Gathering Teaching Feedback
All classes end with feedback; we receive final evaluations from our students and, based on what we see there, we try to improve future semesters. But we don’t have to wait until the end of the semester—and, especially in difficult times, we probably shouldn’t. When circumstances are particularly difficult, when students are likely to be struggling and when classes are happening in an unfamiliar format—virtually, hybrid, etc.—it’s important to check in with your students in the midst of the semester to find out about their experience in the course and to determine what they’re learning. As you’ll see from our suggestions below, there are a number of ways to do this.
With this kind of information, we can improve the course, building on strengths and making adjustments to address problems, not only for future students but also for those who are in our courses right now.
Classroom Assessment Techniques
Classroom Assessment Techniques are brief check-in exercises that can be conducted during class. For example:
- One-Minute Paper: Students spend a minute writing a short answer to a prompt of your choice related to the day’s lesson
- Muddiest Point Technique: You ask students to tell you (orally or in writing) which points from class they are having the most trouble understanding
These should give you a good sense of what students understand and, indirectly, how effectively you’re teaching.
Other quick methods focus on teaching more directly. For example, in a Start-Stop-Continue exercise you ask students to tell you what they’d like you to start doing in order to help their learning; what they’d like you to stop doing; and what they’d like you to continue doing. These check-ins can be anonymous and don’t take much time for students to do or for you to absorb.
You can also compose a survey to collect feedback, with students completing it either during class time or at their leisure outside class. At Georgetown, faculty use tools like Qualtrics, Canvas Quizzes (which can be ungraded and anonymous), Google Forms, and SurveyMonkey to create and administer their surveys.
CNDLS is available to help you think through your options, and to help you craft questions. Some of the kinds of questions we recommend include:
Questions about the course
- “What is going well for you in the course?”
- “What could be improved in the course to help your learning?”
- “So far, when did you feel most disconnected from what you were learning?”
- “When have you been most engaged by course material and activities?”
- “Which assignments and activities have been most helpful to your learning?”
Questions about your teaching
- “What am I doing that facilitates your learning?”
- “What concrete actions can I take to make the class a more effective learning experience for you?”
- “What teaching techniques have you found most effective in helping you to learn?”
Questions about students’ contributions to the experience
- “How familiar were you with this course material before the class began?”
- “How much do you feel that you’re learning in this course?”
- “What actions have you been taking to support your learning in the course?”
- “What could you change about your approach to the course to improve your experience?”
As another example, James Madison University’s Teaching Analysis Polls ask students to reflect on three dimensions of the course: the student’s own efforts, the elements of the course and the professor’s teaching, and the efforts of classmates. In each case they ask what aspects of that dimension support or hinder the student’s learning, and also soliciting suggestions to adopt to improve learning.
All of these kinds of questions require students to reflect on their own learning and also assure them that you are taking their needs into account when crafting their learning experience.
Mid-semester can be a good time to gather feedback; by that time, the course has been running long enough for students to have informed opinions, and there’s still enough time to implement some changes going forward.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until mid-semester to gather feedback; some faculty members use ongoing strategies such as the selection of a class representative to whom students can go to voice their concerns and who can be counted on to share the concerns with the professor anonymously and in a timely fashion. Other professors gather weekly anonymous feedback using the minute paper or a similar technique to gauge student understanding from lectures or discussion.
What to Do with the Feedback
Whatever your method, once you have gathered students’ feedback, it’s a good idea to report back to them, addressing what they’ve said and letting them know which suggested changes you can implement immediately, which you’ll consider for future editions of the course, and which are unfeasible for various reasons that you share. Showing them that you take their views seriously should encourage them to continue providing helpful feedback and increase their investment in the course.
- Gathering Student Feedback. CNDLS Teaching Commons.
- Mid-semester Teaching Feedback program. CNDLS.
- Teaching Analysis Polls. Center for Faculty Innovation, James Madison University.
- Elbow, P. & Boice, R. (1992). Making Better Use of Student Evaluations of Teachers. Profession.
- Mandouit, L. (2018). Using Student Feedback to Improve Teaching. Educational Action Research.