Academic Technology Center
Teaching with Technology Collaboratory

Gathering Student Feedback

Teaching Goal

To gather constructive feedback from your students that aids you in making improvements in your teaching.

Benefits of Addressing

Central to effective teaching is the process of obtaining feedback from students and making useful conclusions from that feedback that will help you improve your teaching.

There is some debate on the appropriateness and effectiveness of student feedback. Skeptics of student feedback argue that student motivation and expected grades bias student evaluations and student evaluations of teaching can lead to grade inflation and a lowering of standards. Others feel that students do not have the knowledge and experience to provide appropriate feedback on teaching. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that students can provide useful feedback about the effectiveness of teaching methods (Moore and Kuol, 2005).

Methods of Addressing

There are two types of feedback: summative and formative. Summative feedback tells us how we have done upon reaching an end point, such as the end of a class. Formative feedback tells us what we are doing right and what we need to improve before the end point is reached (Indiana State University, 2005). Formative feedback is often more informal than summative feedback. Good feedback systems should be formative rather than summative (Moore and Kuol, 2005).

In order for feedback to be useful, it should tell you something you did not know, be of value so you want to improve, and indicate to you how to improve. Getting this type of feedback can be difficult because students may be fearful of retribution (i.e. a negative impact on their grades), they may not be accustomed to being asked for input, and it conflicts with how they perceive their role in the class. It may also be difficult for you to receive feedback. Keep in mind that feedback is not praise or blame, but rather an indicator of what you did or did not do. Also, put negative comments in perspective and don’t over generalize the comments.

To aid in the process of getting valuable feedback from students, keep these tips in mind (Huba, 2000):

The third point above states that you should focus your questions to get responses that will be helpful to you. This is especially true when asking open-ended questions. For example, questions like “What did you like most, or least?” often result in irrelevant or vague responses. More specific questions, such as "What kinds of comments do you find most useful (or least useful) on papers and quizzes?" provide more informative feedback (UCLA, n.d.).

Traditionally, feedback systems have involved activities completed within the classroom setting, such as paper surveys, verbal questioning, focus groups, etc. However, today’s technology makes it easy to gather feedback from students and analyze it. Benefits of using technology for gathering student feedback are:

Activities for Gathering Student Feedback

Feedback activities that have been shown to have good results are indicated in this section, along with ideas on how to implement the activities using technology:

Feedback Activity Rationale/Example
Teacher designed feedback forms

Ask students to complete a brief questionnaire with multiple choice questions or questions with scaled responses about aspects of your teaching that you would like feedback on.
These forms/questionnaires limit the feedback you get only to the aspects of your teaching that you asked about, but they can get you very focused responses.

Create a survey in myWPI for each week with these open-ended questions. With the survey tool you can see which students have responded, but you can make it so that within the set of responses, the results for individual students are not identifiable, making the surveys anonymous.

Use the Classroom Performance System (CPS) (i.e. "clickers") to get anonymous and immediate feedback on these types of questions.
Open-ended questions

Post open-ended questions about aspects of the class or your teaching in email, discussion boards, or live instant messaging sessions.
Ask students to respond via email, keeping in mind that the responses will not be anonymous.

Create discussion board forums in myWPI asking students to answer these questions each week. Allow anonymous postings so students can remain anonymous if they want to.

Schedule instant messaging sessions periodically throughout the class and ask students to join you and provide feedback. Common instant messaging systems such as AOL Messenger or Yahoo Messenger can be used. You can also use the lightweight chat in myWPI.
Critical learning statements

Ask students to write down the critical points they have most clearly learned from class and the points they are still most clear about. A variation is to ask students to write down the questions they have about a topic just covered in the class.
Ask students to respond via email, keeping in mind that the responses will not be anonymous. The lack of anonymity may be helpful if you find that individual students need a bit more attention from you than others on specific topics.

Create discussion board forums in myWPI asking students to answer these questions each week. Allow anonymous postings so students can remain anonymous if they want to.

Allow students to share and discuss their answers in groups within myWPI and to report back to you with a summary of all the responses within the group.
Critical incident questionnaire

Each week, have students respond to the following questions:
  • At what moment in class this week did you feel most engaged?
  • At what moment in class this week did you feel most distanced from the class?
  • What action (by a teacher or student) did you find most affirming and helpful?
  • What action (by a teacher or student) did you find most puzzling or confusing?
  • What surprised you the most this week?
Create an anonymous survey in myWPI for each week with these open-ended questions.

Create discussion board forums in myWPI asking students to answer these questions each week. Allow anonymous postings so students can remain anonymous if they want to.

You may also ask students to answer the questions in an individual email to you, although this technique does not allow responses to be anonymous.
Letter to the teacher

Ask students to reflect on their learning experiences in the format of a letter addressed to you. Explain why you want them to write a letter and indicate the preferred length and the types of information you are looking for. To get compliance, offer a grade based on completion only and completion will be based on answering the questions that you pose.

After you compile the feedback, write a letter to the class sharing what you’ve learned and the changes you plan to make based on their feedback.
This method allows students to speak freely by giving them a chance to provide qualitative feedback not necessarily obtained through surveys and feedback forms.

Students can provide you with individual emails containing their letters. This keeps their thoughts between you and them only, but it is not anonymous.

If you are concerned with anonymity, allow students to post their letters anonymously in the discussion boards.
Test feedback questionnaire

Attach two to five questions you would like to ask your students to the end of a test. Keep the questions focused on how you could improve the test or help the students prepare for the test.
Deliver your test in myWPI, which also allows for automatic grading of test questions.

Make sure you give extra time for students to respond to the feedback questions during the test. Keep in mind that this type of feedback will not be anonymous, so stress to the students the fact that their responses on the feedback questions will in no way impact their grades on the test.
Classroom assessment techniques

Get quick feedback on how well the students are learning. The value of these techniques is that they tend to be content-specific and it is easy to get results. Based on results, you know what you need to review again with students and what they have already mastered.
In a traditional classroom setting, the Classroom Performance System (CPS) allows you to ask for anonymous content-specific feedback.

Online you could use daily or weekly quizzes using the Test Manager in myWPI.
Small group instructional feedback

In small groups, students address the following questions: What aspects help you learn most effectively? What aspects do not? What suggestions do you have for improving your learning? They accumulate and summarize the points discussed and report back to you as a group.
Since the group develops group responses, the opinion of any one individual student is not known, which provides some level on anonymity.

Students could complete this activity online by setting up groups in myWPI, through email, or through instant messaging.

References

Huba, M.E. (2000). Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses: Shifting the Focus from Teaching to Learning, 1st ed. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Indiana State University. (2005). Assessing the Learning Environment. Retrieved October 14, 2005.

Lansing Community College. (2001). Faculty Feedback Project. Retrieved October 14, 2005.

Moore, S. & N. Kuol. (2005). A Punitive Bureaucratic Tool or a Valuable Resource: Using Student Evaluations to Enhance Your Teaching. Retrieved October 14, 2005.

University of California, Los Angeles. (n.d.). Gathering Feedback. Retrieved October 13, 2005.

University of Sidney. (n.d.). Gathering Your Own Student Feedback. Retrieved October 13, 2005.

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Last modified: Jul 02, 2007, 13:34 EDT
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