Feedback is everywhere in education. As teachers we give our students feedback all of the time–formally and informally. Feedback to students comes to them in all sorts of ways (verbal, written) and in many types of settings (formative, summative). There are have been many articles written on the importance of giving students feedback so that they can change their practices so as to refine their skills and work towards mastery. It is through feedback that students are able to learn and grow under the watchful and caring eye of their teacher.
While it is common for teachers give feedback to their students, it is far more rare that students have the opportunity to give feedback to their teachers. I see reflective feedback from students to teachers as being a crucial and integral part in the continued growth and development of a teacher. In addition, by creating this channel of feedback and communication there will be a positive evolution of a classroom and learning environment. When teachers gather feedback about their practice from their students, it can act as a tool for teachers to modify their pedagogy to better support the learners in their community. It is all about the students!
So why don’t we? Why don’t teachers actively and regularly seek out feedback from students? If it is the goal of the teacher to reach and connect with students in a meaningful way so as to support their developmental and educational growth, why would we not ask them how we are doing? The act of garnering feedback from students is a great way to demonstrate that the classroom is student centered and that students have a voice in their education. Through this empowerment students will feel more connected to the class and their learning as they think about how they can best be supported, and know that their voice will be heard.
In a great post by the globally minded counselor, she speaks to asking people what support looks like for them. By asking someone what support looks like to them, the supporter can best address the needs of the person that they are working with. This idea of explicitly asking students what support looks like for them in the classroom forces students to think about their learning process. When students have to vocalize what support looks like for them and articulate how well their teacher is responding to their needs, it put students in a new position. With this new voice, students shift from being a passive member of the learning community to an active member where their thoughts and feedback matter. Students become active as they note and think about the learning activities that work for them knowing they will have a chance to give feedback. If we are ignoring the needs and experiences of our students and not intentionally asking them what support looks like for them and how they feel about their classroom experience, then how can we as educators be reflective on the effectiveness of our practice?
A tool that I have used over the course of the year to gather feedback from students on my teaching practice is Google Forms. Google Forms allows me to create a questionnaire that I can easily distribute to students digitally and then collect their responses in an organized way. What I like most about using Google Forms to gather feedback from students is that their responses are anonymous. The anonymity of the responses empowers the students to be more authentic in their feedback as their is no fear that a teacher may be hurt or upset by an individual’s constructive criticism. Additionally, I find that by having no names attached to the responses ensures that there are no pre-conceived ideas about the feedback that I receive from certain individuals. Kevin Brookhouser has made a great video explaining how to create a Google Form for feedback.
By asking for student feedback on my teaching and facilitating in the classroom, I have become a better and more reflective teacher. In the past I would reflect on lessons or assessments but the reflections would mainly be from my own perspective. Now that I am asking students their opinions I have direct access to the thoughts of the people that matter the most — the students. By asking for and receiving student feedback I am able to tailor my teaching and facilitation of the class to the needs of my students. The tailoring of my lessons allows me to be reflective on activities that were less successful so that I do not make the same mistakes in the future. Additionally, I can reflect on successful lessons and refine them for next time.
I think that asking for feedback scared me at first. Once I got over the fear of being judged (which in the end was a total irrational fear), I was able to embrace all the feedback as a learning and growing opportunity — just like I ask my students to view my feedback. My teaching has only improved as a result of getting feedback from my students. The feedback has eliminated any guesswork I may have done on the successfulness of my teaching and facilitating as well as given me further insights into why certain lessons may not have gone as well. Most importantly if applying student feedback ensures a student centered class, we would be doing a disservice if we didn’t ask.