Giving away control of the questions: an alternative methodology for engaging students in evaluation exercises


  • Elaine Tan Newcastle University
  • Malcolm Murray Durham University
  • Eleanor Loughlin Durham University


This paper explores the application of a ‘students as partners’ approach within a project undertaking an evaluation of the learning experiences with technology of students (n=250) within one institution. The full outcomes of this study are written up in a separate paper, discussed here, are the practicalities and outcomes of adopting this method of student engagement to undertake an evaluative exercise. When presenting our study we explore the issues surrounding student engagement in evaluating their own learning experiences in higher education. Discussed is how shortcomings of conventional forms of evaluation, and how these prompted us to seek alternative methods of investigation. We detail the method undertaken in this study using an approach of students as co-researchers.  The paper concludes with a discussion of the resulting data, and comments upon the depth and representativeness achieved using this method. The specific context of the inquiry was the digital learning of students, how they in the experience online tools through the institution and how these practices interacted and contrasted with their own self-determined and self-selected practices


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Elaine Tan, Newcastle University

Lecturer of Innovation in Management Education,

Newcastle University Business School

Malcolm Murray, Durham University

Head of Learning Technologies Team

Eleanor Loughlin, Durham University

Head of Academic Skills Development


Beckman, K., Bennett, S., & Lockyer, L. (2014). Understanding students' use and value of technology for learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 39(3), 346-367.

Biasutti, M. (2011). The student experience of a collaborative e-learning university module. Computers & Education, 57(3), 1865-1875.

Bell, Adrian R. and Brooks, Chris, What Makes Students Satisfied? A Discussion and Analysis of the UK's National Student Survey (April 22, 2016). Available at SSRN:

Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felten, P., Millard, L., & Moore-Cherry, N. (2016). Addressing potential challenges in co-creating learning and teaching: overcoming resistance, navigating institutional norms and ensuring inclusivity in student–staff partnerships. Higher Education, 71(2), 195-208.

Cheng J. & Marsh H.W. (2010) “UK National Student Survey: Are differences between universities and courses reliable and meaningful?” Oxford Review of Education 36 (6) pp 693-712.

Conole, G., De Laat, M., Dillon, T., & Darby, J. (2008). ‘Disruptive technologies’, ‘pedagogical innovation’: What’s new? Findings from an in-depth study of students’ use and perception of technology. Computers & Education, 50(2), 511-524.

Cook-Sather, A., & Luz, A. (2015). Greater engagement in and responsibility for learning: what happens when students cross the threshold of student–faculty partnership?. Higher Education Research & Development, 34(6), 1097-1109

Ellis, R., & Goodyear, P. (2013). Students' experiences of e-learning in higher education: the ecology of sustainable innovation. Routledge.

Felten, P., Bagg, J., Bumbry, M., Hill, J., Hornsby, K., Pratt, M., & Weller, S. (2013). A call for expanding inclusive student engagement in SoTL. Teaching and Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(2), 63-74

Fielding, M. (1999). Radical collegiality: Affirming teaching as an inclusive professional practice. The Australian Educational Researcher, 26(2), 1-34

Fielding, M. (2001). Students as radical agents of change. Journal of educational change, 2(2), 123-141.

Fielding A., Charlton C., Kounali, D & Leckie G. (2008) Degree attainment, ethnicity and gender: Interactions and the modification of effects. A quantitative analysis. A report for the Higher Education Academy. Available from

Flavin, M. (2015). Home and away: the use of institutional and non-institutional technologies to support learning and teaching. Interactive Learning Environments, 1-9.

Garrison, D. R., & Kanuka, H. (2004). Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education. The internet and higher education, 7(2), 95-105

Flavin, M. (2016). Disruptive conduct: the impact of disruptive technologies on social relations in higher education. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 53(1), 3-15.

Gray, J. and Lawson S. (2016, April 18). It's time to stand up to greedy academic publishers. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. (2014). Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy.

Jones, S., Sutcliffe, M. J., Bragg, J., & Harris, D. (2016). To what extent is capital expenditure in UK higher education meeting the pedagogical needs of staff and students?. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 1-13.

Leman J. (2012) “A life in 22 clicks – How students interpret the NSS” Conference presentation: Higher Education Academy Surveys for Enhancement, National College for School Leadership, Nottingham. 17 May 2012. Available at:

Marsh H.W., Ginns P., Morin A.J.S., Nagengast B. & Martin A.J. (2011) “The Course Evaluation Questionnaire (CEQ): Use of student ratings to benchmark Australian universities.” Journal of Educational Psychology 103(3) pp 733-748.

Miller E. (n.d.) Wizard – statistics, visualization, data analysis, predictive modeling. Version 1.5.2 Available from:

Milsom C., Stewart M. & Zaitseva E (2011) “Can’t get no satisfaction: discrepancies between NSS qualitative and quantitative data and implications for quality enhancement.” HEA Surveys for Enhancement Conference. Available online at

Mitra, D. (2004). The significance of students: can increasing" student voice" in schools lead to gains in youth development?. The Teachers College Record, 106(4), 651-688.

Orner, M. (1992). Interrupting the calls for student voice in “liberatory” education: A feminist poststructuralist perspective. Feminisms and critical pedagogy, 74-89.

Ozkan, S., & Koseler, R. (2009). Multi-dimensional students’ evaluation of e-learning systems in the higher education context: An empirical investigation. Computers & Education, 53(4), 1285-1296

Paechter, M., Maier, B., & Macher, D. (2010). Students’ expectations of, and experiences in e-learning: Their relation to learning achievements and course satisfaction. Computers & education, 54(1), 222-229.

Porter, S. R. (2012). Using student learning as a measure of quality in higher education. HCM Strategists.

Robinson, C. (2012). Student engagement: What does this mean in practice in the context of higher education institutions? Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, 4, 94-108

Russell, C., Malfroy, J., Gosper, M., & McKenzie, J. (2014). Using research to inform learning technology practice and policy: a qualitative analysis of student perspectives. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology.

Sharpe, R., Benfield, G., Lessner, E., & DeCicco, E. (2005). Final report: Scoping study for the pedagogy strand of the JISC learning programme. Unpublished internal report, 4(1).

Wright, C. R., Lopes, V., Montgomerie, T. C., Reju, S. A., & Schmoller, S. (2014). Selecting a learning management system: Advice from an Academic Perspective. Educause Review.

Zineldin, M., Akdag, H. C., & Vasicheva, V. (2011). Assessing quality in higher education: New criteria for evaluating students’ satisfaction. Quality in Higher Education, 17(2), 231-243.




How to Cite

Tan, E., Murray, M., & Loughlin, E. (2019). Giving away control of the questions: an alternative methodology for engaging students in evaluation exercises. Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 2(2), 29–46. Retrieved from