Improving Teaching With Expert Feedback—From Students
A student survey allows students to express their concerns, wants, and desires while also providing input on how a teacher might modify his or her instruction to assist them do better in class, according to the results.
In reflecting on the performance of his pupils at Trinidad Garza Early College High School, physics instructor Christopher Pagan concluded that they were falling short of his goals as well as their own potential. I needed to figure out how I might boost their performance in class, so I brainstormed a few ideas,” Pagan recalls.
His lack of knowledge led him to come up with a novel solution: he would consult with his students.
Knowing that his pupils were struggling to retain the information, Pagan asked them to consider what would help them be more successful in his class, how they learn best, and what types of in-class activities would be most beneficial to their learning. Furthermore, many of his students were not retaking the tests on which they had fared poorly, and they were handing in their homework late or not at all, according to him. He also included questions centred on those issues in order to better understand how he could best assist his students.
For students to complete the survey he designed during class, it took them approximately five to ten minutes. “He got the material back, changed the way he taught, and changed the way he tutored,” says Dr. Janice Lombardi, the principle of Trinidad Garza Elementary. “It shifted his perspective and informed his training. As a result, his students’ physics test results skyrocketed by a factor of ten last year. “We came to the conclusion that this might be one of our best practises.”
HOW IT’S DONE
STEP 1: FORM A SMALL GROUP OF AFFILIATES Begin with one or more teachers who are passionate about the idea of using student surveys in the classroom. Over the course of a year, keep track of their statistics and influence. If you start with tiny victories with this core group, other teachers will see the difference, you will be able to share real-life success stories from your school, and you will have a strong group of supporters who will support you throughout the rest of the journey.
Principal Lombardi, of Trinidad Garza, was able to share in Pagan’s accomplishments. This aided in the recruitment of additional teachers.
Step 2: Obtain buy-in from all teachers at the school: Make it easier for your teachers to adapt to the new practise. Take your time when introducing student surveys to your staff members before requiring them to put them into action on their own. Professor Lombardi spent several meetings getting her faculty acquainted with student surveys before they began using them on a regular basis. All staff members participated in a trial run of having their students complete the questionnaires, and they were all required to attend two mandatory presentations during a staff development and faculty meeting to complete the survey. Following these presentations, any further meetings regarding surveys were purely optional.
Your professors should go over the survey questions with you. The prospect of receiving criticism from their pupils on their teaching methods might be scary for teachers. Will the questions provide an outlet for pupils to vent their frustrations and exact retribution against a teacher they despise? Is it possible that these queries will jeopardise a teacher’s job? These were some of the issues that Trinidad Garza’s teachers were concerned about. ‘My initial reaction was a slight tinge of concern,’ recounts Cynthia Hess, an English teacher at Trinidad Garza High School. Are my professional hands in the opinions of a 17-year-old?” I ask myself.
When discussing the questions with your teachers, explain the purpose of each question and give them the opportunity to ask questions and express their opinions and concerns.
As Hess explains, “Once we were given the opportunity to look at the questions, we realised that the questions were intended to inform instruction.” If a kid was furious with you and took retribution because they were failing your class or didn’t like you, the questions weren’t open-ended, so that didn’t happen. Knowing that provided me with a great deal of peace.”
Collect and disseminate research, benefits, and case studies. Collect information to share with your team about how student surveys can help them improve their teaching practises by doing research. Lombardi discovered data that demonstrated the impact of student surveys, as well as instances of other schools that were successfully implementing them, through the use of instructional websites.
During a professional development session with her teachers, she gave the following information:
“5 Reasons Why You Should Seek Feedback from Your Own Students” (Cult of Pedagogy)
“Collecting Student Feedback” is an abbreviation for “gathering feedback from students” (Center for Teaching, Vanderbilt University)
“3 Techniques for Obtaining Student Feedback to Help You Improve Your Teaching” (Vicki Davis, Edutopia)
Pagan also gave a presentation to Lombardi on his experiences and findings from using student surveys in his physics lectures. According to Pagan, “I was able to review both my first and second semester statistics and demonstrate how this survey was quite beneficial in my classroom.” “One of the most startling observations was the level of happiness with which the pupils expressed their grades. That improved by around two or three points per class period, and the percentage of students who turned in their homework on time — or almost always on time — increased significantly.”
Emphasize the importance of conducting student surveys. A new practise can be intimidating, and many teachers are anxious about adding yet another activity to their already-overburdened schedules. Keep the objective of student surveys clear, and emphasise how they will be beneficial to your teachers in the classroom as you conduct them.
“As the deadline for questionnaires approached, Dr. Lombardi reminded us, and we discussed the objective of the surveys once more,” Hess recalls.
Make sure you understand the steps involved in administering student surveys. Communicate openly and honestly with your teachers about what implementing this practise would entail, what their role will be in it, and what kind of assistance they may expect.
What will the process look like for administering the student survey?
What will the process of reviewing student input look like?
Are these job evaluation surveys going to have an effect on their job security?
Step 3: Create a survey for the entire school: Teachers who wish to implement this technique in their classrooms right immediately can use the Trinidad Garza survey or these ideas on how to develop their own questions to get started.
Pagan advises that you keep your attention on your instruction. ‘The objective of this survey is to give my students a voice so that they can tell me what changes they would like me to make and what practises they would like me to implement to help them perform better in class,’ he explains. It has absolutely nothing to do with the content. There are no physics-related questions on the test. It’s a broad question about what I can do to assist my kids.”
He also recommends that you keep things simple. “Consider a problem area in your class and design a series of questions around it. Also, include some open-ended questions to bring to light any problem areas that you may have overlooked.”
Homework and quizzes were two of Pagan’s biggest frustrations. Many of his kids were not turning in their homework at all, or they were turning it in late on a regular basis, according to him. He wanted to know why this was happening, and he wanted to know how he could assist them in resolving the issue. In addition, he was concerned that many of his pupils were not retaking quizzes on which they had fared poorly, and he wanted to discover how he might change that.
“What can I do to help you?” and “What would be advantageous if I made a change?” were among the open-ended topics he considered when brainstorming questions for his survey. He also came up with a list of questions that were unique to homework and tests, such as: “Do you turn in your homework assignments on time?” And, if so, why? If not, what is the reason?” in addition to, “How do you do on examinations and quizzes? What is the reason behind your poor performance? What is the reason for your success? You retake tests when your performance is below par, right? “Can you tell me why or why not?”
Step 4: Make students feel comfortable responding to the survey by providing them with the following information: When students participate in a survey for the first time, most are astonished that they are being asked for their opinions, and Pagan recalls that a few were worried about participating. They frequently ask queries such as:
Is it going to be possible for us to say everything we want?
Is it mandatory for us to put our name on it?
Students are not required to provide their names in order to participate in the surveys. Teachers are asked to leave the classroom and school counsellors are brought in to administer the surveys in order to protect the children’ anonymity. They administer the surveys twice a year, approximately six to eight weeks into each semester, giving students the opportunity to learn about what works and what doesn’t in the classroom before taking the survey itself.
In addition, counsellors stress the significance of responding honestly and the importance of expressing one’s voice; over time, when teachers alter their instruction in response to student input, kids begin to see the influence of their honest comments.
Step 5: Discuss the results of the survey with your teachers: Teachers receive feedback from the survey in a one-on-one, non-evaluative session with either the principal or assistant principal of Trinidad Garza. When it comes to student input, they have two approaches: a four-point scale for closed-ended questions and qualitative feedback from open-ended questions. The point system identifies teachers’ strengths and areas for improvement, and the written feedback allows teachers to learn about their students’ experiences in the classroom and how they might directly assist them in the future.
Lombardi emphasises the importance of non-evaluative feedback reviews in creating an environment where instructors feel supported and encouraged to take risks in their classrooms. The author states that she “does not contain any form of judgement.” As a result, we have teachers who are changing the way they teach as a result of my desire for them to have a genuine professional growth experience. For example, in one instance, the students complained that the course was not challenging enough. The teacher experienced an epiphany. ‘I thought I was a really disciplined person, but I’m not. ‘Please allow me to reassess what I am asking them to do,’ she explained. The way those surveys function is as follows:”
Students who have expressed dissatisfaction in surveys as well as those who have expressed excessive appreciation are weeded out by the principal and the teacher. There were two or three students who took advantage of the poll to declare, “I am going to voice every concern I have ever had,” recalls Hess. “It was a good exercise for them.” “However, Dr. Lombardi and I worked together to filter out the outliers and define a range, then grouped the rest of the surveys according to common patterns that emerged.”
Pagan had included questions concerning homework in his student survey because a large number of his pupils were not turning theirs in on time, or at all. Step 6: Take action based on your survey feedback According to the input he received from the survey, students grew angry when they remained stuck on a problem and refused to turn in their assignment because it was not completed in full. According to him, students are concerned about getting their work done correctly. “However, they are concerned about not turning in their work,” he says.
Once he identified the root cause of his students’ failure to turn in their homework, he began each class session by asking them to vote for one or two homework questions that they found the most difficult, which they then examined in class with the rest of the class.
The artist continues, “That was something I did last year, and I’ve carried it over to this year.” “This year, I discovered that some of the pupils require additional assistance with tests or quizzes.”
As a means of helping his students enhance their performance on quiz days, he begins class with a pre-quiz that reviews the topics that they will need to know later in the day. In the event that students do not have have the topics learned at the start of class, “we may go over those questions during the course of class, and ideally by the end of class, they will have grasped those concepts,” he says.
Students benefit from the surveys because they encourage them to reflect, become more self-aware, and take a more active role in their own learning. In Pagan’s opinion, “by providing my kids surveys, they realise that I care about how they’re doing,” he explains. “Some students who previously turned in their assignment one or two days late are now turning in their schoolwork on time,” says the instructor. Students who previously had difficulty turning in schoolwork are now beginning to give it in on a more regular basis. The student surveys provided them with an opportunity to reflect and recognise that if they want to achieve their goals, they will need to put in more effort, and that I will be there to assist them along the way.”
AN IMAGE FROM SCHOOL