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. If you truly take to heart what your students say, you will improve your teaching and grow significantly as both an educator and a person. Here are some tips and tricks 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. There are a few ways you can get information from students about your teaching. You could utilize an anonymous survey, either 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 definitely ideal and will give you a great deal of 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

It can be tempting to take notes of every single piece of feedback you receive, but if you teach multiple classes, the number of responses can quickly add up. You should definitely read every response you get, but it can be beneficial to look for patterns in the feedback. 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 that you need to take into account. 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 gotten all the feedback, give yourself a designated time to go over all of it. Allow yourself alone time to read through responses and allow yourself the freedom to feel however you need to about the responses. You will likely get some feedback that you don’t like, but it’s important to take everything into account as you evaluate yourself and your teaching. Appreciate the positive comments and make note of them, but also be accepting of the negative comments. Try to see through anything that may be hurtful and look for the 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.