During the semester
Teachers need continuous, accurate information about student learning. Asking students for their input and responding to it can reduce gaps between teaching and learning. Here are two techniques to help you assess and get feedback from your students during the semester.
The one-minute paper is a brief, anonymous feedback instrument you can use up to three or four times a semester at the end of a class. Ask these two questions: “What is the most important thing you learned today in this class?” and “What important question remains unanswered?” At the beginning of the following class, discuss the results with students. Let them know that you’ve read the papers, and respond to their feedback.
In each of your classes, establish a signal for students to use if they want to call a time-out. At that point, you stop talking. Why? Because they can’t take notes fast enough. Because they have questions. Because they need a moment to consider a point. Maybe the best reason is to give them ownership in the class.
Think about it: When we read, we stop to read something a second time, to weigh a thought or to verify a detail. Time-outs encourage students and teachers to think about material, to interact, to integrate and to assimilate.
Many instructors find it useful to get feedback from students at mid-semester, rather than only at the end. This allows you to make mid-course corrections that can benefit both you and your students. For example, if your PowerPoint slides have too much text for students to read, finding this out by midterm gives you an opportunity to change your slide format.
If you decide to get midterm feedback, follow these principles:
- Don’t ask if you don’t want to know. If you don’t intend to make changes to a course or an assignment that students are having difficulty with, it’s best to not ask for their input.
- Let students know that you’ve read their comments and will respond to them appropriately. Follow through and make changes that are feasible for that course. If students suggest changes that you can’t make, explain why not.
CTE has several feedback forms that can be used as is or adapted to your specific situation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864-4199.
The muddiest point is a simple technique that’s remarkably efficient; it provides a high return of information for a very low investment of time and energy.
Ask students to jot down a quick response to one question: What was the muddiest point in _____? In the blank, ask students to respond to a lecture, discussion, homework assignment or instructional method.
This technique helps you know what students find least clear or most confusing about a topic. You can use that feedback to discover which points are most difficult for students to learn and to guide them about which topics to focus on. At the same time, this technique requires students to quickly identify what they don’t understand and articulate muddy points, which engages them in higher-order thinking.