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Improving International Students' Performance Through Feedback

24 September 2013

The University of Ulster has teamed up with the University of Otago in New Zealand to launch an international project aimed at improving lecture comprehension through student feedback.

The innovative approach, which was first developed by researchers at Ulster, involves using new technology to allow students to give immediate feedback on comprehension issues in lectures using a modified clicker system.

Professor Maurice Stringer, School of Psychology and Dr Karl Stringer, School of Computing and Information Engineering, initially developed the feedback system, which will now be rolled out in New Zealand.

Working with Dr Jackie Hunter, Psychology Department, University of Otago, they will be able to help thousands of international students, for whom English is an additional language.

The number of international students in New Zealand has increased by 400% since the late 1990s and the transition for these students to higher level academic content in English is difficult, particularly in the first years of their programmes.

The new system developed at Ulster will help improve international students’ comprehension in lectures by providing instant feedback to lecturers about the specific problems they raise.

Professor Stringer, Director of the Psychology Research Institute , said: “This system has been found to be particularly effective across a range of academic disciplines at Ulster with students enjoying the use of clickers and reporting improved attention, engagement and interest in lecture material and a better mastery of course material.

“The approach, which has been presented nationally as an exemplar of innovative teaching at the Higher Education Academy Conference in London, provides immediate feedback to lecturers on a slide by slide basis which they can use to target specific areas in lectures which students find difficult.”

The decision to further develop the approach in New Zealand forms part of a successful research Memorandum of Agreement established between the two universities over a number of years.

Profession Stringer continued: “We believe that this research-led student feedback initiative will greatly benefit international students in Otago and help staff to more effectively manage their transition to higher education.”

Professor Hugh McKenna, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, added: “For a number of years there have been ongoing research collaborations between the University of Ulster and the University of Otago in the fields of Psychology, Rehabilitation Science, Business Studies, Sports Studies, Nutrition and Energy.

“We also look forward to new collaborations which are being explored in the areas of Peace and Conflict and Nursing. Many of these recent research partnerships have been stimulated by the establishment our highly successful joint Memorandum of Understanding.”

The development of this innovative feedback system was funded by the Centre for Higher Education Practice and provides an improved focus for quality assurance mechanisms such as peer assessment, PASS, module monitoring and course review.

For more information on the student feedback approach visit: