A Glassie’s Guide to Giving Feedback to the Uni

How often have you had a unit that just wasn’t run right? A lecturer who spent way too long waffling on about their personal life, instead of teaching the content? Or conversely, a tutor who made a real difference in your uni life and shaped your academic career for the better? What did you do with that information? Nothing? 

Having been at uni for six years now, I’ve done my fair share of undergrad units. But I’ve rarely reached out to tutors to let them know my feedback, and rarely completed the Student Voice Survey which is open right now, until the last day of exams.  

The Student Voice Survey runs once per semester, from Week 11 until the end of exams, and is a chance to give feedback about the teaching you have experienced during the semester. 

With every new post on Stalkerspace about a unit coordinator not releasing assignment marks on time or about Canvas tech issues, I think we forget that we can step outside the echo chamber of our peers and actually give our feedback to the people who can make change for us – it’s just about knowing how to do this.  

Recently, Professor Abby Cathcart, the Director of Student Success & QUT Academy of Learning and Teaching and her team got in touch with Glass and generously allowed me to pick their brains about how students can give feedback to the University, and about the ins-and-outs of the Student Voice Survey. 

Here is what I learnt: 

You have opportunities to give feedback about your units directly to the uni. 

The Student Voice Survey is how you can give feedback about your units at the end of semester.  

If you have feedback during semester, you can always send your Unit Coordinator an email, or keep your eyes peeled for instances where they may seek your feedback directly. For example, I had one lecturer this semester post a poll on Canvas asking students what we thought of online lecture delivery in the unit. 

While peer discussion online or with friends can be valuable (and sometimes necessary to blow off steam), consider giving your feedback directly to your teaching staff via the Student Voice Survey, email, or through other opportunities offered. It’s generally much more productive for everyone involved. 

Real people are reading to your feedback. 

One of the biggest takeaways from my chat with Professor Cathcart was her assurance that when a student fills out their Student Voice Survey, that feedback is carefully considered by “lots of people”. This can range from the individual tutor or lecturer to the Unit Coordinator, and even the Head of School.  

Professor Cathcart said this can be one of the biggest misconceptions of the survey – that responses are only seen by the person you’re giving feedback about. In reality, the results are used much more broadly to not only identify what’s working and what isn’t in a particular classroom, but also to pick up larger patterns occurring across a whole course. 

Additionally, the University wants to hear from all of us – not just the students who had really fantastic or really poor experiences in a unit. 

Understand how feedback benefits you & others 

What’s in it for you? It’s easy to see how being generous and thoughtful with our feedback helps us improve and advocate for ourselves, but there are some broader impacts of the Student Voice Survey that might provide some extra motivation to fill it out this semester. 

At the end of the survey, you’ll get to choose an initiative to receive a donation made by the University on your behalf – either the Learning Potential Fund or the Guild’s Foodbank. This has helped raise $102,000 since its inception, and last year the Foodbank received a $1,214 donation from students participating in the Student Voice Surveys. 

Given that the feedback received through the Survey is used to look at larger patterns across the university as well as individual units, your own feedback might inform changes to the course you are studying while you are at uni.  

Professor Cathcart mentioned that early-career staff often rely on feedback to reflect on their practice, so yours could build confidence for a new tutor or improve the teaching practice of a staff member who you might have for a later unit. 

In the past, the Student Voice Survey has informed change throughout the University, including identifying the growing need for mental health services for students and for the professional development of staff members to be able to identify at-risk students. Widespread confusion among students about phrases used in units like “workshop” and “tutorial” has led to policy changes to standardise this language across the university. 

Mind your manners. 

The Student Voice Survey encourages students to give professional feedback that is actionable, specific, and kind. 

In the background of the Survey, automated processes run to monitor the language used by students. This includes a system that flags profanity in survey responses. 

“We don’t want to be Big Brother,” Professor Cathcart said, noting however that humour doesn’t always translate and that using abusive or profane language in the survey is a violation of the QUT Student Code of Conduct

While profanity is “easy” to spot in feedback and redact, what is harder to catch and monitor is discriminatory feedback or criticism without basis, such as comments about a staff member’s race, sexual orientation, or appearance. 

Professor Cathcart emphasised that expressing you have serious concerns about a lecturer and their conduct, with supporting explanations, is much more helpful than a blanket “I think this person should be sacked” statement. 

“Use language you would use if someone was sitting in front of you,” she said. It might seem obvious, but it’s always useful to be reminded of this. 

At Glass, we love the Student Voice Survey’s focus on actionable, specific, and kind feedback. We’ve adopted it into the Glass team as a standard for our own feedback procedures, and it’s something I can see myself using in my own life. 

The Student Voice Survey is anonymous. 

It’s helpful to note that Student Voice Survey is shared without your identifying information and only shared with staff after marks are finalised. The only time survey responses are re-identified are when there may have been unacceptable comments that are a breach of the Code of Conduct or where the comment indicates a serious risk of harm to staff or students – in which case the University may reach out offering support services.

Early survey submission = more chances to win a prize! 

The Student Voice Survey does not take long to complete and by doing so you have the chance to win from a prize pool of $1,500 pre-paid VISA gift cards. 

“Prizes are drawn each Thursday over the survey period. To increase your chances of winning the remaining prize draws, submit your surveys as soon as possible.” 

I did my survey the day it came out for this exact reason, and texted all of my friends to do the same. I haven’t won a prize yet but I’m holding out hope and still in draw! 

The Student Voice Survey can be completed via your Canvas access – click on any unit you are currently enrolled in, then click “Student Voice Survey” on the left side-bar. You can find out more information about the survey and how to complete it here

While this Guide has a focus on feedback about your units, there might be other times where you need to give feedback or make a complaint about something else to do with life on campus: 

Guild Academic Advocacy exists to support you in advocating for yourself, providing guidance and assistance in navigating university processes and pathways, including making anonymous complaints if necessary, for a wide range of issues you may face. 

  • If you want to make a complaint about harassment or discrimination or chat to one of QUT’s Harassment and Discrimination Advisers, you can find information here. 
  • To provide feedback and suggestions on the allocation of Student Services & Amenities Fee (SSAF) funds you can email registrar@qut.edu.au . Reminders about this occasionally appear in the QUT student newsletter.  
  • Your Student Representative Council also exists to represent your interests to the university, so remember you can always get in touch with them here, or attend one of the monthly Council meetings (details on the Guild Noticeboard). 

Thank you to Professor Abby Cathcart and Tina Graham for their assistance with this article. 

Ciaran Greig
Ciaran Greig

Ciaran (she/her) is a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer and an editor at Glass Magazine. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Creative Writing)/Bachelor of Laws.

Articles: 50

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