Improving Student Satisfaction in Economics – summary of workshop discussion

In November 2019, Dr. Cloda Jenkins, Prof Antonio Cabrales and Dr. Dunli Li hosted a workshop attended by Economics departments from all over the UK on how to improve student satisfaction with their experience in economics degrees. Some of the ideas, linked to National Student Survey (NSS) questions, that emerged from the workshop discussion can be found below. We hope these provide food for thought for others considering how to improve the student experience in economics.

What matters most for student satisfaction, according to NSS data?

  • An intellectually stimulating and well-organised course with opportunities for students to apply what they have learnt.
  • Students receiving sufficient guidance and support on the course.
  • For learning resources, IT and Facilities are areas that mattered the most.

What can be done to improve satisfaction with Teaching Quality and Learning Opportunities?

  • Create a culture where education matters and let students see that staff value education. Consider making attending staff-student events part of the workload for all staff.
  • Move away from small group tutorials to teaching with larger workshops for 2 hours or work to have no lectures and instead do all teaching through hands-on workshops.
  • Create better community by teaching single honours economics students separately so their curriculum can be better targeted to their interests and abilities.
  • Develop applied skills by having not-for-credit sessions like weekend bootcamp in Python, or R for those interested in Data Science. Try to register their participation on the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR).
  • Within teaching evaluations, use questions similar to those in the NSS.Students will then have this opportunity to raise concerns and staff can respond.

What can be done to improve satisfaction with assessment and feedback?

  • Provide a feedback sheet in advance and have clear criteria on how assessment is marked.
  • Return feedback on time and use constructive criticism. Monitor the quality of feedback provided, particularly if TAs are also grading. Find ways to ensure students check their feedback.
  • Avoid errors in exams as these lead to high dissatisfaction.
  • January exams can negatively affect NSS scores. During this period, students await results and exam conditions (errors, difficulty, etc.) could be reflected in the NSS.

What can be done to improve satisfaction with Academic Support and Learning Community?

  • Assign a personal tutor to every student and enhance the interaction between personal tutor and tutees. Make sure that students know they can talk to any member of staff by having an open-door policy.
  • Have approachable and helpful professional support staff.
  • Improve community by having student societies and/or student reps organise events, but also provide logistical support if needed.
  • Use group work to develop peer community.

There is no panacea on what can be done to improve student satisfaction. What works in one economics department may not work in another. Context matters but we found it very useful to share experiences and get tips from others to consider going forward.

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