How to get Better Feedback from Students

A helpful set of suggestions on working with students.  Here’s an excerpt from the article:

We don’t learn a lot from student feedback when we don’t ask good questions. At the top of my list of bad questions I’d put the ever-popular “What did you like most/least about the course/instructor” kind of questions. I wish I could make those questions illegal. Since when did the goal of education become providing learners with what they like? I know teachers can’t remove these questions from institutionally mandated forms. We can object, though, and we can ask students better questions on our own. If teachers want to make changes that improve teaching and learning, we need to ask about the impact of a policy, practice, behavior, technique, assignment, or instructional approach on students’ efforts to learn.”


One thought on “How to get Better Feedback from Students

  1. I still love Richard Light’s “one-minute-survey” idea–asking students at the end of a class to write answers to two standard questions: What’s the most important or provocative thing you heard in class today, and what question are you still leaving with? If I make sure they understand that the question shouldn’t be a closed or trivial question (“when was Augustine born?” or “what was that due-date, again?”), I get a good snap-shot of what students heard and/or misheard, and I can begin the next class by clarifying something (or letting those who did understand clarify it) that several people didn’t understand . . . and using that as a bridge into the new day’s material. Or, I can shoot a quick e-mail to the class, if I want them to get an answer sooner . . . that helps to take the class out of the classroom framework. I can also turn the process around–use the questions at the beginning of a class, applied to assigned readings. In that case, I ask them to complete two copies, one for me, and one for themselves, so that during discussion, they can remember what they asked. (They sometimes don’t!)

    Brief writing conferences–15 min. per student–in the first month or so help, too–I can provide support and sometimes direction to students seeking a topic, or make sure they’ve understood comments I wrote on a first paper . . . and I can ask what might help them to understand the class better. Often enough, it’s something which has nothing at all to do with the class, directly–I find out about work overload, or bad roommate matches, or commuters who don’t realize that they need to plan on-campus study time to get away from family distractions/demands . . . . etc.

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