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I sent my students a feedback form (I'm a TA) and I got three responses. While they were helpful and informative responses, I am not sure how to interpret them, because there are only three of them and they all disagree with each other.

What is the best way to get feedback from students? Should I enter them in a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card?

  • 1
    What type of questions are you asking? Perhaps try some of these? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/31680/… – Compass Feb 1 '15 at 2:12
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    Definitely not the gift card option. Your intentions would be good but that could be considered bribery-ish – WetlabStudent Feb 1 '15 at 5:08
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    On the day of a physics midterm, my physics professor posted an online questionnaire with the promise of a few points extra credit on the exam for the respondents. The questionnaire is through our existing school infrastructure, so the responses are anonymous but the professor can see which students responded at all. Perhaps something like this might work for you? – wchargin Feb 1 '15 at 22:42
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    @WChargin Getting academic credit for something which doesn't require any academic input seems like a terrible solution to me. – dirkk Feb 2 '15 at 9:24
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    @dirkk That's certainly a valid point, and why I posted it as a comment, not an answer. On one hand, you could say that two points out of a hundred-point exam in a thousand-point class don't matter. But on the other hand, it's a matter of principle, and, further, that could make the difference in someone's grade. The call is up to you. (For what it's worth, I had another professor bring cookies for filling out a survey!) – wchargin Feb 2 '15 at 15:32
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A method which I learned quite recently is the Start-Stop-Continue. I think it is a great method, as it is quick, and it does not require much effort both on your part and your students. You will need to distribute three small pieces of paper (e.g. Post-it) to each student, ask them to label Start, Stop, and Continue, respectively, on the top of each paper, and then ask them to list on each paper, according to the label, what they think you should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing. Ask them to submit their papers before they leave.

15

Giving students very guided, specific feedback prompts during class time (as others have suggested) can be very helpful.

Here are a couple of specific techniques. These are from a book I am reading called "Teaching What You Don't Know" by Therese Huston (which is about situations like the one described in How to teach a class that I've never taken? - but the advice on assessing your teaching applies more generally).

The one-point raise

Pick one aspect of the course on which you want some feedback. Ask the students to get out a blank piece of paper. Then ask them to rate their experience on a scale of 1 to 10. After they've done this, ask them to write down an answer to the question "What would raise that rating by one point."

  • Make sure to define the endpoints of the scale, so students have a common understand of what 1 means and what 10 means. Use extremes, e.g. "A '1' means you wish you were getting a root canal instead of sitting in this class and a '10' means you wish this class was on YouTube so you could watch it again right now"
  • Many students will write something that is their own responsibility - i.e., "My rating would have gone up a point if I had gone to sleep earlier last night." On the other hand, for things that are in your control, you'll get immediate, actionable feedback on things that really affect your students' experience.

This evaluation is helpful because it's quick to administer, and quick for students to fill out, so you can do it in class and you can expect a high response rate.

Two-column form

Give out a form in which the heading of the first column reads "I like the way the instructor..." and the heading of the second reads "I would like the instructor to..." Then in each column, put practices you want feedback on. Students can check off the practice in the first column if they like it, and/or indicate in the second column if they want more or less of it.

For example, you might put in the first column ("I like the way the instructor...")

__ Solves example problems during class

and then in the second column ("I would like the instructor to...")

Solve more/fewer example problems during class.

You can put up to ten specific feedback items in the columns. At the end of the form, you can still ask for open-ended feedback - but it is likely to be much more directed now, since you've asked for very specific feedback on specific practices already.

This form is helpful because it's quick to administer, quick for students to fill out, and models how to give helpful feedback (not all students know how, and this could be preventing some of them from giving any feedback at all).

Small group analysis

This is a more time-consuming, but very powerful technique, and practically guarantees that you will get useful feedback. However, you'll need to have an outside facilitator who's trained in the technique. (My university's teaching center offers this service to faculty and graduate students who are teaching - check if yours does.)

In small group analysis, you invite a facilitator (who is trained in SGA) to observe the class. At the end of the class, the instructor leaves the room while the facilitator asks students for feedback about what is most useful to their learning in the course and for suggestions for what might improve their learning in the course.

After the class, the facilitator prepares a report and meets with the instructor to review the results. You can then discuss with the class and tell them what changes you will make based on their feedback.


Also, here are some general comments on making the feedback you collect more effective:

  1. If you plan to collect feedback often, start early in the course (first or second week) to create a culture of feedback.
  2. Don't collect more feedback than you can handle. This doesn't apply so much to you because your class is small. But if you are teaching a large course, ask for feedback in small, manageable chunks. You don't want to get into a situation where students believe you are ignoring their feedback, just because you got so much feedback that it takes weeks to read and think about it all.
  3. Close the feedback loop by telling students what you have changed based on their feedback.
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That might work, but I think the best way to make sure they fill in a feedback form is to print it out, hand it out in class and tell them that they can't leave unless they hand you a filled in form. (This is from personal experience as a student).

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    Yes, most students seem not so interested in responding, perhaps because they think it's hopeless to have any impact, or are complacent, or perceive themselves as too busy to do it. So allocate class time to filling out a printed form... The self-selected students who will respond in a way requiring any more effort will rarely give useful information. – paul garrett Jan 31 '15 at 23:04
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While there are many answers here, I will add one more.

My lectures are driven by slides so at the end of every deck (which marks the end of the session) I include a slide which says:

On a 1/2 sheet of paper, answer 3 questions:

  1. What was the most useful / interesting idea today?
  2. What idea did you least understand today?
  3. Any other comments for your teacher?

Bring the paper to me on your way out.

The reason for being the final slide every session is as @ff524 wrote, it is important to create a culture of feedback. After the second session they begin to expect this slide.

Do I get 100% participation? No. But I do not need 100%. What I do need is significant participation which I get because I give them the time at the end of class (usually 5 minutes is enough) and because they see it every time, and they see everyone else doing it, those "sitting on the fence" will usually do it, even if they say "nothing" for question 3. Every session I get a lot of repeat comments (like, "I least understood xxx") and that really helps when I teach the same subject the following semester.

At times it has even caused me to send some extra material through email to clarify a point about which many students had an issue. This also helps: Show that you actually care what they write by doing something about their comments. That goes back to the culture issue.

I have used this technique with class sizes between 20 and 100 but believe it would work with all sizes of classes.

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I agree with adipro about taking class time to ask students to write down what they would like you to keep doing and what they would like you to do differently. We often do this in my department. Asking for specific feedback on your teaching methods, rather than general feedback, lessens the likelihood of your getting comments about your appearance or other things you cannot easily (or should not have to) change.

If you absolutely can't use class time, some ideas are:

  • Offer to bring treats if at least X% submit the survey. Send updates about the progress toward that goal.
  • Offer credit for turning in a survey, either toward homework, class participation, or extra credit.
2

Something that I've used a few times is Poll Everywhere. It's fairly easy to use, and as long as you can phrase a question in the form of multiple choice, you can ask just about anything. Every once in awhile, I'll stop my lecture and use Poll Everywhere to ask a conceptual question, or I'll simply ask "Do you think you understand this?" Based on the responses, I decide what to do. As mentioned in the other answers/comments, one issue is student apathy. I rarely get 100% participation, but overall I think I get enough participation that it is useful.

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    Might work for the OP, since his class is small; but that service charges $99/month for polls with >50 respondents (I have classes of 70 and 100 this semester). Yikes. – ff524 Feb 1 '15 at 7:44
  • Fair point. I guess I always am under that limit, so I never paid attention to it; however, for larger classes it might be a very important consideration. – Florian D'Souza Feb 1 '15 at 18:03

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