By Ilana Finefter-Rosenbluh, Monash University; Melissa Barnes, Monash University, and Tracii Ryan, The University of Melbourne

Education departments have been investing in feedback-based tools to assess school performance.

These include student perception surveys, where students provide feedback on the quality of their learning and their experiences in the classroom or at school.

The hope is such feedback will provide teachers and other school staff with information to help foster a positive learning environment. But our recent study shows teachers don’t know how to act on the data from the surveys, and that students question the value of them.

It’s one thing to invest in and gather feedback, but without the ability to act on it, the feedback is useless. Educational systems and policy-makers should support teachers to respond to feedback-based assessment data. This is particularly important in times of ongoing disruptions to school routines, which put both teachers and students under extensive pressure.

How popular are student perception surveys?

Australian states have been using school-level surveys like the School Opinion Survey in Queensland, the Student Survey in NSW and the School Survey in the Northern Territory for years.

Similarly, there is the Attitudes to School Survey in Victoria, which asks students to rate statements such as “my teacher makes learning fun” and “my teacher uses more than one way to check we understand”.

Education departments in nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States have also development student perception surveys to assess teaching practice. The rise of such surveys reflects a spike in survey companies advertising their services to help improve teaching and learning with data-informed insights.

‘You can’t have these surveys without some kind of support’

We wanted to explore the influence of such student perception surveys on teachers’ practice, as perceived by both students and teachers.

Our study took place in Victorian secondary schools before the pandemic. It was based on nearly 1,000 students’ surveys providing their perspectives on their experience in the classroom.

To measure change, we administered the surveys twice: around the beginning of the year and towards the end of the year. The study also included 14 teacher interviews, and focus groups involving 33 students.

Interestingly, findings showed teachers did not change their practice over time in response to student feedback.