5 tips for feedback in the classroom

1. Don’t assume you know what your students want.

And don’t assume that what made other students you taught happy will work for your new students now. Often teachers look to make improvements very generically, based on something they read in a book. That’s the wrong approach. Use student feedback to improve your teaching in this specific classroom.

2. Start with an anonymous survey.

Your first task is to find out which aspects of learning and teaching matter most to your particular students. But if you just ask them directly, you won’t get an honest answer. Try an online survey that your students can fill out anonymously. Nobody will be afraid to get a bad mark, and you will get valuable feedback about the learning and teaching in this classroom.

3. Ask how you’re doing on the issues they care about.

Your survey should offer students a list of qualities they really care about related to their learning and achievement in your classroom. These may include such items as respect, motivation, student-teacher relationship, classroom climate, whether they feel their opinions are valued, and so on. Look for the gaps between what your students think is important and what you think you are doing well. And ask what you can do together to make things better.

4. Plan possible responses ahead of time. And focus.

Although you’re asking for your students input about their learning and your teaching, you should also have a plan of action in place, depending what you learn from their answer. Before the survey goes out, sit down and plan out what specific actions you will take, depending which two or three items turn out to be most critical to respondents. After the survey you have to focus hard on the two or three areas students tell you they care about the most.

5. Don’t ask about things you can’t or won’t change.

Just as important as what is on the survey is what isn’t there. Asking your students about things knowing your school has policies in place that aren’t going to change isn’t a good idea. When you ask your students about what they want, there’s an implicit promise that you’re going to do something about it. So focus on student learning and your teaching to get feedback right.

How do you use feedback in your classroom?

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