Getting Feedback From Students
How I’m gathering feedback from students, amid our four-plus semester-long pandemic
Getting feedback from students has always been a priority of mine. I collect feedback early and often. My practice has followed a specific format that asks open questions.
- What is something that is going well so far? What, if anything, would you like to see more of?
- What, if anything, isn’t going well so far? What would you like to see less of?
- What questions about the course requirements, assignments, and expectations do you have?
- What questions about the course material do you have?
I’m also finding, and I think this is perhaps due to a lack of in-person interactions, that students are shy about giving constructive feedback.
This feedback helps me adjust the course. Most adjustments are simple and often invisible to students. To promote transparency, I make it a practice to summarize the input gathered from these questions. I share that summary with students. I also explain what I will do because of the feedback and what changes I will make.
Where applicable, I also share what feedback I that may need to disregard. Not all feedback is actionable. For example, if a student said “I don’t want to do the reading” you wouldn’t find me eliminating the reading. Instead, I would provide additional supports related to the reading.
My last semester teaching was pre-pandemic. So much has changed. I’m finding it necessary to gather more feedback, even earlier than before, and also more frequently than before. Below, I share some of my updated practices regarding feedback from this semester.
Adding Closed Questions
This semester, I’m adding closed questions to my feedback collection strategy. I’m finding that students are not as enthused as they once seemed to be about giving written feedback to open questions. I’m also finding, and I think this is perhaps due to a lack of in-person interactions, that students are shy about giving constructive feedback.
General Course Expectations
Figure 1, shows the closed questions I’m using to measure how well students feel they understand course expectations. I’m asking two questions. The first question aims to measure student perception of how well they understand the course expectations.
The second question aims to measure student perception of how well others feel they understand course expectations. The second question helps me learn what students may report to each other.
By pairing these questions, I will look to parse out whether there may be a disconnect between how some students feel and how students talk about how they feel.
Academic & Intellectual Rigor
I care about academic and intellectual rigor. But I also care not to fry student brains by implementing rigor for the sake of rigor. Figure 2, shows questions I use to understand how students respond to the course’s rigor.
I know the courses I’m teaching are rigorous. I know the course is challenging. In a pre-pandemic world I know students are more resilient than they are during the pandemic. During the pandemic, the world demands from students resilience in ways that undermine their ability to bring that resilience to the classroom. In a pre-pandemic world, where I last taught, I did not hesitate to put students in a position that would challenge their intellectual capability.
However, during this pandemic, I’m more cautious. I know it is important to be gentile. With the first question in Figure 2, I want to measure if students understand the notion that class-related struggle is okay. The second question in Figure 2, will help me understand how challenged students feel.
I want to measure if students understand the notion that class-related struggle is okay.
In any world, communications are an important aspect of teaching. I’m finding that getting feedback from students this semester is a bigger challenge than usual.
Figure 3, provides questions that will help me understand if students have feedback and a bit about how they do, or don’t, share that feedback. These questions will help me decide if I can let up on my requests for feedback, or if I may need to open additional communication and feedback opportunities.
The question format is a version of James McCroskey’s Generalized Belief Measure. This format measures how strongly a respondent believes in the survey statement. The point values shown in Figure 4 show how to score this instrument.
By adding the scores for each item (and sub-item) this instrument produces a composite score. A score closer to 21 would show stronger belief in the statement. A score closer to 3 would show disbelief.
Above, I shared some of my updated practices related to collecting feedback from students this semester, amid a pandemic. If you collect feedback from your students, I hope this article may be an inspiration. I hope you may consider making additional efforts in collecting student feedback.
If you have not yet collected feedback from your students this semester, or if collecting feedback has not already been a part of your practices, please consider doing that.
Implicit in this article, is that I underestimated the difficulty students and educators face during this pandemic. I do not mean to detract from the difficulty others also experience.
Thanks For Reading
Thanks for reading. Send me your thoughts and ideas. You can write just to say hey. And if you really need to tell me how I got it wrong, I look forward to chatting soon. Twitter: @adamrossnelson | LinkedIn: Adam Ross Nelson| Facebook: Adam Ross Nelson.