Why ask for student feedback?

Being open to improvement and accepting feedback is an important part of being a teacher. There are a number of ways we can do this:

  1. Peer observation: Meet prior to discuss a focus and meet after to discuss what was observed and how it can be used to develop practice.
  2. Video observation: Video a lesson to watch and reflect on practice. You could also sit with a peer and discuss your reflections and ask for their input.
  3. Observe a peer: Sit in on the class of a peer you respect, has the same subject area or a similar year level to you. Have a focus for your observation and spend time discussing what you observed with the teacher.
  4. Student feedback: Ask your students what they think of your teaching. Have a focus and be specific with your questions.

All feedback can be valuable but student feedback provides a type of feedback that the others cannot. What your students think is important, it will impact directly on their attitude towards you as a teacher and how much they are willing to listen and therefore learn when they are in your classroom.

Asking for student feedback can improve your relationship with your students. If students see that you value their feedback and make changes to your practice based on that feedback they are more likely value you as a teacher.

Be open with your students about what you would like to improve. For example let them know that previous feedback has identified that you talk too much during lessons and you would like help to reduce teacher talk and increase student engagement.

“One of the biggest frustrations students have is the feeling of a “double-standard”: We expect them to grow and change daily, yet we often don’t model growth and change ourselves.” By asking for and using feedback we are modelling that it is important to continue to improve ourselves.

Give students time to develop their ability to provide feedback. Clearly explain the purpose of the feedback understanding that it may take some practice on their part and continued explanation on yours to ensure the feedback is useful. Provide students with clear and specific questions. This will support them in providing you with quality feedback. For example:

  • What’s one thing I should keep doing [during instruction, when giving directions, etc.]?
  • What’s one thing I should stop doing [. . .]?
  • What’s one thing I should do differently [. . .]?
  • What’s the most annoying thing I do [when lecturing, when assigning homework, etc.]?
  • What’s the best thing I do to help you learn [. . .]?
  • What could I do to give you better feedback [on your writing, on your quizzes, etc.]?
  • What did you like about the assignment I gave last night?
  • What did you dislike about the assignment I gave last night?
  • “When you ________________________, I usually stop paying attention.”

Use the feedback provided by students. Ultimately this is why you asked for the feedback in the first place. Try to look at what students say without justifying or explaining away the feedback. Try to find patterns in student feedback to match your own reflections or feedback from peers. Future feedback will be taken more seriously if students see you have used previous feedback.

Finally the Grattan Institute’s report titled Engaging Students: Creating classrooms that improve learning identifies that tools like surveys “can give useful feedback after the lesson and over longer periods. For example, intermittent student feedback surveys can give teachers a ‘pulse check’ on what is working well” and “enables teachers to get feedback on their methods”.

The Grattan Institute acknowledge student engagement is a problem in Australian schools and while the causes of that disengagement are varied and debatable they identify that an immediate solution is to build the capacity of teachers to create classrooms that improve learning. By asking for and using student feedback we are utilising a powerful resource to make this happen.