USING SURVEY DATA
One of the key objectives of the ISSE is to develop an additional source of valuable information about the experiences of students in Irish higher education institutions. It may take time to fully appreciate the potential benefits of data from this survey across entire institutions but there is an explicit intention to provide benefits to individual institutions and to those students. Video commentaries from some academic staff are available here.
Since 2014, the national reports include a chapter exploring two of the engagement indicators in detail. This chapter, “Looking Deeper: What does ISSE data tell us about the student experience?”, points to the true value and benefits of implementing ISSE over time. A report from 2015, “Effective feedback and uses of ISSE data: an emerging picture“, outlines some of the activities already taking place in Irish institutions.
In addition, the following points are suggested to prompt discussion. Websites associated with similar surveys internationally (US National Survey of Student Engagement, UK Engagement Survey) also offer examples of using the data. It is regarded as important that the national project continues to support local use and interpretation of the ISSE data. A series of data analysis and implementation workshops are held in regional venues each year. Additional workshops, discussions and further guidance are provided on request. It is important to note that all of the ISSE data has been anonymised before it is returned after fieldwork.
SHARING THE RESULTS WITH STAFF
- Don’t just send a summary report. Share results and schedule a time to discuss with relevant personnel.
- Facilitate discussion to select subsets of the data (for example, ten questions that relate to a local priority) for further exploration.
- You may wish to involve a larger number of staff by asking them to review results for their own areas of responsibility and to identify priority actions. An increasing number of institutions conduct further analysis to explore results by faculty / department. Make use of the two new fields introduced to reflect organizational structures (Academic Unit 1 and 2) to customize results for faculties / schools / departments.
- Examine trend analyses to consider past years’ data relative to latest data (for individual questions or for individual indicators) and to inform priorities for next year.
- Prompt a discussion on expectations of the experience of different groups of students. What differences, or similarities, would staff expect in the experiences of first years relative to final years; full – time or part-time; discipline A or discipline B? Is this what you expect? Could / should the experience be different?
SHARING THE RESULTS WITH STUDENTS
- Don’t just write a report for staff. Share results and schedule a time to meet with students to discuss the results, what they mean, and what action(s) may be appropriate.
- Complement discussion at committees that include student representatives with opportunities to discuss results in settings where student engagement is the main focus.
- Arrange briefings for student union officers and for the general student body.
- Are there particular questions that “should belong to” the students’ union or particular student groups?
- Demonstrate to students examples of your institution acting on the results. Simple feedback that illustrates “you said…” and “we did…” can prove highly effective but, ideally, students should be involved in analysing and discussing the data before decisions are made.
CREATE ACTION PLANS FOR SHARING THE DATA
- Determine which data are relevant for particular staff / students. Which data are most compelling for your institution, faculties, departments, students? Facilitate departments, learning support units to engage with small sets of relevant results, not the whole report.
- Would a “data use team” be beneficial to exploit the data by identifying a series of “data champions” in various units of the institution?
- What institution-level initiatives might benefit from survey data? Connect results to “hot issues” in your institution and send to relevant groups.
- How can you use comparison group data to motivate reflection and action on your results? How does your data compare to national or similar institution-types?
- Can you look at your results relative to past performance and similar institutions to identify areas for further work?
- What other institutional sources of data can you link to ISSE results?
- Are there opportunities to share data with partner disciplines / partner institutions?
OPPORTUNITIES FOR DATA USE
Survey results can be used in many ways. Possibilities include:
- Supporting student learning and development.
- Facilitating student retention and engagement.
- Managing resources, programmes, and services.
- Quality assurance and / or enhancement.
- Identifying areas of good practice.
- Guiding staff development activities.
- Improving internal communication.
- Marketing to prospective students.