Testing Yourself – Student Feedback
There are several strategies for getting feedback so that the students who give it will benefit from it. Whatever format you choose, ask your students to be specific. “This course is the best ever!” can make you feel really good, and “This course stinks!” can make you feel really bad. But neither comment is especially helpful in maintaining excellence or improving instruction.
- Chain Letter: Send a sheet of paper (or several, for larger classes) around the room with a few survey questions at the top and space for comments. Each student puts a tally mark to indicate responses to questions, then writes comments. As the sheets circulate, students respond to each other’s comments, creating revealing dialogue for the professor.
- Dial-a-Prof: An answering machine on your telephone allows students to ask questions any time they come up. If there is a flood of calls on the same subject, you know you have a “hot” topic that needs clarification in class. E-Mail also works well for this purpose.
- Dear Professor Letters: About three weeks into the term, ask students to write you a letter (anonymously, if they prefer), telling you (for example) what they find most interesting about the course so far, what questions they hope the course will answer, any problems they are having with the readings, or a concept they are having trouble understanding. You may also ask them to comment on materials and assignments, solicit what you could do to help and request that they think about what they can do themselves to improve their learning.
- Feedback Form: Take a few minutes at the end of a class, after the third week and perhaps again at mid-semester, to have students complete a feedback form. It is best if you leave the room. Ask one of the students to collect the feedback sheets and return them to your office in a provided envelope. Make sure that you stress to your students that their comments will have no bearing on their grades and that you want to find out how you can best meet their learning needs. A copy of an informal feedback form is at the end of this section. You may copy this form and distribute it to your students.
- One Minute Paper: At the end of any class ask students to write down brief answers to two questions: (1) What is the main point you learned in class today? (2) What is the major unanswered question you leave class with today?
Having students do a one minute paper regularly in class has several purposes:
- It focuses student attention on the “big idea” of the session.
- It focuses student attention on unclear points.
- It informs you of student questions and general misunderstandings.
- It builds continuity over time.
Students need to know that their comments have been heard and taken seriously, which means that you need to give them feedback on their comments. At the next class meeting take a little time to respond. You may:
- Include several examples of what students say they like about the class.
- Choose one or more suggestions for change that you also believe will improve the course and that you feel you can implement. Also, let the students know how you plan to do that.
- Choose one or more suggestions that, for practical or other considerations, cannot be implemented. Inform the students of the reasons.
One final note:
- If you don’t plan to use the feedback, don’t ask for it. Have a purpose for requesting it; stay open to what you hear; discuss your feedback with someone who can be objective and help you to keep it in perspective.
There are other forms of feedback, such as a class interview facilitated by a teaching consultant, a videotape review, or analyses of student work which require the help of the Center or a colleague. If you are interested in one of these, or if you have questions about the others listed here, call CTAL at 831-2027.
- Student Rating Instruments. All departments require course evaluations to be conducted at the end of the semester. About three weeks before the last class, ask about details for administering your department’s evaluation instrument.
Some departments will send someone to distribute and collect the forms from students, others will expect you to find a student to do this.
It is important that you do not stay in the room while the students complete the ratings. You should also make it very clear to students that you will not see the results until after grades are in. Their feedback will not influence their grades in any way.
- Idea. The Center for Teaching & Assessment of Learning (CTAL) makes available, at no cost to faculty and TAs, the IDEA (Individual Development and Effectiveness Assessment), a nationally-normed student rating instrument. IDEA is based on student progress on instructional goals and controls for class size and student motivation levels (two factors that influence ratings of instruction). IDEA provides a diagnostic section for faculty development and space for additional questions designed by the instructor.
- CTAL does not administer the instrument, but we do interpret the results for faculty and TAs. We recommend that the IDEA be given a week or two prior to the end of the semester and particularly not on the same day that your students fill out departmental evaluations.
If you are interested in using the IDEA, call 831-2027 for information. If you are unfamiliar with IDEA, we will be happy to talk to you and provide further information on the instrument and have you look at a sample packet.
Sample Student Feedback Form
1. How satisfied are you with the class (discussion section/lab section) so far this semester? (Circle one.)
1 2 3 4 5
2. What helps you to learn in this class (section/lab)?
3. What hinders your learning in this class (section/lab)?
4. What could you do for yourself to make this class (section/lab) go better for you?
5. What specific questions/content are still unclear to you?
6. Other comments.