Improving feedback mechanisms to UG students in engineering degrees

Posted in: Case Studies


This 2014-15 project made an important contribution to the overall cost of a one-semester (S1, 2014/15)  sabbatical aimed at improving the student experience through enhancing teaching, learning and feedback outcomes during UG degrees in Chemical Engineering at two leading universities in the Southern Hemisphere (and the most highly ranked Australian universities for Chem Eng): UQ (Brisbane) and the University of Melbourne.  To maintain our excellent NSS position for student satisfaction we need to innovate and learn from other leading academic institutions. This sabbatical proposed to do this by:

  • Benchmarking UoB measures of student satisfaction (including feedback methodologies) and other tools for enhancing the student experience against those in UQ and Melbourne;
  • Examining the effectiveness of the teaching, feedback and student experience innovations that have been introduced in UQ and Melbourne. This was done both by examining outputs such ranking of subjects and universities, and by conducting interviews with academic staff, students and administrative support managers;
  • Examining how QA documentation is interpreted through to the institutional committee structures down to improving and enhancing the individual student experience through assessment, feedback and student support outcomes. Of key concern was academic ownership of programme and changes made to it, which affects both student and staff identities, and social cohesion within universities.

Project Team

Dr Michael Bird, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Chemical Engineering;


The project aimed:

  • To improve the quality and usefulness of feedback given to students in Chemical Engineering degree programmes. This includes the nature, timing and methods used to relay feedback to undergraduates;
  • Through (i), to improve student satisfaction, particularly in relation to improving feedback outcomes, an area which the Department of Chemical Engineering at Bath finds particularly challenging in recent NSS exercises;
  • Through an understanding of the outcomes outlined in (i) and (ii), to extend the outputs to improve the quality and usefulness of feedback across all engineering courses at the University of Bath;
  • To improve staff and student engagement with, and implementation of, changes to feedback policy, timing and processes in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and the university as a whole.


  1. Improving survey completion rates. Much more extensive ‘You said, We did’ is needed. Incentives to complete questionnaires can be provided;
  2. Timing of end of course questionnaires.  There are good pedagogical reasons for closing any survey before the final exam or assessment is set;
  3. Guidance (feed-forward) notes for completing design and research projects, and labs. Module managers should produce a list of typical pitfalls and problems that students often encounter for the specific module and how to overcome them, so that learning outcomes and marks are improved;
  4. Visiting industrialists should be engaged extensively to help with the teaching and consultation during design projects;
  5. Self-Assessment reports. During design projects, students may complete Self-Assessment reports, to bench-mark their own progress. Peer to peer assessment of group members can also performed;
  6. Feedback on examinations. This can help improve student satisfaction. The Module manager may invite students to make an appointment to discuss how their performance could be improved;
  7. Allocation of groups for design project projects and laboratory classes. In this model, students select their preferred partner. The module manager then matches pairs based on marks or randomly, to make up groups of four students;
  8. Peer to peer learning. Using this technique, each lecture is started with one or more multiple choice questions that test students understanding of the previous lecture;
  9. Ordering of material within the module. Student satisfaction is improved if the best received material is delivered at the end of the course;
  10. Stage gated quizzes may be introduced;
  11. Engendering mutual respect and developing a ‘learning partnership’ between the academic and the student. All academics need to make it clear when they will be available to help answer specific student queries, and provide formative feedback.


As a result of the project, I am in the process of completely rewriting all of my undergraduate courses. There will be much less of a requirement for students to copy down text, and instead I will be including multi-media aspects such as You-Tube videos and quizzes to self-evaluate progress. I am also in the process of engaging additional industrial speakers on two courses I teach.  I am also introducing additional feedback sessions on past- paper question attempts ahead of each examination.

I am keen to disseminate the findings of my project as widely as possible. To that end, I am very happy for any interested stakeholders to contact me in person.


Posted in: Case Studies