February 7, 2012
Build rapport with students by gathering and responding to student feedback
One of the best ways to find out if students are learning is to ask them. Whether you use an in-class activity or an out-of-class assignment, there are several efficient and effective ways to gather student feedback in order to gauge their learning.
At the beginning or the end of class, ask students a question about their learning and have them write for one minute in response. Possible questions include:
Student responses to these questions can help you shape your coverage of content, help you gauge students’ understanding, and influence your choices for the next time you teach the course.
Cover Letter Assignment
When students hand in an assignment, ask them to provide a “cover letter” in which they reflect on and describe the process they used when completing the assignment. Student comments in a cover letter might describe
This assignment helps students focus on the process of learning as well as attending to the characteristics of the final product.
At the mid-point of the term, ask students to respond anonymously to three questions:
Review and respond to this student feedback in the following class. Talk about patterns that you noticed in what students said was working. Identify those areas that might need adjustment and explain which changes can be made and which ones cannot be made.
For each of these three student feedback options, one of the most important things that you can do to build class rapport is respond. Whether you make changes or not, students like to know that they have been heard. Make sure to bring your feedback gathering full-circle by responding to students’ learning and their questions in class.
For additional information on gathering student feedback, check out the following book:
Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross,Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers.
This book is in the CULTA library and available for check out.
This tip is based on a teaching strategy suggested by Kathryn Linder, Ph.D., Assistant Director, Center for Teaching Excellence, Suffolk University.
September 7, 2010Request feedback from your students about your course during the term
Model the use of formative feedback for your students and reinforce the credibility of the end-of-term course evaluations. Discuss the value for both you and your students of constructive, formative feedback about the class structure and your teaching. Point out to your students that evaluative feedback from students at the end of the term does nothing to benefit the students who are currently enrolled in the course. Faculty simply can’t correct a problem that they don’t know about. If they learn about a problem only after the term ends, the problem might be corrected in the following term and benefit those students, but it can’t possibly be resolved for students during the current term.
Consider conducting a mid-course evaluation.
Not all suggestions or comments can be acted on (nor should all suggestions be acted on). Instructors can draw attention in class to those changes they make based on student suggestions and explain why some suggestions cannot be implemented (e.g., dispensing with exams or grading, ending an evening class half an hour early every night). The fact that you take the comments seriously and responded to those that you can reasonably implement strengthens students’ beliefs that you take course evaluations seriously.
This tip is based in part by a tip submitted by Michael Dabney, Director, Teaching and Learning Center
Hawaii Pacific University (http://www.hpu.edu/index.cfm?contentID=9473&siteID=1).
April 14, 2009
Use Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) to reflect on your teaching and improve student learning in future courses
The final weeks of the term are one of the best times to reflect on student learning and consider changes you might want to implement the next time you offer the course. Identify activities and assignments that worked well and make notes to yourself about modifications to assignments, rubrics, and other aspects of the course that might create improvements. Use the course evaluation activity to administer a questionnaire of your own design to elicit comments and suggestions from students. Formal course evaluations currently focus on “student satisfaction.” Rather than asking students if they liked aspects of the course, create your own Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) questions to evaluate the effectiveness of a specific assignment, class activity, project, or teaching strategy.
SALG questions ask students to rate the class in general or to rate specific assignments, projects, class activities, and other teaching strategies.
Examples of SALG questions
Target activities may include a class activity, lab assignments, particular learning methods, guest lectures, class readings, and other resources.
Provide a list of specific learning outcomes or concepts that you consider important for the class.
Target skill may include making quantitative estimates, finding trends in data, designing a research study, writing technical material, creating a web page, piece of art, etc.
Attitude Change SALG
For example: enthusiasm for the course or subject area
Although these are self-report measures, SALG measures can provide diagnostic evidence about teaching effectiveness that can be useful for scholarly projects on teaching and learning or inclusion in documentation of teaching effectiveness for annual evaluations, tenure and promotion, and teaching awards.
A discussion of the development of SALG measures and information about the validity and reliability of this approach to measuring student learning can be found in:
Seymour, E., Wiese, D., Hunter, A., & Daffinrud, S. M. (2000, March). Creating a better mousetrap: On-line student assessment of their learning gains. Paper presentation at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, San Francisco, CA.
Information about Student Assessment of Learning Gains and a free download of the Seymor et al. paper can be found at the SALG web site: http://salgsite.org/about
June 17, 2008
Mid-course evaluations are useful tools for getting information about what is and is not working well in your course. Instructors can make use of this formative feedback to make adjustments to the course to improve student engagement and learning. Give students a framework for this evaluation to encourage thoughtful, constructive feedback and discourage irrelevant comments about your hair style or wardrobe. Typical questions include:
What activities or course materials have helped you learn in this course?
Is there anything that is currently hindering your learning?
What changes (if any) would improve your ability to learn in this course?
These should be completed anonymously. Sort the responses into “things that are going well,” “things that might be changed to improve the course this term,” and “things that can’t be changed” and share these with your students. Although students might not be interested in the first category, sharing a few successes will direct student attention to positive aspects of the class. Identify one or two realistic adjustments based on comments from the second category. Students will appreciate your flexibility and willingness to make reasonable adjustments. Finally, explain why some items necessarily fall in the “can’t be changed” category. The course fulfills a particular role in the curriculum and yes, students are expected to be able to use statistical analyses to evaluate data. Students must use correct grammar in their writing. Courses must include tests or other evaluations of student learning. Include a humorous off-base suggestion or comment as a tacit example of the difference between constructive and unhelpful feedback.
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Updated 03/03/13 lrg
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