helpful to discuss with colleagues teaching on the same programme (and beyond) whether they are experiencing similar issues.