Students often have more meaningful learning experiences when educators continue to reflect on their teaching practices and make informed changes when necessary. However, while educators are often institutionally required to collect feedback on their approach to teaching, consistently requesting feedback from students on an ongoing basis is not as common. The hesitancy to do so may stem from a lack of familiarity with the concept of receiving continuous input from students. Nonetheless, feedback from pupils can effectively change educators’ practices and subsequently improve students’ learning experiences (Sun et al., 2022). Accordingly, educators can learn to leverage feedback from learners to become more attuned to their students’ needs.
As an educator, what can you do to obtain genuine feedback on your teaching?
Explain to your students the purpose of giving feedback to their teacher.
Students who are not accustomed to providing feedback may shy away from being truthful. They may also find the idea of commenting on your teaching approach to be rather unusual, especially if it is not a customary practice in the educational institution. Hence, it is pivotal for you to share your reasons for receiving feedback, for example, to help the teacher identify which students need customized support in the classroom. Helping your pupils to understand why their input is essential will create a sense of agency and make them feel included in this process.
Scaffold the process of giving feedback.
The age of your students is not an excuse to refrain from receiving feedback from them. It does not matter if you teach a group of kindergarteners or a course at the university level; getting feedback from students through an age-appropriate approach remains possible. One informative yet fun technique that is suitable for learners of all ages is the activity “Two Stars, One Wish.” This technique allows students to share two of their favorite experiences and one thing they wish the teacher could have done differently in the classroom.
Request formative feedback as opposed to summative feedback.
Instead of waiting until the end of the school term to distribute the generic teacher feedback survey, collect some formative feedback throughout the term. Consistent formative feedback will provide you with an idea of how pupils’ learning has progressed and if you need to change your instructional practices during the term. Timely formative feedback will further allow you to understand each student group's needs and tailor any changes to them.
Hear your students out and make changes.
Easily dismissed as an unimportant aspect, do not forget to appreciate your students’ shout-outs! Be proud of what you have done well in the classroom as an educator. At the same time, of course, acknowledge all the suggestions for improvement by sharing whether changes are feasible and how you will attempt them. Do not collect feedback and leave the students hanging with no updates. If a suggestion is impossible to execute, explain why and offer an alternative you will work on.
Instead of viewing the process of being “evaluated” as punitive, educators should welcome the practice of receiving feedback from students as it is a helpful means of supporting educators’ professional development. A suitable mechanism for obtaining feedback will provide educators with much information on which instructional practices to improve and set the foundation for offering a safe space in the classroom. When students are trusted and empowered to provide feedback to their teachers, respect is reciprocated, and the entire process becomes a more meaningful learning experience (Zhou et al., 2020).
Sun, S., Gao, X., Rahmani, B. D., Bose, P., & Davison, C. (2022). Student voice in assessment and feedback (2011–2022): A systematic review. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2022.2156478
Aitidal Shariha Mohd Supi is a Non-Resident Researcher with the Al Qasimi Foundation. Her research focuses on the dynamics of non-state actors in the education sector and policy making. She has previously worked as a Senior Program Manager at PEMIMPIN Global School Leaders, a Leadership Development Officer at Teach for Malaysia, and a teacher under the Malaysian Education Ministry. Aitidal holds a B.A. in Sociology from Indiana University Bloomington and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from the Institute of Teacher Education in Malaysia. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Education Policies for Global Development at the University of Glasgow and Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.