Student Feedback: A Trivial or Important Issue?

Michael Griffin recently wrote a wonderful post on the usefulness of anonymous feedback (Why I (often) prefer non-anonymous feedback) and it got me thinking about whether feedback can be useful for teachers or is it that sort of data that senior management/teachers decide to look at.

In my opinion, I think it would be nice to give students the choice whether they put their name down or not on a feedback form rather than being too prescriptive. It is accepted in our profession that students are from various backgrounds and it would be considered unacceptable to be too prescriptive as there are various cultures which don’t mind being transparent while other cultures prefer to be more anonymous.  In our school, where we have continuous rolling courses during the year, we decide to undertake first week feedback forms, which I believe is crucial to see what is working and what isn’t, as well as end of course feedback.

Obviously, it is nice to keep the feedback – I prefer the term ‘feedback’ to the term ‘evaluation’ as it seems if you are ‘evaluating’ you are testing to see if something is done correctly – as transparent and suitable as possible. The most useful questions to ask for the first week are:

  • Are you learning?
  • Do you enjoy your classes? If not, why?
  • What would you prefer to focus on? (speaking, listening, etc)

The feedback from this would indicate how to deliver future classes, so don’t leave it too late. It is nice to act on feedback and with a principled approach. This leads me on to my final point. It is good that teachers are receiving feedback but if you are just doing feedback for the sake of it, it will be worthless. It is important for teachers to react to feedback rather than confirming what they already know, such as “I am a good teacher” or “That was a good course/lesson and students agree with me!“.

  • Are there any patterns to the feedback? (particular students preferring a different learning style)
  • Why do learners like or dislike particular tasks?
  • Can you be open with the learners so that you are able to deliver a bespoke course?
  • What would I do differently with the information that I have now?

So again, feedback is useful if teachers or management are able to see the woods from the trees and are able to familiarise themselves with what is important.  Nevertheless, feedback can be a useful tool but there are advantages to other schemes of feedback in the form of buzz or pop-in observations.  This could complement feedback forms and also give teachers an opportunity to seek advice or support from more experienced teachers or senior management.

How do you receive feedback about your lessons?  What do you students think about feedback?  What sort of student expectations are there with feedback or teaching?  Do students expect teachers to deliver a course as the teacher is the teacher and the student is the student?

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