Using Student Feedback to Improve Your Teaching
Self-review and continual improvement of one's teaching is an important factor in maintaining your enthusiasm for teaching and in your own professional growth as a faculty member. In addition to resources for self-review such as the Expectations documents student feedback can be a valuable tool in improving teaching effectiveness. What types of student feedback might be most useful to us as faculty?
Feedback from Assessment
Quizzes, papers, assignments, and online discussions all provide evidence to you of student learning, but they may also provide evidence about how well your techniques and approaches are working in the class. It's important to take the time to track how your students are doing in the course long before major exams. Analyzing the results of these assessments early on in the class enables you to note patterns of difficulties or misunderstandings students might have class materials and tasks. Such analysis can provide clues about how you might alter your approach, and whether or not you need to offer more detailed explanations, additional resources, or examples.
In considering proctored exams and final assignments, analyze and categorize the kinds of mistakes or shortcomings as well as successes evidenced by the student work. Consider what changes, if any, you might make in future sessions of the course.
Feedback Elicited by Faculty Questions
Don't wait until the class is over to elicit feedback from your students. During the class, you can ask students how they are doing, what types of assistance they need, and what resources are proving useful to them. Don't hesitate to ask questions tailored to the process of completing specific assignments. Depending on the type of question, responses can be sent to you individually or posted in the conference area. When faculty seek to learn about their students' progress and reaction to class materials and assignments, students interpret this as a demonstration of interest and concern and it may also motivate them to do better in the class.
Some examples of these types of questions are the following:
- "Are the textbook readings providing you with sufficient background information? If not, please let me know which topics in particular could benefit from more resource readings or my own commentary."
- "Which assignments are proving to be the most helpful to you in understanding the key concepts?"
- "Are my explanations and how-to instructions sufficiently detailed?"
- "Are there any particular writing issues with which you are struggling?"
- "What problems or questions are you encountering at this stage in the assignment?"
- "Is it clear to you what is expected in regard to your participation in this online class? Please read through the participation rubric and post any questions you might have in the conference area."
- "Is anyone having difficulty finding the appropriate library resources to complete the assignment?"
Feedback from End-of-class Course Evaluation Data
In reviewing the end-of-class evaluation data from students in your course, look for patterns (both negative and positive) consistent with other classes you have taught. In regard to negative comments or low scores, is there any particular assignment or teaching approach to which you think these might be connected? Pay as much attention to evidence of what you did right as to any negative comments you might find. Avoid obsessing over small differences that have little statistical meaning such as scoring a 3.8 as compared with a 3.9.
Naturally, in regard to evaluation data, you will want to distinguish between aspects of the course not under your control (for example, course modules) and those for which you shoulder the major responsibility. But even if you did not choose the textbook or create the syllabus for your class, you can still exercise some measure of control through your instructions, assignments, and creation of commentary. Your students expect you to contribute your insights and to provide guidance for all aspects of the course. Exploring evaluation data might suggest ways for you to assist your students.
Finally, compare the end-of-class evaluation data with overall student performance in your class. Evaluate your own effectiveness in regard to strong and weak points. You will want to recognize your strong points and replicate them in future courses, and come up with a plan for improving your own performance in weak areas. In identifying the areas where students seem to have the most difficulty, consider whether or not there is something you might be able to do to improve both student learning and satisfaction. If you find that you might benefit from some targeted training, consult the Workshop Referral Resource to see if there is a faculty development workshop that might meet your needs.