Evaluating the Student Experience: A Critical Review of the Use of Surveys to Enhance the Student Experience

  • Rhona SharpeEmail author


Surveying students about their experiences has long been a tool used by lecturers to collect feedback on their teaching. More recently, as the student experience has become a strategic priority for higher education institutions, surveys have come to be the dominant tool for academic managers to measure and monitor the quality of teaching. However, student experience surveys are not without their critics and there has been much debate about what such surveys purport to measure and how their results will be used. The introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework in the UK provides a timely prompt to review the value of these measures. This chapter takes a critical approach to reviewing the use of surveys within the context of the institution, the programme and the individual lecturer. Established findings on survey responses are reviewed including biases in how students evaluate individual lecturers, institutional and disciplinary differences in programme evaluations and the rise of yea-saying in institutional surveys. Recommendations are made concerning what aspects of the student experience it is appropriate to survey, how sampling can improve the trustworthiness of the results, different types of available question styles, and alternative and complementary methods. Despite their recognized biases, it is accepted that surveys are now so well ingrained into the management of teaching and learning that it is likely their use will continue. This chapter suggests a pragmatic approach to sharing more widely what is known about survey data, so that survey findings can be interpreted more responsibly.


Student experience Surveys Student evaluations of teaching Higher education management 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of SurreyGuildfordUK

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