How to Use Student Feedback to Improve Teaching

Teachers are lifelong learners and they are known for constantly striving to improve themselves and their craft. Although you likely reflect on each year and plan to make some changes based on your personal experiences as a teacher, it’s good to get an outside perspective on your teaching as well. Tests and grades can give you a small glimpse into your effectiveness as a teacher, but they are not the whole picture by any means. You can ask your students for feedback at the end of the year or midway through the school year and can take their responses into account as you move forward in your teaching career. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your students’ feedback.

How to Request Feedback

Before you can begin utilizing feedback for growth, you first need to get the feedback. You can get information from students about your teaching in a few ways. You could utilize an anonymous survey on paper in the classroom or with an online platform like Survey Monkey. You can also run a focus group at the end of the semester to encourage more discussion-based responses. No matter what format you select, be sure to ask as many open-ended questions as possible. Encourage students to be completely honest and elaborate on any responses.

Ask Some Quantitative Questions

Questions that encourage in-depth thoughts and responses are ideal and will give you much information on your teaching. However, it’s also good to ask quantitative questions so you can look at some statistics regarding your teaching. You may ask students to answer questions based on a scale from 1 to 10, such as how much they enjoyed your class, how they felt about your effectiveness as a teacher, or how much they feel like they learned in your class.

Look for Patterns

Taking notes of every piece of feedback you receive can be tempting, but if you teach multiple classes, the number of responses can quickly add up.  Getting one outlier comment about something most likely means a specific student wasn’t being truthful or was being unnecessarily harsh about something. But if you get several comments regarding the same thing, you can trust that it’s a reliable piece of feedback you need to consider. If you use an online platform to gather feedback, you can paste responses into a Word document and use a software program or website to create a word cloud that shows what words were used the most frequently, giving you a more thorough idea of the patterns in your feedback.

Give Yourself Time and Space to Process

Once you’ve got all the feedback, give yourself a designated time to go over all of it. You will likely get some feedback you don’t like, but it’s important to consider everything as you evaluate yourself and your teaching. Appreciate the positive comments and make a note of them, but also be accepting of the negative comments. Try to see through anything that may be hurtful and look for constructive criticism behind it. Do your best to put your feelings aside and remember that you’re trying to improve your teaching, and each and every response will benefit you and your future students.

No matter how you go about requesting feedback from your students, be sure to accept it from a place of professionalism and a desire to grow. With that in mind, you’ll be able to utilize the feedback positively and effectively to improve yourself as an individual and as a teacher, and your future students will be sure to benefit.

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