Appointing up to five student representatives per course improves the quality of feedback by giving a voice to different types of undergraduates, a study suggests.
Instead of electing a single course representative at the start of the year, students at Kingston University’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing were this year invited to put themselves forward to work in a group to represent their classmates’ views.
The change has vastly increased student representation within the faculty as many less-confident students and more from minority groups have stepped forward to get involved in the student feedback process, staff claim.
“If you’ve only been at university a few weeks, it takes someone really brave to stand up in front of a class and say, ‘I want to be your student rep,’ ” said Lucy Jones, the faculty’s associate dean. “You can now see a real mix in the type of student doing this, rather than the typical type of student who tended to take part.”
The scheme also helped to improve students’ presentation skills and self-confidence: five student representatives from the study’s first year won sabbatical officer roles next year.
Among them is Denza Gonsalves, who was recently elected Kingston’s first female students’ union president in 12 years.
Producing future student leaders is a welcome but unintended outcome, said Michelle Morgan, a learning and teaching coordinator who set up the scheme originally to improve academic feedback.
Many students with high workloads were previously put off by the extra work involved in being a student rep, and many did not consider themselves to be leaders.
“Being a course rep is not necessarily about being a leader, but developing skills in lots of different areas,” said Ms Morgan, who will present findings from the pilot study at the Higher Education Academy’s annual conference at the University of Warwick on 3-4 July.
“Some very unassuming students might become excellent course representatives,” she said.