Student voice matters.
I think there is no way we can dispute this. If we wait until the end of the quarter and expect students to provide valuable information on their learning experiences in our class, chances are the disgruntled students (and aren’t there always a few?) will let us know what went wrong. Why don’t students tell us earlier if they want changes made in the course (and I’m talking about classroom activities, not course content)?
Because we didn’t ask them.
Mid-quarter check-ins are perfect opportunities to get feedback on how things are going. You may be familiar with my all-time favorite, PLUS/DELTA. A simple grid with 4 spaces for students to reflect on not only what the teacher is doing to help them learn (PLUS) and what the teacher can change to help learning (DELTA), it also includes spaces for students to identify their own behaviors that are helpful and those that should be improved upon.
The most important part of this process is reading and reviewing the anonymous (and I believe it should be anonymous) feedback from students, and then responding, closing the feedback loop.
Here’s the story of the first time I used PLUS/DELTA: I gave each student in the class a copy of the grid and assigned it as a reflective assignment for that evening. The following class period I asked students to team up in groups of 3-5 and to look for trends in the areas related to me, the teacher. I gave each small group another copy of the grid, and in about 10 minutes each group had 3-5 items in both columns, PLUS and DELTA. That night I read over the small stack of papers – only 1 from each team – and formulated my response. It started something like this: “Thank you all for your thoughtful responses. Let me share with you the things that you’d like me to continue doing in the class that are helping you to learn (and I put that list on the teaching station to share). Now let me share with you the things you’ve suggested I change (and I put that list on the teaching station). As you know, I can’t stop giving exams, but I can change the day of the week.” And so on. Interestingly, the class became much more engaged after that exercise! Before the end-of-quarter evaluations that quarter, I reminded students that their feedback helped make this a better class and me a better teacher, and I reminded them of the changes that were made because of their feedback. The next quarter when I was reviewing my IDEA results, I was pleased to read this student comment: “No one ever asked me before how I would change the class. Thank you!”
If you want to get feedback on a more regular basis, here’s one I found by a copy machine recently (I can’t give credit because there was no information on the handout!)
Directions: Please fill out one or both squares and drop in the basket up front before you leave. NO NAMES PLEASE! This is anonymous!
This week, what part of the lesson, or what point is still a bit unclear to you? What are you struggling with? And what could I, your instructor, have done/can do to make your learning easier?
This week what part of the lesson, or what point, was finally made clear to you? What was your “ah ha!” moment? And/or what did YOU do this week that made your learning easier?
Do you have favorite anonymous feedback examples you’d like to share? Let us know!