Getting Feedback from Students
Around the semester midpoint it’s a good idea to solicit feedback from students about how the course is going. Midsemester feedback:
- Provides an opportunity to show that you’re listening to student concerns.
- Provides an opportunity for you to refocus, if necessary.
Asking “how’s it going?” doesn’t usually get much concrete, actionable feedback, however. You’re more likely to get some focused answers if you ask focused questions. One approach is the start-stop-continue. Ask students to tell you:
- What you should start doing.
- What you should stop doing.
- What you should continue doing.
Collect the responses and organize them into a table or spreadsheet, then take a few minutes during the next class to discuss the feedback with your students. During the discussion, point out:
- Conflicting messages. Students often believe that everyone in the class thinks the same way about the way a class is going, but the feedback may show that there are conflicting recommendations. For example, some students may want you to slow down, others to speed up. Pointing these out helps students to understand the needs of others in the class—as well as the instructor’s need to satisfy different groups.
- Things you are willing to do or change. Some student requests are very reasonable and you may be very willing to accommodate them. For example, students may request that you provide additional practice problems.
- Things you are not willing to do or change. Students may request some changes that you are not willing to accommodate. For example, students may ask you to provide a structured approach to analyzing a case, but you may prefer that they deal with the uncertainty because it helps them to learn to formulate solutions to complex problems rather than following a “recipe,” which they would be unlikely to have in a real situation. Explaining why you have chosen a particular approach helps students to better understand that approach—and perhaps to appreciate it more.
The spreadsheet below is an example of a start-stop-continue summary. You may find it useful to post your summary on your course website so students have a chance to review it. It’s important to capture the comments honestly so that students feel their voice is being heard—but it’s also practical to paraphrase so that students can see how often a comment on a particular issue occurs.
|7||More/slower illustration of how to use Excel/making sure people are caught up||7||Spending time going over homework (or all homework)||12||Going over HW in detail.|
|6||More examples of how to use in real life.||3||Sending so many e-mails||9||Posting comprehensive homework answers.|
|3||Giving extra practice problems.||2||Posting so many documents.||9||Posting notes about using Excel and other examples.|
|2||Giving more direction on semester assignments.||2||Homework online posting.||4||Discussion format.|
|2||More exercises during class.||2||Calling on same people.||4||Asking questions to make sure people are on track.|
|2||Going faster.||So many assignments.||3||Keeping us informed through SMGtools and e-mail.|
|2||Posting slides before class. (day before)||Scolding about not reading e-mail.||2||Being available, accessible/open door style.|
|Shorten PP slides (too much information on each)||Repeating explanations when there is no response to “Should I go over this again?”||2||PowerPoint slides available before class.|