The University has a policy of obtaining student feedback from all taught modules via a standardised feedback questionnaire which is made available to students at the end of teaching. Historically, response rates to this can be low, and as a generic device the quality and usefulness of the feedback can be limited. Chapple and Murphy (1996), identify this problem, stating such questionnaires “only provide answers to questions posed by the evaluator in the format set by the evaluator.” For this reason, the programme team of the University’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice, on which I am Module Leader of the Digital Technology module, implemented an additional feedback exercise on the final taught session of each module using the nominal group technique in an attempt to solicit more useful feedback to inform the presentation of the next module occurrence.
Nominal group technique (NGT), is a structured activity for soliciting feedback from a group which involves a number of phases: first, as individuals, people are asked to come up with their own responses to the set questions / task (the ‘nominal’ in the nominal group); then as a group they are asked to collate the individual responses to list of items facilitated by a group leader; and finally, each individual votes on the importance of each item to then create a ranked list. A literature review shows NGT being effectively used for student feedback since the 1980s, with, for example, Lloyd-Jones, Fowell, and Bligh (1999) concluding that “NGT has proved a valuable evaluation tool in course development due to its ability to reflect the student perspective.”
As implemented on our PG Cert, students are asked to consider two questions: what were the strengths of the module, or what did you find particularly useful? And: what can we improve in the module, or what would you have liked to spend more time on? Students were given a primer on NGT, then the tutors would leave the room to allow for free discussion while the activity was completed on two pieces of flipchart paper. Upon completion the tutors would be invited back by the group leader to discuss the points raised.
One occurrence of the Digital Technology module was ongoing during the period in which universities were forced to pivot to online learning as a result of the pandemic, with the bulk of the teaching outstanding. This led to the problem of how the NGT exercise could be conducted with the group of students physically separated from each other. The solution was found with the student response system, Poll Everywhere (2021), which contains a Q&A question type that allows free response and ranking. This enabled the activity to be completed successfully, with results comparable to previous iterations of the exercise conducted in person.
Chapple, M. and Murphy, R. (1996), ‘The nominal group technique: Extending the evaluation of students’ teaching and learning experiences’ in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education (1996), DOI: 10.1080/0260293960210204
Lloyd-Jones, G, Fowell, S., and Bligh, J. G. (1999), ‘The use of the nominal group technique as an evaluative tool in medical undergraduate education’ in Medical Education (1999), 33, 008-013
Q&A – Poll Everywhere (2021), Poll Everywhere, Available at: https://support.polleverywhere.com/hc/en-us/articles/1260801551409-Q-A (Accessed: 10 February 2021)