Our Student Voice: Guidance for Staff

Students play an essential role in the TU Dublin Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes and procedures.

Students, in particular Class Representatives, are invited to review the materials that have been developed as part of the Our Student Voice suite of resources.

These resources will also provide valuable guidance to staff members. You are guided in your review of the thirteen episodes in the next section. The remaining sections of this page will then provide you with specific guidance on how to help engage students in the Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes and procedures.

The key messages about which you need to be aware, in relation to the Student Role in Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement are:

  1. The Student Voice is a crucial and valued part of the University's Quality Framework.
  2. The Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes provide a range of opportunities for students to participate.
  3. The Class Representative has a pivotal role in the Quality Framework to represent the Student Voice.
  4. The Students’ Union provides training and support for Class Representatives.
  5. Students need to be encouraged and motivated to engage with the Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes and procedures.

The following episodes were designed for students, in particular Class Representative. You may wish to review some or all of these, as they may assist you - as a lecturer - in understanding how students are guided to engage with the University's Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes and procedures.

Episode 1. Being a Class Representative: This episode describes what is expected of a Class Representative, reminding all Class Representatives of the need to provide a voice for all their classmates. As a lecturer, you should also be aware of the need to engage with the Class Representative as a voice for their class.

Episode 2. Understanding our University: This episode provides students with information about the services, supports and policies in the University – reminding Class Representatives to direct students, where necessary, to those supports. As a lecturer, it is also important that you are aware of these supports, services and policies, and direct students as appropriate when they require support.

Episode 3. Understanding Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement: This episode provides students with an overview of the Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement processes and procedures in the University. As a lecturer, it is likely that you already understand a great deal about these processes and procedures, but you may wish to review this episode as a refresher.

Episode 4. Understanding the Practices of Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: This episode advises students to reflect upon their behaviour towards others, and reminds all students of the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion. As a lecturer, you will find the advice in this episode of value to you as you engage with a diverse student population comprised of people with a range of different experiences and backgrounds.

Episode 5. Reflecting Upon My Experience: This episode provides student with guidance on how to reflect upon their experiences. As a lecturer, you may wish to advise you students on this approach, and there may be cases where you find it of value to yourself.

Episode 6. Providing Constructive Feedback to Enhance the Student Learning Experience: This episode advises students to use ABCD in providing feedback to their lecturers. This means that they provide feedback that is Accurate, Balanced, Constructive and Depersonalised. You may wish to work with your students to help them provide feedback structured in this way. [ABCD is used with thanks to NStEP.]

Episode 7. Communicating Effectively: This episode helps students to understand how to communicate with IMPACT. As a lecturer, you may wish to review this episode to understand how students are trying to structure their communications with you.

Episode 8. Providing a Voice for Others: This episode outlines in detail the importance of Class Representative providing a voice for all their classmates. As a lecturer, it is important that you understand that Class Representatives may provide you wish many perspectives, and there may be cases where you need to ask for the different perspectives offered by the class.

Episode 9. Participating Effectively in Meetings: This episode advises students on how to participate professionally in meetings. As a lecturer, you may wish to review this to understand better how to offer students support in professional, formal meetings.

Episode 10. Building and Managing Professional Relationships: This episode guides students in how to build and manage professional relationships with staff in TU Dublin. As a party to these relationships, lecturers should reflect upon their participation in these relationships and what they can do to build and manage professional relationships.

Episode 11. Working Effectively with Others: This episode guides students in how to work effectively as part of a team, or as a team leader. This may be of value to lecturers who seek to understand the dynamics of student groups.

Episode 12. Participating Effectively in Programme and Module Design: This episode guides students on how to participate in programme and module design. As a lecturer, you will be familiar with much of the detail relating to learning outcomes, constructive alignment and assessment. Nonetheless, you may find it of value to review this episode as a refresher.

Episode 13. Participating Effectively in Quality Assurance Panels: This episode guides student on how to participate in Quality Assurance panels. As a lecturer, you may already have participated in such panels, or it may be a new or future experience for you. The advice offered here may be of value to you in supporting students who participate in panel meetings in which you are also present.

There are many opportunities for Students to Engage in the Formal Quality Enhancement Process.

Programme and Module Student Surveys: All students will be asked to fill in feedback forms about their experience on their programme and on individual modules.  The more students who complete these surveys the more representative and useful this feedback will be.  Students also respond better when they know their views are being valued and listened to, so it is important to close the feedback loop by providing students with a synopsis of feedback received and any follow-on actions being taken.

Student Group and Class Representative Meetings: These meetings can be organised at Programme, Discipline, School, Faculty and University Level. The goals of these meetings are to facilitate meaningful discussion between staff and students about their student experience in TU Dublin. These meetings are also more meaningful if there is open discussion rather than either side just answering questions.  These types of meetings are also more beneficial if they are ongoing rather than once off discussions as it takes time for both staff and students to develop a meaningful open dialogue.  

Discipline Programme Board Meetings: The new Quality Framework outlines the role of Discipline Programme Boards. Class Representatives will nominate one class representative from each programme to attend Discipline Programme Board Meetings.

Preparation for Reviews: Schools and Faculties will seek input from Students and Class Representatives when they are preparing for reviews. For example, Class Representatives may be invited to contribute to a SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to inform the preparation of documentation for a review.  Student groups and Class Representatives could be invited to Staff / Student Meetings to explore topics in the relation to the programme.  

Academic Council and its Sub-Committees (Universities Programme Board, Faculty Board, Academic Quality Assurance and Enhancement Committee and the Student Experience Committee). It is university policy that students play an active part in all academic decision-making committees that are responsible for developing and implementing academic policies.  Elected student representatives are full members of each of these committees.

Panel Member:  The Quality Framework provides opportunities for students to participate in Quality Review Panels, including Faculty Reviews and Professional Service Unit Reviews.

At least one Class Representative is elected for each stage of a programme to represent the students’ views.

The primary role of the Class Representative is to bring on behalf of the class, issues to the attention of lecturers, Year Tutors and the Programme Coordinator.  Class Representatives need to represent the diverse views of students within their class and not just present their own opinions or the opinions of a small vocal group within the class.  

To develop a successful working relationship Academic Staff, should make an effort to introduce themselves to the Class Representative and agree with the Class Representatives preferred methods of regular communication.  It is important that Class Representatives feel supported in their role and our encouraged to ensure that they engage with all the students in their class.  

Class Representatives will liaise with their class and the other Class Representatives on their programme and submit to the Programme Coordinator any topics they would like included on the Discipline Programmes Board agenda and any response to topics that the Programme Coordinator has requested their feedback on.

It can be useful if Academic Staff engage with Class Representatives in advance of formal committee meetings to develop a shared understanding of the topics for the agenda. The Programme Coordinator is required to set up a meeting with all the programme Class Representatives prior to the Discipline Programmes Board meeting to ensure all unresolved issues can be discussed. Whilst the main purpose of this meeting is to agree items for discussion at the Discipline Programme Board, these meetings will be also be useful in providing students with a forum to discuss and shape their programme of study.

One Class Representative from each programme will attend the Discipline Programmes Board to convey the views of the students across the programmes. 

TU Dublin Students' Union provides support and guidance to Class Representatives including:

Organising the election of Class Representatives: Academic Staff may be asked to provide a few minutes at the beginning or end of the class to allow the Students’ Union to inform students about the role of Class Representative and facilitate nomination and election.

Training of Class Representatives: Annually, in the first semester, the Students’ Union organises induction training for class representatives. Generally, this is aimed towards new class representatives. This training provides a comprehensive overview of the role of Class Representative, approaches to undertaking the role successfully, an overview of the TU Dublin structures that Class Representatives need to engage with, and the importance of providing Accurate, Balanced, Constructive, Depersonalised (ABCD) Feedback.  

In addition, the Students’ Union has been active partner in the TU Dublin Our Student Voice Project which has produced training resources for Class Representatives, and through which Class Representatives may apply for a digital badge.

The Students’ Union is also an active partner in the National Student Engagement Programme (NStep) through which a range of training supports for Class Representatives have been developed.

Students’ Union Class Representative Meetings: The Students’ Union organises regular meetings with Class Representatives so that any issues that are arising that affect students across Programmes, Schools, or Campuses can be articulated. The Students’ Union, on behalf of these Class Representatives, can raise issues with Academic and Management Staff and bring forward proposals for discussion at Academic Council and its sub-committees.

Individual Support:  Class Representatives may also raise issues directly with the elected students and staff members of the students’ union. The Students’ Union officers and staff will then provide support and guidance to students on how to address issues but may also bring forward issues to management on behalf of the class representatives.

Class Representative Awards:  Annually, the Students’ Union with the support of Academic Affairs, hosts a Class Representative awards night. All students are invited to nominate their class representative to receive an award.

There are multiple demands on students’ time, and it takes time for students to engage in the Quality Framework processes and as such students need to be motivated to participate.  Academic Staff may help with this motivation by undertaking the following:

  1. Closing The Feedback Loop
  2. Contributing to a culture that values the student voice
  3. Signposting students to supports and training available
  4. Demonstrating to students the employability skills that can be developed by engaging in the different Quality Assurance and Quality Enhancement Processes.

When staff take the time to provide a response to students on any feedback they have provided, students are more likely to have a positive experience in providing feedback and are more likely to provide constructive feedback in the future.

There are different avenues for closing the feedback loop:

At meetings: The feedback loop can be closed by ensuring that you use Active Listening Skills. Try to avoid automatically responding or responding defensively or immediately explain why things are the way they are.  After listening take time to probe and develop a deeper understanding and how it is affecting different students.  Acknowledge what you think you have heard by summarizing the points raised so that there is clarity, and the student knows that they have been heard.  Then explore what options might be available to reduce the impact that the issue raised is having on students and report back at the next meeting.

On receipt of student survey results:  A summary of the responses may be provided back to students with a commentary that provides students with a synopsis of your interpretation of the feedback provided and include details of any changes or actions that may be taken as a result of this feedback.  In the new internal student feedback system, this process can be automated within the survey tool.  In other cases it may be beneficial to organize a focus group or meeting with students to discuss the feedback received with a view to deepening understanding of the students’ experiences.  

Newsletters:  The feedback loop may also be closed by including details in “You Said We Did” newsletters on issues that have been raised through various avenues and details on any developments that are as a result of this feedback.  

Action Plans: Annually through the Student Feedback Survey System and through the Annual Monitoring Report, a list of themes arising across the university from Student Feedback is identified and action plans put in place to address these issues.  These action plans are developed at Discipline, School, Faculty and University level.

You can help to develop a culture in the University that values the student voice by:

  1. Providing a safe space for students to share their ideas and opinions on the curriculum and student experience.
  2. Demonstrating to students that you are actively seeking to listen and understand their voices.
  3. Factoring the student voice into decision making around quality enhancement, teaching, learning and assessment.
  4. Collaboratively working with students to co-design parts of the curriculum.
  5. Discussing with colleagues ways of enhancing the student voice and sharing tips about good practice and also ideas that have not worked.
  6. Demonstrating to colleagues the value of listening to the student voice.
  7. Providing reflections on the student feedback you have received to Discipline Programme Boards.
  8. Closing the feedback loop.

The support and training available to class representatives is outlined on this page, staff have a role to play to ensure that class representatives on their programme are aware of how to access this support and training.

There is also a lot of information available in Episode 2: Understanding our University

When students engage in role in the Quality Framework, including responding to survey questions, becoming a Class Representative, a review panel member or engage in the co-design of the curriculum, they are developing a range of employability skills.

These can include communication, self-reflection, presentation and research skills amongst others.

Students can be encouraged to identify their employability skills development as part of these roles but also for getting recognition of this development by completing the Our Student Voice training, maintaining an e-Portfolio of skills developed and applying for the relevant digital badge.

It is recognised that meaningful and supportive staff-student partnerships and engagement are important in facilitating success and enabling students to reach their full potential at college (O'Farrell, 2019). Students who participate in co-design or collaborative activities may also show better learning or increased agency or engagement (Wu et. al., 2021 Hayton and Cole, 2016) and subsequent persistence through their programme (Thomas, 2014).

Consider the following guidance for co-designing the curriculum with students:

Inclusive and accessible co-designing spaces: Welcoming online or face to face learning spaces where all participants feel encouraged and able to contribute and ask questions helps create a culture where the student voice is seen to be valued. Where possible embed Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in teaching approaches and provide opportunities within learning activities for students to engage with staff, with each other, to share their experiences and where possible explore a range of different perspectives on each topic.

Co-designing their own learning: The provision of flexibility in module choice and/or format through the provision of module options or different modes of delivery creates a way to for students to tailor their individual learning experience. Recorded lectures, online learning activities or directed tasks enable students to study, revise, at a pace that suits their individual needs. Combined with alternative ways such as infographics, videos, concept maps etc as well as written assignments to evidence their learning within a module creates multiple means of engaging with course content.

Co-designing with other students: In addition to providing feedback on the content or pace of the programme through formal quality assurance procedures, also consider informal methods where your class provide you with feedback on different learning and teaching methods through a simple start, stop, continue process using polling software. Students could also identify the "muddiest point" of a lecture or series of lectures and topics they would like you to cover again. Perhaps introduce some flexibility in the order of individual class sessions as a means to actively involve students in the design of their module.

Co-designing for other students: Engaging students in dialogue around assessment matters such as academic integrity and feedback processes can be helpful in developing a shared understanding around what is required. Perhaps ask students to help develop the creation of assessment rubrics, marking schemes or how marks might be allocated between peers involved in a group project. Students could also create a series of "How to..." practical guides for other students.

Co-designing as a learning activity: Consider asking students to provide support for other students through for eg peer mentoring schemes or involve students in cross-disciplinary projects where students with different skills and experiences work together. In class options might involve students taking responsibility for preparing a poster, short talk or review of an academic paper, rather than the lecturer solely being involved in delivering content. More formal methods would include undertaking a negotiated project, piece of research or community project either as an individual as part of a group. 

TU Dublin Quality Framework

Student Pages on the Student Voice Website

NStep

TU Dublin Students' Union

Hayton, K & Cole, J (2016). An evaluation of course design using students as partners and a toolkit of creative co-design exercises. Report available from Advance HE Website.

O'Farrell, L (2019). Understanding and enabling student success in Higher Education. Online at teachingandlearning.ie.

Thomas, L. (2012). Building student engagement and belonging at a time of change in higher education. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Wu, J, Ramey, K., Flanagan-Hall, G.A., Vondracek, M. Kem, J., Uttal, D.H. (2021). "Investigating Students’ Learning Through Co designing  with Technology". Journal of Science Education and Technology 30(1) August DOI:10.1007/s10956-020-09897-7.