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My teacher's teaching style isn't working for me, and he asked for feedback about the class and how he could teach it better. He teaches with powerpoint and gives quizzes that are all about rote memorization of the slides. Most of the class finds these quizzes to be of little help in understanding the information, but nobody knows what to say to the teacher about it.

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    What about "I think your quizzes are of little help to me in understanding the information"? You have already pretty respectfully formulated your issue here, I see no problem in saying pretty much the same to your teacher. – xLeitix Sep 24 '14 at 14:42
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    Just write an email. Explain the problem and suggest a better approach. – Jukka Suomela Sep 24 '14 at 14:51
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    When you say a teacher asked for feedback did they suggest a particular format, for example verbal in-person feedback, email, anonymous in-class feedback forms, anonymous online form, etc.? (The few times that I have taught a class I gave anonymous midterm feedback forms to the students. A professor of mine from college created an anonymous online feedback form for every class. It seems strange to me that a faculty member would ask for non-anonymous feedback during the semester.) – Aru Ray Sep 24 '14 at 15:05
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    With few exceptions, I've only had excellent teachers soliciting (anonymous) feedback, and crappy teachers not asking any feedback at all. Although where I did my Master degree, the university had an online system for anonymous feedback after every course. They even used this to award prizes and such. – gerrit Sep 24 '14 at 18:58
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    I like all of the recommendations below. However, I think negative feedback does not have to be perfect in order to be valid and legitimate. At the end of the day, the lecturer has to improve their lecture, not the student. (Hence, I do not fully agree with @JukkaSuomela.) Also from the side of the person giving the lecture, I would rather have a not-so-constructive (but respectful and honest) feedback than no feedback at all. – henning -- reinstate Monica Jun 2 '15 at 8:35
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Basically, I agree that what xLeitix said is the gist of if: as long as you are respectful, you should be fine.

To elaborate a little, my only experience with giving feedback back to the professor is a bit specific: a fairly young professor, that just got the course for the first time and was trying to improve it. Like in your case, he also said that he would appreciate feedback.

I'll try to give some specific advice, with a specific example of my situation:

  • again, be very respectful

    (In my situation, this meant that I didn't start loudly complaining in class as the reading material quality (made by the prof) steadily degraded during the year. Rather, when I found enough time, I passed by the professors office during the office hours and asked him if he would be interested in my feedback on his reading materials.)

  • be as informed as you can about the coursework for which you disagree with the teaching approach

    (Basically, why would I take your advice on how to teach X if you don't even have a rudimentary understanding of X?)

  • be specific, and give argumented reasons

    (For me, this meant, when he agreed to listen to my feedback -- he actually scheduled a meeting outside of his office hours for that class suspecting it will take some time -- I didn't just come and said the materials were getting worse. I had specific examples of pages and exercises that I had trouble solving, marked in the script. I also offered information like "it took me X hours to finish and understand the first script (good quality), while it took me 4*X hours to finish the second one (worse quality), and they are supposed to cover approximately the same amount of coursework". For you, it might mean explaining how and why you don't think the feedback you're getting from quizzes is not helpful.)

  • make specific recommendations or suggestion (but don't demand anything)

    (Again, in my case, alongside some of the things I marked, like exercises and definitions I had trouble with, sometimes I had my own versions of definitions, or I would re-phrase the examples in a way that made it easier for me to understand. It also help pointing out the ambiguities in the original and saying why you think your formulation resolves it.)

  • be committed. The bigger the change you want to make, the more committed your will need to be.

    (As you can see form the above, making a substantial change, at least according to me, will probably require you do to a substantial amount of work on your own -- without the professor's help -- to be able to give suggestions well supported by arguments. Of course, you don't have to take all the points super-seriously if you just opt for a short 5-minute chat giving some suggestions and examples.

    On the other hand, in my case, where I loved the course, I thought it was important, I thought the prof was great and trying really hard, and I had a (young and naive) wish to make a change for future generations, I took a few days to prepare my notes, I came to Uni a few days after the summer break has started in order to have time to give all my comments in as much detail as the professor wanted, and it did help that the prof actually knew and remembered me from the courses and valued my opinion at least a little.)

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    Very good answer. One point to add: when you're done writing it, have someone else proofread it. You want to be as certain as possible that you're not accidentally insulting the teacher. – eykanal Sep 24 '14 at 16:25
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    @eykanal In my head, I was giving the advice on how to do it in person (which is why I had the points "be informed" and "be committed" instead of proofreading). But I agree, if you're going to do this in writing, somebody proofreading it might be a good idea. It might be a bit difficult to proofread it for "correctness" (as compared to politeness), if the prof is the only know authority on the subject and his teaching is something that needs improving. – penelope Sep 25 '14 at 9:35
  • Do other Universities not have official anonymous course evaluations at the end of every course? I've attended two, and they both had them. But maybe this isn't widespread? We would answer a number of 1-5 questions, and provide open-ended feedback as well. Everything was done through the school's computer system. – APrioriRainbows Oct 29 '15 at 14:23
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If the quizzes are of little help to everyone, and the teacher is asking for feedback on his teaching style, and nobody says anything, then the blame is on the students. If the teacher is sincerely asking for feedback he will not be offended by your comments (given you express them in a polite way). Tell him politely (and directly) what the problem is. He will surely appreciate the feedback.

As an example, I am teaching programming to some students with little programming experience. They are struggling and I know some of the concepts are difficult to understand. At the end of every two classes I ask if the explanations and exercises are being helpful, if they are helping them to understand the topic. I always get positive feedback. That makes me a little nervous- if they are failing to communicate their difficulties I will fail to make them understand the topic. I would prefer constructive criticism than misunderstood politeness.

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    "If the quizzes are of little help to everyone, and the teacher is asking for feedback on his teaching style, and nobody says anything, then the blame is on the students." I would say that the blame is on both the students and the teacher at this point. – Pete L. Clark Sep 24 '14 at 15:54
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    @PeteL.Clark not sure if agree. The teacher is giving the opportunity to change the problem. The students are not taking that opportunity. The teacher can change things after evaluating the students if most of them fail. But until then, what else can he do? If you have any suggestions on this I would appreciate your comments! – ddiez Sep 24 '14 at 15:58
  • Well, I think all of these are part of good teaching: (i) having the judgment/experience to run the course in a useful way from the start, (ii) successfully soliciting meaningful feedback from the students and (iii) implementing that feedback in a helpful way. If you start out too far off the mark then you will, honestly, lose your chance with some of the students. There are also more and less effective ways to ask for feedback: the instructor could, for instance, have students turn in feedback for some course credit. So like most things in teaching, it's a two-way street. – Pete L. Clark Sep 24 '14 at 23:43
  • @PeteL.Clark This is a quite a problem for me. I just started teaching one course and it's a first time in my life I actually teach a group of people. So ad 1) where should I get the experience/judgement if the students aren't cooperative? – jnovacho Sep 25 '14 at 11:21
  • @jinovacho: I think the honest answer is that though some are more naturally gifted at teaching than others, for almost everyone it takes a certain amount of time to develop good teaching instincts and practices. Also, I don't mean to present too much of a Catch-22, but: getting useful feedback from your students is also a skill. Saying to the whole class "Please give me feedback about how to teach better" is distinctly better than nothing but may or may not be enough to get the desired response. How to elicit meaningful student feedback sounds like a great question for this site! – Pete L. Clark Sep 26 '14 at 4:01
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If it were me, I would leave an anonymous typed note that cannot trace back to me. No one responds to emotional feedback (that only makes a person defensive and even more resistant to improvement), but make sure the feedback is highly constructive, and entirely unemotional and not accusatory in any fashion.

When I was in school, I did confront bad teachers. I can confirm that direct, accusatory methods do not work. Now that I am older, I can say with certainty that the most unemotional and constructive methods will work best.

If you have to, first write the note when you are emotional, and then come back some time later when you are no longer emotional and rewrite the note, and then, only then, give it to the teacher. Try to give it to them anonymously, because if it's really a bad teacher, they might single you out, and that's the last thing you want.

Alternatively, if you have built a strong relationship with the teacher, then you can use your relationship to try to help them and give them valuable feedback, as a friend. People usually listen to their friends who speak out of a kind heart.

  • I didn't actually get the feeling that he's dealing with a bad teacher, just a bad lecturer... but then, you did mention the other case as well, so no harm done I guess. – penelope Sep 25 '14 at 9:43
  • This response should be clarified. Students should never leave anonymous written notes for their teachers with feedback. There should be an official channel for reporting feedback. Also, no matter how close the relationship the student has with the teacher, giving them feedback "as a friend" is inappropriate. – APrioriRainbows Oct 29 '15 at 14:20
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Send him a respectful email that you are having trouble understanding the concept and if he could please change the style a bit to what you want. That way, it "feels" like you are the one doing something wrong and are asking him of a favor, and you are less likely to offend him.

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    It would be even more convincing if you left it on his pillow. – APrioriRainbows Oct 29 '15 at 14:21
  • @APrioriRainbows Don't blame naive sophomore me!! – ytpillai Oct 30 '15 at 2:43

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