Reference groups - quality assurance of education - Kunnskapsbasen
Reference groups - quality assurance of education
NTNU's most frequently used method for collecting feedback from students, is to create a reference group for the course. This page describes what a reference group is, how it works, and what the duties of the course coordinator are in this respect.
- Why use reference groups?
- How does the reference group work?
- 1. The course coordinator establishes the reference group
- 2. The course coordinator calls the reference group's meetings
- 3. The reference group writes a reference group report
- 4. The course coordinator writes and publishes a course report
- 5. The course coordinator offers the students written verification
- Other methods for student feedback
- See also
- Speak up!
Why use reference groups?
Reference groups are the most frequently used method for collecting feedback from the students following a course.
- Reference groups enable close dialogue and cooperation between the course coordinator and the students throughout the course.
- Reference groups can be used both for mid-way adjustments and for hindsight evaluation and development.
- Reference groups work particularly well in combination with other methods for collecting feedback from the students.
- The reference group represents all students enrolled in the course, and should should actively seek the opinions of the other students. The course coordinator should regularly collect feedback from all students, e.g. through questionnaires.
This short video about reference groups has been made in order to recruit students:
See video: Join the course's reference group! (Duration: 1 min 40 sec. Use the settings icon to choose English subtitles.)
Duties and composition of reference groups
A reference group consists of at least three students taking the course. If the course is part of more than one study program, all programs should be represented. In courses with few students (such as PhD courses), it might be natural to include all the students in the reference group. Likewise, a single reference group may be created for several small courses within the same study program, subject area and level of study.
The students evaluate the course and provide feedback to the course coordinator. In addition to dialogue and direct feedback during the course, the reference group writes a report at the end of the course, using the study program management system, KASPER. The reference group's report is integral to the course coordinator's final course report, and is published as an attachment to this.
The students in the reference group should
- have ongoing dialogue with their fellow students about education quality
- represent all the students in the reference group meetings
- sum up the feedback to the course coordinator in a reference group report, including proposed adjustments
How does the reference group work?
1. The course coordinator establishes the reference group
The course coordinator initiates the reference group in the beginning of the semester. Read more about how you establish a reference group on the wiki KASPER - create reference group. Contact information to the reference group is posted on the course's page in the digital learning system. The course coordinator informs the student about the reference group method during one of the first lectures.
- At least three students participate in the reference group
- If the course is part of more than one study program, the reference group is extended so that all programs are represented. If this makes the group too large, consider omitting representatives from programs that have only a few students enrolled in the course.
- In courses with few students (such as PhD courses), it might be natural to include all the students in the reference group.
- A single reference group may be created for several small courses within the same study program, subject area and level of study.
- The reference group report is written and submitted using KASPER
- Via KASPER, the course coordinator may choose to create a digital reference group in MS Teams. Templates for reference group reports are embedded in the team site, and the reference group reports can be submitted directly to the course coordinator. If no digital reference group is created in MS Teams, the course coordinator must receive and upload the reference group report to KASPER manually.
2. The course coordinator calls the reference group's meetings
- The course coordinator calls and leads the reference group meetings
- The dates for reference group meetings should be set early, and the course coordinator publishes them on the course's page in the digital learning system. The reference group should have at least three meetings: one at the beginning of the semester, one in the middle, and one at the end of the course.
- Typical subjects are learning activities and learning environment, as well as matters put forward by the students.
- The course coordinator gathers relevant information for the reference group meetings, such at previous reference group reports and statistics on failure rate and grades.
Advice for reference group meetings:
- Involve the reference group in setting the time and place for group meetings, and communicate upcoming meetings to all students.
- Clarify duties and responsibilities with the reference group. The student representatives should know what is expected of them, e.g. is it their responsibility to actively seek the opinions of other students, or is it the other students' responsibility to approach reference group members?
- During reference group meetings, the main emphasis should be on allowing the students to communicate their experiences (their own and others', positive and negative)
- Ensure written documentation of the meetings, including both the student representatives' feedback and the course coordinator's/teachers' answers and comments. These minutes should also be made available to the other students as soon as possible,
3. The reference group writes a reference group report
After the last reference group meeting, the student representatives write a reference group report that sums up the group's feedback.
The reference group report should focus on constructive feedback based on the consistency between the learning outcomes, learning activities and the assessment. It should include suggestions for changes that might help students achieve the learning outcomes for the course.
Tools and training for reference groups
See video: Help! We have signed up for reference group (Duration: 2 min 15 sec. Use the settings icon to choose English subtitles.)
- Evaluate courses and study programmes - for students
- Handbook for reference groups (The Student Parliament/Studenttinget NTNU) (in Norwegian)
Publishing the reference group report
The reference group report is published along with the course report that the course coordinator writes. Hence, all reference group reports must be scrutinized with respect to public assessment. For more information, see KASPER - publish reference group reports.
The final deadline for submitting reference group reports is:
- 1 September (spring semester)
- 15 February (autumn semester)
NB! Your faculty may have set deadlines that are earlier than these final deadlines.
4. The course coordinator writes and publishes a course report
The course coordinator writes and publishes a course report, using KASPER. The course report includes a proposed development plan. The reference group report and/or any other documentation of student feedback is attached.
The course report is submitted to the head of department and the heads of relevant study programmes, who are responsible for following up on feedback and proposed development plans.
All students have access to course reports and reference group reports in Studiekvalitetsportalen. The course report should also be made available to the students who have contributed to the evaluation, e.g. through Blackboard.
See also: Writing course reports
5. The course coordinator offers the students written verification
Students who have participated in a reference group, should be offered a letter of confirmation. Reference group certificates are easily generated in KASPER in Norwegian or English, or they may be issued by the department.
Other methods for student feedback
Reference group is a qualitative method that provides opportunity for students and course coordinators to reflect on learning outcomes together. This makes the method particularly well suited for use along other qualitative and quantitative data sources, such as surveys, 5 minute notes, open feedback (postbox) and statistical key indicators like dropout rates, grades and student satisfaction.
- Completing student evaluations of courses
- Create a survey about educational quality for students
- Tools and resources - education quality (in Norwegian)
If the reference group is not working well, you may voice your concerns to the course coordinator or the department. You may also use NTNU's Speak up-portal to report censurable conditions and things that do not work.