Fostering Student Feedback

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Receiving verbal feedback from students on my teaching is a hit or miss. Helpful comments are purposeful and direct. Comments such as these have led me to adjust my instructional processes such as slowing down my pace, enlarging the font on my PowerPoints and provide more time for students to do activities etc. Though mostly, I am unable to use comments made by students as they are too vague (e.g. “I like the PowerPoint”) or simply out of my domain of control (e.g. “I don’t like this, I have to use too much of my brain”). Of course, I might be able to squeeze some more out of the students, but it is, arguably, the process of questioning that requires more immediate attention. I previously have used quick and informal questionnaires such as exit slips to assess students’ understanding of the material and I have found that it works quite well. There are many variations of exit slips so the activity itself will never be dull. I am now seeking to incorporate formal feedback tools, geared towards assessing students’ understanding of the unit as well as my evaluating my teaching approach, into my repertoire of strategies to gather student feedback.

Verbal feedback is great because it is interactive, with the message conveyed with both words and body language. When I was a pre-service teacher on practicum, some supervising teachers would only give me verbal feedback, while others would use a mixture of verbal and written feedback. I found that written feedback was usually closely related to assessment criteria, as my supervising teachers would use a lesson observation feedback template directly aligned with the National Professional Teaching Standards. In contrast, verbal feedback in isolation, at times, became fluffy and directionless. The best course of action, in this case, is a mixture of various strategies.

I teach mathematics classes of up to 14 students at a tutoring college. The tutoring college uses formal surveys at the end of the academic term, where students rate their overall experience with the college on a Likert Scale (i.e. 5- Strongly Agree, 4-Agree, 3- Neutral, 2-Disagree, 1- Strongly Disagree). Students answer questions about their satisfaction with their teacher (6 criteria), administrative staff and the quality of the academic resources. The survey is anonymous and includes a free response comment section (This is where students usually request for the installation of a chocolate fountain). The teacher would receive a numerical result out of 5 on their teaching performance over the term for each class. It is a funny experience quantifying my teaching ability and I take it seriously enough that I choose one of the six criteria that I scored lower in the previous term to focus on in the new term. However, I recognise the limitations of this survey. In my experience, student responses were heavily affected by their mood, whether or not they liked you, whether or not you bribed them with Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate, and the list goes on. I have noticed also that younger students take these questionnaires less seriously than their older peers who may be more serious in their studies. This being said, I have been able to improve my teaching by focusing on specific criteria that I am being assessed on by the students.

I would like to adopt the use of a Likert Scale into a formal online survey for students at school. I would also include a mixture of questions including closed and open-ended to attain a variety of student responses. The brilliance of an online survey is that the data is collected and analysed instantly. For me, teaching and learning is a two way road where I give feedback for students and receive feedback from students in order to best cater for their needs. This is one simple method of making the classroom more efficient and ensuring that I know my students and how they learn.



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