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7 Ways to Request Feedback from Students about Your Class

I bookmarked an interesting Twitter thread the other day:

When I returned to my bookmark yesterday, I was thrilled by the variety of the responses in the thread. There were many replies, and only one or two that I saw where the teacher reported negative experiences with doing this. I would guess that those outliers might need to fine-tune their methods, as I can honestly say that I’ve made it a practice to get feedback from parents and students for many years through various means and it has nearly always been extremely informative. Even when I asked for feedback from some of my more “challenging” high school classes, I received good information.

Before I share some of the creative student feedback methods you can use, I think it’s important to note how you can set the scene so the feedback is meaningful.

  1. Don’t just ask for feedback at the end of the school year. At least three times a year is good. (I did it every grading period.) Feedback will help you “tweak” and make changes that will benefit the students, and that is most effective if you are doing it during your course and at the end to help you plan for the next year.
  2. Be clear with your students that you are asking for this so you can keep what’s working and make improvements on what isn’t working. This has nothing to do with their grades
  3. Act on the feedback throughout the year, and be explicit about what you are changing and that it’s because of meaningful feedback you received.
  4. In most cases, make it a choice for students to be anonymous or include their names. I say “in most cases” because some of the examples I give below don’t technically allow for that. Some students are afraid of retaliation if they give negative feedback, so the more comfortable you can make them, the more honest they will be.
  5. Be prepared for negative feedback, and that some of it will not be constructive. Analyze it, but don’t take it to heart. Remember that some students will be lashing out for reasons that may have nothing to do with you.
  6. READ the feedback. Refer to the feedback. Bring it up many times in a positive way. Otherwise, students think it was just busywork, and that not only impacts the next time you ask for feedback, but the next time any teacher asks for it.
  7. Do some sort of short review of what’s happened so far in class before you ask for feedback. Lots of things are going on in their lives, and even the most wonderful experiences may have slipped their minds.

Some of the above advice may seem obvious, but I included it because it wasn’t obvious to me at first. The first few times I asked for student feedback did not give me helpful results. Don’t give up if you experience the same. It is very likely that you need to make some adjustments to your process, and extremely worth it when you get it right.

I asked some of the people in Jason’s original thread for permission to share their advice and/or images. Here are some of the suggestions from the thread as well as some others I’ve gathered:

1. Choose words to describe your year.

Gina Ruffcorn takes the words her students submit and makes them into a word cloud to represent the year.

2. Analyze classroom policies.

3. Use Exit Talks.

4. Use Google Forms.

Once the results are in (if it’s not your last day), make screenshots of some results or quotes (without student names ) to project to the class and discuss. This blog post gives sample forms you can download. I used Google Forms as well. During the school year, I would sprinkle in some “fun” questions, like, “What is a song you love to listen to right now?” I would play the songs (if appropriate) sometimes during class.

5. Play “Whatzit Tic-Tac-Toe.” I describe it in this post.

Since students work in groups, one advantage is that you can hear their discussions, but they also get filtered down to the most important answers. Here are the questions we used: list 3 important features of this class, list 3 not-so-important features of this class, list 2 very different kinds of features our our class, identify a hidden feature of our class, what’s 1 feature without which our class would be very different, what feature of our class is the hardest to understand (and why), which of our class features are the most interesting to you and why, think of something very different from our class and tell us two ways it’s different and one way it’s similar, and think of something very similar to our class and list two ways it’s similar and one way it’s different.

6. Use Post-Its to brainstorm activities done in class, and then place them on a matrix as in this blog post.

7. Or, after brainstorming what has been done in class, or what could be done, sort them into Start, Stop, Continue columns as you can see here.

I’ll be adding this post to my End of Year Wakelet, though as I mentioned earlier, it’s good to get feedback from your students throughout the year. Also, don’t forget to ask parents for feedback. This can be extremely beneficial as well. Once you receive your feedback, you can use the Taxonomy of Reflection to decide on what changes you would like to make.

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