Weekly Teaching Note
Dec 12 2012
Holistic Conversations about a course: Activity for the last week of the semester

In some classes, you may want to obtain information about what assignments and experiences were valuable – especially if you are preparing to teach the same course the next semester. Here’s a way to get feedback from your students at the same time that you review the major course goals and objectives with them.

1. Prepare a sheet of paper that simply has a label for the assignment or experience on the top – one for each area you are interested in obtaining information.  For example: 

2. Create groups of students – the same number of groups as there are assignments that they will explore.
3. Give each group one of the sheets of paper, and ask one person to be the scribe.  They are to write what was effective about the assignment/experience and what was ineffective about the assignment.  Give the group about three minutes to do this.
4. Rotate sheets clockwise.  The next group reads what is on the sheet and adds effective and ineffective aspects.  Give the group about three minutes to do this.
5. Rotate sheets clockwise again…same task as above.  Give the group about three minutes to do this.
6. Rotate sheets clockwise – this is the last time – the group is to read all the comments and then rank order the three most important comments on the sheet.  The groups may need more than three minutes but are usually done within five minutes.
7. Bring everyone back together and open the floor for discussion.  Start with the area you are most interested in and ask the group that has that sheet to talk about their ranking and explain why they rated things this way. Ask the rest of the class to comment, if they’d like. The ensuing discussions allows you to hear, respond to, and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of the various activities.  Because the group that speaks first is the group that ranked the responses, they are more comfortable engaging in the conversation since they are not responsible for generating the items on the sheet.  What I have found is that this acts as a catalyst for a healthy whole class discussion of what was learned during the course.
In addition to providing you with guidance for the next time you teach the course, you will be able to reemphasize course outcomes, rearticulate interconnections of concepts and experiences, and communicate intent while having a chance to review material.  Collect the sheets so that you can read everything and use them to shape aspects of the course the next time you teach it.

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.
Rebecca Clemente, Director for the Center of Teaching and Learning
North Central College
Naperville, Illinois
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