Weekly Teaching Note
Feb 01 2012
Tips for Gathering and Responding to Student Feedback

“Students say that the experience of having their opinions, reactions, and feelings solicited regularly, and addressed publicly, is one crucial reason for their coming to trust a teacher.” – Stephen Brookfield, The Skillful Teacher, pg. 49.

One of the best ways to find out if students are learning is to ask them. Whether you use an in-class activity or an out-of-class assignment, there are several efficient and effective ways to gather student feedback in order to gauge their learning. Check out a few options below:

Option # 1: The Minute Paper
At the beginning or the end of class, ask students a question about their learning and have them write for one minute in response. Possible questions include: what is the most challenging concept we have covered thus far in the course? What questions do you still have about topic X? or What has been your favorite activity of the course thus far? Student responses to these questions can help you shape your use of content, help you gauge students’ understanding, and influence your choices for the next time you teach the course.

Option # 2: The Cover Letter
The next time your students hand in an assignment, ask them to provide a “cover letter” in which they talk about the process of the assignment. You might ask your students to discuss particular obstacles they encountered or “ah-ha” moments they experienced. This kind of feedback helps both your students and you focus on the process of learning in addition to the final product.

Option # 3: “One-Month-In” Feedback
About one-fourth of the way into the semester, ask students to respond anonymously to three questions: what is helping them learn? What is hindering their learning? And what about the course would they like to see change? Make sure to respond to this student feedback in the following class and talk about patterns that you noticed in what is working and what might need adjustment in the course.

For each of these options, one of the most important things that you can do is respond. Make sure to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the next class meeting summarizing what you learned and responding to concerns raised by the students. Whether or not you make changes, students like to know that they have been heard.

  • Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Brookfield, S. D. (1990). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers, San Francisco, CA.

To follow up on any of these ideas, please contact me at fglazer@nyit.edu. This Weekly Teaching Note was adapted from a contribution to the Teaching and Learning Writing Consortium sponsored by Western Kentucky University.

Kathryn Linder, PhD
Assistant Director, Center for Teaching Excellence
Suffolk University
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