Goal: Seek Feedback

Part of the Goals 2010 Challenge Series, Goal 20

portrait of a young girl at school holding out an apple

I remember watching a Dateline episode in which they videotaped several teachers and found that many called on boys more than girls. Apparently, the boys were also praised more. You can read the study, Co-ed Classrooms Favor Boys, to form your own opinions. What I thought was really fascinating about the episode were the interviews with the teachers. The teachers watched their videos and were asked questions about their favoritism. Surprisingly, the teachers did not try to justify their actions. Instead, the teachers were appalled with their actions and reflected on how they would improve and pay more attention to their teaching styles.

Feedback From Your Students

Watching the segment made me wonder what I would discover if my teaching was recorded. I was never brave enough to attempt this, but I did begin to seek student feedback. My goal for 2010 is to seek more feedback from various sources and let the feedback help me improve.  How often are we brave enough to do this? I do not think feedback from a principal’s observation is enough. In my experience, I plan ahead to teach the best lesson for principal observations. I always get positive feedback. However, my student surveys have not always revealed high marks in all areas. This has helped mold me into a better teacher.

One of the best examples of student feedback is in Kevin Creutz’s post, My Reign is Over. In this must read post, Kevin tries a different approach by giving students reign over an entire lesson. However, he does not do this haphazardly. He has the unplanned lesson quite organized. He puts students into groups and at the end has them complete an evaluation of the new instructional approach. Read his post for the details.

I continuously try new ways of teaching my students. However, I rarely ask at the end of every lesson if they felt the experience improved their learning. Therefore, I plan to take the last 10 minutes of every class period to ask my students how they enjoyed the approach. If they feel the technology or instructional method was not productive, then no matter what I believe I will listen to them.

Challenge:
Seek feedback from colleagues or from your students for at least one period. Try recording yourself if you are brave.

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This is goal 20 of this series! If you’d like to join the challenge, please read this post with more details!

Don’t forget to leave a comment that you accomplished this goal using the hashtag #30Goals!

How has student feedback improved your lessons?


Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is a teacher trainer, instructional designer, adjunct professor, and the author of The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers: Small Steps to Transform Your Teaching and Learning to Go: Lesson Ideas for Teaching with Mobile Devices, Cell Phones and BYOT. She has been recognized by the ELTon Awards, The New York Times, the Ministry of Education in Spain, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as an innovator in the movement of teacher-driven professional development and education technology. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year 2014 by Star Jone’s National Association of Professional Women and awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, the Twitter chat that spurred over 400 teacher chats. She has trained teachers and taught learners in over 25 countries and has consulted with organizations worldwide such as UNESCO Bangkok, The European Union aPLaNet Project, Cultura Iglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, and VenTESOL. She shares regularly via TeacherRebootCamp.com, Twitter (@ShellTerrell), and Facebook.com/shellyterrell. Her greatest joy is being the mother of Rosco the pug.

11 comments

  1. Hi Shelly,

    I think getting feedback from students is a great idea. A colleague of mine Duncan Foord, who has written a book on teacher development, has lots of great suggestions on how to do this. One I like is for students to write 3 things they like and 1 suggestion for the class. Inviting bad feedback (e.g. write 2 things you don’t like about this class) can be counterproductive as you are “forcing” the students to focus on the bad. This way you accentuate the positive.
    If the students have nothing positive to say, they’ll use the extra comment to voice their concerns. But most people can think of at least one or two things they like about a class!
    Duncan’s book is called The Developing Teacher and it’s published by Delta, by the way.

    • Lindsay,

      You are completely right! I definitely don’t want teachers to make their students focus on the bad. I hadn’t thought of that. Thank you for your suggestion! I will be using this format in my classes.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. Some of the most valuable things I learn about my class are from the feedback sessions I do with students. I recommend doing some feedback sessions in the student’s L1 as well as they are willing to be more vocal.

    I like Lindsay’s suggestion. It’s good to give a framework for feedback. I’ve found that anonymous feedback forms with questions designed to look at a particular aspect of the class I’m interested in gives me much more useful info than just a general chat at the end of class.

    • Nick,

      I think you’re right that a form gives more constructive feedback. Plus, I think that focusing students on the positives of the class is a much better approach.

      I have a pre-intermediate class that I think would provide me with better responses if the form was in the L1. This is another goal I’m aiming for is the translation of my feedback into the L1.

  3. What a good idea, Shelly! In general, my students feel free to make comments as to what they consider unfair, unnecessary and even some of them make positive comments. I say “even” because in general adolescents are critical and find everything wrong. I believe students’ feedback is essential. I feel absolutely satisfied when they say they’ve felt they have really learnt the language. Some of them have made comments as to their improvement in the wikispace I’ve used during the year after the final exams. That’s another interesting tool for students to express their feedback.
    Marisa

  4. Feedback from kids is one of the only ways to stay grounded in this profession. In addition to seeking semi-formal feedback from students, I would recommend eaves dropping if they are talking about your class or other classes they are taking. Often they will make quite poignant observations, even if they don’t phrase these observations in the most articulate way. I think this is a good plan Shelly and I’m going to do it to. Kids will kick you out of an ivory tower fast.

  5. Dear Shelly,

    I never cease to be astonished by the sharp perceptions of students. I encourage my trainees to seek feedback in a variety of ways at the end of each lesson and the comments which the students come back with are very often what I have noted down for my trainees myself!

    THEIR engagement when they are asked for feedback on the teaching is absolutely wonderful – they feel valued and respected and do it with the greatest tact and respect to the teachers, something a lot of teacher educators who do not respect their trainees can learn a lot from!!!

    Videotaping yourself is such a great revelation that I would recommend it highly to any teacher – most shy away from the idea, but it’s great to even watch yourself alone, without anyone commenting.

    I started videotaping myself early on in my career as teacher trainer for a school – with a view to creating a bank of seminars and demo lessons new teachers could access.

    I can’t think of anything more significant in my own develoment than watching these videos and trying harder and harder each time to fix whatever I thought was wrong.

    I still have them somewhere and watch them and scream with horror but there you are, that’s a good sign isn’t it?

  6. It can be scary to ask students for feedback (it is hard to see yourself through the eyes of another). It is important and if we approach with the right attitude, can transform our teaching. It can also let students know that learning is a process, none of us are perfect.

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