Reference groups may be organized at course level, for example in the form of a group with three to four students who act as representatives for the other students on the same course. A reference group meets with the course coordinator and discusses the instructional activities in that particular course in order to identify areas for improvement.
Reference groups can make it easier for students to voice opinions on teaching strategies while the course is in progress. The use of reference groups at course level should supplement other forms of evaluation.
If reference groups are used as the only evaluation of a course it is recommended that the group and course coordinators meet on a regular basis, and that the reference group is responsible for collecting feedback from all the students in that course. A summary of the course evaluations that includes all feedback collected during the course should preferably be done towards the end of term.
How to use the method
Consider how many students you wish to include in the reference group. The number of participants should be based on the amount of students on the course, how the teaching is organized, and the intention of the evaluation.
- Consider what areas of responsibility each participant should have. It is important that students are aware of what is expected of them.
- The selection should be done at the beginning of term.
- A meeting schedule should be established at the beginning of term. Consider the frequency of meetings and whether others than the course or study coordinator should participate. The meeting agenda should be made available for all students.
- When the reference group is established, a meeting should be held to discuss how to organize the evaluation and what areas to focus on. It is important for student representatives to know if they need to actively collect course feedback from the other students, or if the other students must deliver feedback to student representatives.
- The meetings should focus on student feedback, both positive and negative comments.
- Make sure that detailed meeting minutes are taken, which include both the student feedback and the response from the course coordinator. Minutes should be made available for the rest of the students soon after.
- If you are evaluating a course that runs through several semesters it could be rewarding to replace the group´s members with new students half way through. This will give you the opportunity to make direct contact with more students, and students will take turns being student representatives. However, make sure that this does not affect the continuity of the evaluation. It is recommended that the group meets three to four times before it is replaced by a new group.