1.3 The evaluation and enhancement of education

Auditointiryhmän arvio

Feedback-on-feedback is one of the main improvement areas in education

The university strongly emphasises gathering and utilising student feedback data to continually improve the quality of education and support services offered. Through various channels, such as surveys, focus groups and individual feedback mechanisms, the university systematically collects data on the needs, the progress of studies and the well-being of students. This feedback data is then analysed to make data-driven decisions and improvements to the degree programmes, including curriculum development, teaching methods and student support services.

Based on the interview with education specialists, Aalto is in the process of renewing their course feedback system and developing tools for teachers to give counter-feedback. Teachers have requested more resources for responding to feedback, and the university is taking a positive approach to encourage teachers to participate. The process of renewal and development is being discussed with teachers to ensure a systematic approach. However, at the time of the audit visit, it was not yet clear how the university would ensure whether counter-feedback on course feedback was given. Students reported that giving feedback on feedback depends on teachers. Aalto is recommended to develop more systematic procedures and support for teaching staff to inform students of changes introduced based on student feedback.

Systematic monitoring and evaluation of degree education is up to date and meets the needs of society and working life

Concerning evaluation and development of the overall education portfolio, Aalto’s annual strategic University Preview, University Review and University Dialogue processes strongly support agile curriculum development and ensure continuous quality development and updating of degree programmes. It dynamically links and aligns societal development trends, strategic goals, performance development and priorities over time. The process includes annual self-assessments, reviews, workshops, and analysis of the previous year’s performance at the school and programme levels.

In programmes and schools, the deans’ interview emphasised that various indicators are followed and data analysed to gauge relevance. This includes employment and employer association statistics, programme review results, student feedback, external stakeholder feedback and intake statistics. There are examples of alumni boards and international advisory boards providing ideas and feedback on relevance to schools and programmes. Input from several audit interviews showed that employees and students saw these processes as very inclusive. They involve systematically analysing plans and indicators, feedback from diverse sources and community discussion at all levels. On the Aalto level, the Learning Steering Group discusses school feedback, including work-life aspects, and analyses new needs that should be considered.

There was convincing evidence that the evaluation data is being used for the revision of existing degree programme structures and contents, specification of learning outcomes in curricula, analysis of how well the intended learning outcomes are achieved, coordination and planning of new programmes and course initiatives, as well as portfolio changes and development of lifewide learning provision. The use of data to gain insight is systematic and diverse, going far beyond the standard institutional KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).

Systematic development of support services is based on the needs of students and staff

Aalto has a well-structured system for developing support services based on the needs of students and staff. They use various methods to gather feedback, such as questionnaires, joint projects, well-being surveys for students and well-being surveys and monthly meetings with schools for staff. The university has also introduced new services and support tools for student well-being based on student feedback or initiatives. These include intensified student career guidance, such as Career Design Lab and a mentoring programme that involves alumni.

Another important initiative is the Leap for Learning project which aims to create a more student-friendly educational experience with the help of a news service platform and a success team to support students. Some challenges include transferring from online to on-site teaching, larger cohort sizes and heterogeneity in background knowledge. Nevertheless, the project employs strategies to tap into intrinsic motivation, involves student project work and provides real-life exposure to build competencies. The project also acknowledges the need to support and integrate Finnish language studies for international students and organise instruction for large courses. Furthermore, the Leap for Learning project has future potential to improve feedback for students from their learning while addressing critical challenges in facilitating student learning and competences.

As for developing staff support services based on feedback, the development and availability of pedagogical peer support were mentioned as good examples.