MBA Students Can Provide Quality Program Feedback If …

ID-10079553Feedback is the lifeblood of a quality MBA program, the source of which is most often the curriculum’s own students and alumni. As a program improves and its reputation grows, the value of the degree also grows for all degree holders, even for those who graduated years ago. Unfortunately, when MBA students and alumni provide feedback, the quality is lacking, so they do not make as valuable a contribution as they could. Sometimes, quality is lacking because of the timing of the feedback request; or because respondents take too little time to prepare their response; or because respondents fail to recall the details necessary for providing quality feedback. MBA students and alumni can do many things to improve the quality of their feedback. For example, the most important element may be finding ways to improve their recall of events and activities in sufficient detail to be useful for providing feedback.

Last month, I recommended that MBA students adopt one, some, or all of ten New Year’s Resolutions about which I wrote. I recommended in Resolution 5 that MBA students reflect after a class period or class weekend and make notes about the one or two most important things learned or about what went well or needs improvement for any instructional period. The most important thing about reflection and making notes is that notes are far superior to memory. This is especially true when it comes to thinking about learning what went well or what needs improvement, especially as time passes. Quality feedback requires specifics, details, examples, etc. that we cannot always recall clearly later on.

Take a Minute to Reflect

All too often at the end of a class session, students immediately switch their focus. It may be to ask the professor a question, to meet with the team or to get home to be with family. No matter the reason, students generally do not take time to reflect on the just-ended class session. In the context of student feedback about a class period, devoting one or two minutes to reflection is usually sufficient, especially when the focus is on answering the following two simple questions:

  1. What went well? This can be as simple as how the professor explained a concept or how much a guest speaker added to the discussion. Two or three bullet points are usually enough.
  2. What needs improvement? Answering, this question is a bit more complex. While two or three bullet points may be sufficient, the challenge is making a suggestion about how to improve. The recipients of the feedback need insight into why something is in need of improvement; and in most cases, suggesting things to do to improve will provide that insight.

Convert Reflection into Notes

Converting reflection into notes means recording answers to the two questions. Recording or documenting can take many forms and is usually a matter of personal preference. My favorite way is to use email. I send my self an email with the answers to both questions. I put keywords in the subject line, such as Feedback, Feedback – Program, Feedback – Accounting. In other words, something that uniquely identifies the notes to what they relate. Thus, the email’s subject line identifies the content; and more importantly, it allows me to create an Outlook folder and filter that automatically transfers incoming email into the folder(s) so I never see it in my inbox. I can create as many folders and subject identifiers as I want or need. For example, with three classes I may want three folders or perhaps one folder per semester. Note taking is easy; however, keeping track of notes over time is not easy for most people. This approach makes it less of an issue.

Turn Notes into Feedback

When the time comes to provide feedback, start with the folders containing the relevant emails. Open the appropriate folder to see a chronological listing of the emails you sent yourself with the notes made during the reflection period. Now, it is a matter of aggregating the bullet points from the emails. For some of you, a review of the emails is enough for creating substantive feedback. Others may want to cut and paste email content into a word document and use that as a starting point for creating feedback. Either way, you are no longer relying on memory.

Benefits of Providing Quality Feedback

MBA faculty members and program administrators want quality feedback on which to act. However, it is the MBA students and alumni of the program who are the beneficiaries of their actions. The following diagram illustrates the cycle and the connection between continuous improvement, reputation, and increase in the value of the degree. Again, as a program improves and its reputation grows, the value of the degree also grows for all degree holders, even for those who graduated years ago.

Feedback Cycle

MBA students can contribute to their degree’s value by providing quality feedback when asked to do so. However, providing feedback that is part of a continuous improvement program requires more than a superficial effort if it is to enhance a program’s reputation and the degree’s value. Taking a few minutes at the end of each class period to reflect, make notes, and save those notes in a way that helps facilitate the development of quality feedback is necessary.

Do you find providing feedback about a program or class a challenge? Do you have a system for collecting information that allows you to provide quality feedback when asked to so? Please share your thoughts by making a comment.


Rodney G. Alsup, D.B.A., CPA, CITP
Professor of Accounting

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

7 comments for “MBA Students Can Provide Quality Program Feedback If …

  1. February 1, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Great article! Many MBA program are hungry for this feedback from students. I love the diagram demonstrating how student input can increase the value proposition and impact of the degree.

    • March 1, 2013 at 6:14 am

      Thank you. I think many MBA students fail to see the relationship.
      Thanks for reading the article and providing feedback.

  2. Rongmei
    February 1, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I think taking notes is a good way to remember. It’s not only about the class. When I get inspired or get stucked when doing assignment or task , I will write down the inspiration or the problem. Next time if I come with the same problem I can scan my notes. I save the notes as drafts in outlook.
    Also, I think take some time to think about what learned and did in the daytime when lie on the bed before sleeping will help improve the study quality. At that time everything becomes vague,so thinking a a good way to pull things back.

    • March 1, 2013 at 6:09 am

      I agree. Notes help me recall things as well. Also, there is something about putting something in writing that you can see. Sometimes it is clear and sometimes you have to rewrite to understand which often means you are thinking more deeply about the subject.

      Thank you for taking the time to read the article and making a comment.

  3. Haeussler
    February 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Two important aspects of providing feedback to an MBA program is having a go-to person who is 1) responsive and 2) that you trust. If they are not responsive, the interest in providing feedback will wane as the program progresses. Trust will make or break the feedback process. This is the person who takes feedback and anonomously presents it to the program so there’s no feeling of faculty/staff favoritism or retaliation.

    • March 12, 2014 at 6:25 am

      You make two excellent points. Unfortunately, some program managers view the collection of feedback as the end point and do nothing with the data they collect. Students know when this is happening and they will no longer take the time to provide quality feedback.

      Thank you for taking the time to read the article and making a comment.

  4. March 12, 2014 at 6:34 am

    The following came to my attention this past week.

    Tel Aviv University is introducing a new app that will provide almost immediate feedback for professors on their lectures, Haaretz reported. In the last five minutes of class, students will be questioned via the app on whether the class was interesting that day, how they would evaluate the professor’s performance and how they rank the lecturer overall – on a scale of 1 to 100. A pilot of the app is about to start, used only in courses of lecturers who have volunteered for the project.

    See for more information.

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