The Power of Student Feedback

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HarrisbAs we approach the midpoint of the school year, many of us will take the break as an opportunity to reflect, consider changes in our practice, and plan for the remainder of the school year.

When we reflect and consider changes to our practice, we have a lot of sources of data to help inform us of our progress. We have student achievement data, evaluations from our principal or supervisor, student grades, anecdotal records, and feedback from parents and colleagues.

However, many teachers fail to tap the most valuable source of feedback: their students.

In most classrooms, overt, direct feedback goes solely from the teacher to the student. We give them grades, written feedback on their work, verbal feedback and direction about their behavior, and rewards and incentives when they meet expectations. Yet rarely do we afford students the chance to give such feedback, advice, and suggestions back to us.

The argument can be made that students are the very best source of feedback about our effectiveness. They are, after all, our primary customers, and they spend their entire days on the receiving end of our efforts. It only makes sense to tap their knowledge, ideas, and thoughts about what changes should be made to the instructional methods, personal characteristics of the teacher, or classroom environmental factors that should be adjusted.

So, how should we go about gathering student feedback about our progress? One method is to offer students the opportunity to complete a course evaluation. Using a Lickert-type rating scale, ask students to anonymously complete a survey asking about various aspects of the classroom environment and instructional methods. Examples of statements that students can rate include

  • My teacher provides clear directions.
  • My teacher cares about me.
  • Lessons and activities are fun.
  • Students are treated fairly in class.
  • My teacher is organized.
  • Grades are fair and accurate.

In addition to the powerful message we send by gathering and acting on student ideas and feedback, consider what a wonderful model we set when we seek feedback directly from our students. We show them that we want to grow and improve, that we are not afraid of criticism, that we are still learning, and that we are willing to take a risk—all behaviors we expect from our students.

Post submitted by Bryan Harris, director of professional development for the Casa Grande Elementary School District in Arizona. He is the author of Battling Boredom,published by Eye On Education. You can find more information at http://www.bryan-harris.com.