Student Voice: Blow Up Your Practice with Teacher Feedback

This series is intended to give teachers new ways of improving their practice through practice-based feedback. 

Rarely in the K-12 system is student feedback intentionally sought and reflected upon as a way to improve teacher practice.  Yet, students know effective teaching when they see it.  These underutilized, understudied student perceptions of teacher effectiveness may serve as a valuable resource to informing teacher pedagogy.

Here’s a snippet from a recent Gates study:

Student perceptions of a given teacher’s strengths and weaknesses are consistent across the different groups of students they teach. Moreover, students seem to know effective teaching when they experience  it: student perceptions in one class are related to the achievement gains in other classes taught by the same teacher. Most important are students’ perception of a teacher’s ability to control a classroom and to challenge students with rigorous work.

Here are 4 easy ways to gather student feedback to inform teacher practice.

  • Exit Slip.  Exit slips may be given out at the end of each day/activity/unit.  This is a fantastic formative assessment for teachers.  Students are able to describe what they learned, what they still have questions about, and suggestions for future lessons.  Using this student feedback, teachers are able to reflect and adjust their practice to better meet students’ learning needs.
  • Interviews.  Interviews can be inform or formal.  Ask the students how they feel class is going?  What are they excelling (or interested) in?  Why is this?  What instructional methods/activities do they learn best from?  What are they struggling in?  Why?  What can YOU as their teacher do to improve THEIR learning? These direct questions usually elicit some interesting student responses.
  • Focus groups.  If the classroom environment, classroom management, or student learning is not at the level you expect, stop and ask why.  A useful strategy to approach this is to first have students write down their individual thoughts about your topic, and then proceed with a group discussion.  Ask for their suggestions and, perhaps, what they are concerned about.  Use this activity to demonstrate everyone has a role in their learning.  Consider the following two questions: 1) What can I do as your teacher to improve your learning? and 2) What can you do as the student to improve classroom learning?
  • Surveys.  Make your own, or find one on the Internet and tweak it to your classroom needs.  Use them THROUGHOUT the course, grade, unit, etc.  This will give you ongoing feedback of student growth, allowing you to make the necessary adjustments to your practice.

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