Classes vary from semester to semester. Even when your course design is mature, each new group of students brings a different mix of prior knowledge, skills, and attitudes that affect the class climate and experience. Gathering feedback by the middle of the term from students can be a valuable tool that will enable you to:
- Manage a dynamic classroom environment
- Make instructional adjustments to improve students’ learning
- Show students that you value their input (which can motivate them to engage more deeply in your course)
This page describes five different approaches for soliciting student feedback:
- Open-ended Feedback Questions: Short instruments of a limited number of open-ended questions designed to solicit feedback along dimensions you might not think of yourself.
- Short Surveys: Quantitative instruments that target specific questions about your class.
- In-depth Analysis of Learning Environments: Longer surveys designed to analyze the teaching and learning environment of your class based on goals and/or learning principles.
- Small Group Analysis: In-person focus groups with your students conducted by a consultant.
- Student Quality Groups: A group of students volunteer to meet with the instructor on an ongoing basis to provide feedback.
The approach that is right for you may be influenced by:
- What you want to know
- The number of students in your class; and
- The amount of time you have to invest the overall process
A CATLR consultant can help you identify and implement a strategy that is right for you.
Open-ended Feedback Questions
Many sources suggest a very open-ended approach to soliciting formative feedback from students. This enables students to comment on things that are important to them that you may not anticipate. There are several versions of “three question” surveys, such as:
- What in the class so far has helped your learning the most?
- What in the class so far has hindered your learning?
- What suggestions do you have to improve the course?
DOWNLOAD a Word document that contains several open-ended surveys, and select the one that is most comfortable to you.
DOWNLOAD The PLUS/DELTA survey (Helminski & Koberna,1995) is another open-ended technique, which asks students to consider their own contribution to their learning, as well the instructor’s. Using a two-column grid, students comment on what is contributing to their learning and what could improve their learning.
Helminski, L. & Koberna, S. (1995). Total quality in instruction: A systems approach. In H. V. Roberts (Ed.), Academic initiatives in total quality for higher education (pp309-362). Milwaukee, WI: ASQC Quality Press.)
Surveys can be an effective means of gathering student input on the class as a whole, and implementing a survey electronically (like using the Blackboard survey tool) can simplify data aggregation.
The following are examples of quantitative formats to seek input on specific aspects of your class.
- DOWNLOAD This survey (based on instruments developed by the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching) questions students about their experience in your class.
- DOWNLOAD This is a short instrument based on the 7 Principles for Smart Teaching described in How Learning Works (Ambrose et al, 2010)
In-Depth Analysis of Learning Environments
Based on the 7 Principles for Smart Teaching described in How Learning Works (Ambrose et al, 2010), CATLR has designed an instrument to help instructors identify specific issues related to teaching and learning: Prior knowledge, Knowledge organization, Motivation, Mastery, Practice and Feedback, Student development and course climate, and Self-directed learning. A CATLR consultant can help you interpret your results.
DOWNLOAD as a .pdf.
Small Group Analysis
Small Group Analysis (SGA) involves the instructor leaving class for a portion of one class period (usually about 20 minutes) while a consultant conducts a form of a focus group with students. The feedback from the students is then synthesized and communicated to the instructor. (At Northeastern, you can arrange for a consultant from CATLR to conduct a session.)
The steps in this process are:
- The instructor and consultant meet to discuss goals and agree on questions for the session.
- The consultant visits the class. The instructor introduces the consultant and explains that they have asked them to gather feedback, then leaves.
- Students are divided into small groups and are asked to compile responses to one question. The groups then report out while the consultant records responses. This process is repeated for each question.
- Consultant synthesizes the feedback and reports back to the instructor. The consultant and instructor may discuss how the data can inform teaching practices.
The benefits of using an SGA include:
- The feedback is being gathered by a neutral third party, which may encourage honesty among students.
- The consultant can help you shape the questions asked of students and interpret results.
To request consultation on implementing one of these strategies, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Quality Groups
Student Feedback Teams (SFT), also known as Student Management Teams or Student Quality Teams, open the opportunity for more frequent feedback and shared responsibility for course success. An SFT is a group of three to five volunteer students who regularly meet and work collaboratively with their faculty to improve the learning community within a course. Typically, these volunteers meet about every two weeks as a team, with the faculty joining them every other meeting. In accelerated courses, some faculty choose to meet more frequently. The goal is to break down communication barriers and work collaboratively to enhance the course for the entire class. The SFT process provides a continuous feedback loop which is more interactive than the one-way process of end-of-course evaluations. For more information on implementing Student Feedback Teams, contact CATLR at email@example.com.