Talking with Students About Their Feedback
When distributing the survey to your class…
- Tell students that you want their candid, honest responses. Stress that the only purpose for this survey is to help you improve the class and that you are the only one who will be seeing the results.
- Tell students when you will get back to them with the results of the survey (e.g., "I'll have the results tabulated by… and I'll share some of the highlights with you.”). We’ll have the results back to you by…(fill in the amount of turn around time needed by OMS)
When considering your tabulated results…
- Put them in the context of student performance. Are students doing as well on tests and assignments as you hoped? Are there other indicators of significant student learning? Evidence of student learning is the most important indicator of how the course is going.
- If 20% or more of your students responded negatively, this is probably an area that you should address. You may want to ask a colleague in your department, or a consultant from the Center for Teaching and Learning Services to discuss the results with you and help you identify options for making changes. If students are disagreeing with question 13, this is especially important to address. The research on what matters in college tells us that having effective study strategies is the single greatest predictor of student learning in a course.
- It is quite common for there to be some contradictory feedback (For example, some students indicate that they feel your explanations are exemplary while other say that your explanations definitely need improvement). This sometimes indicates that your strategies are particularly effective for one learning style, but are not very effective for students with a different learning style. You might consider asking the students for advice. One approach would be to have students respond in writing to questions like “The instructor’s explanations are clearest when… ” or “The instructor’s explanations are least clear when…”. Prompt them to be as explicit as possible.
- Review student comments to the open-ended questions carefully. First, look over the positive things your students have said about the course. Then read their suggestions for improvement and sort them into three categories: those you intend to change, those that you either cannot or, for pedagogical reasons, will not change, and those that are negotiable.
When summarizing the results to the class… (and it’s imperative to talk with students about the results!)
- Select two or three items that students responded to very favorably and two or three items that you hope to improve. There's no need to provide the results for every question.
- If you have decided to make changes based on the evaluation, explain what you intend to do differently and why.
- Clarify any confusion or misunderstandings about your goals and their expectations.
- Ask for further information if necessary (e.g., "Several of you feel that the quiz was unfair in its coverage of the material, but I need some help in understanding why. I'm going to give you each a copy of the quiz, and ask you to spend a few minutes answering the questions “Which of these questions seemed surprising or unfair?” or “Which questions (or topics) did you expect to see on this test that weren't there?")
- If there is an item that you would like to improve, but are unsure as to what would be effective you might ask their advice (e.g., "I’d like to be more successful in increasing your interest in X. Do you have any ideas as to how I might do this?" You might ask students to spend a few minutes brainstorming ideas in partners or small groups).
- When appropriate, enlist the students’ assistance in enacting a change. (e.g., "I'm going to try to speak more loudly. I'd appreciate it if you'd help by signaling me whenever I'm speaking too softly.”)
- After outlining the improvements you plan to make, let students know what they can do to assist in remedying problems identified in the evaluation. For example, if students report that they are often confused, invite them to ask questions more often.
Keep in mind that your tone of voice and attitude are very important when responding to student feedback. Try to maintain a positive, accepting attitude when discussing the results with your students. The manner in which you introduce the evaluation and discuss the results will indicate to students whether you took their feedback seriously. Avoid being defensive, angry, preachy, or overly apologetic.