We get into post-secondary teaching because we want our students to learn our industry, trade, field or discipline. We want to pass on our knowledge and experience to the next generation in the workforce. In order to do this effectively, we need to be reflective practitioners; we need to be able to be honest with ourselves about what is working in our teaching practice and what isn’t.
I received last semester’s course feedback from my Dean over the weekend. I was pleased to see that most, if not all, of the students were satisfied or greatly satisfied with my teaching and the course. It was nice to see the students who said that I am amazing teacher, that I always keep them motivated, that I truly care about their success, that I’m open to any questions, and that I am approachable. This is great feedback as it reinforces the things I do that students see valuable. I will endeavor to continue to be motivating, to care about their success, open to their questions and be approachable based on their feedback.
It’s always great to receive positive feedback, but negative feedback has it’s value, too! Last semester’s feedback was the complete opposite of the student feedback I received at the end of winter semester 2018. The students were ruthless – many completed dissatisfied. Their written comments were like daggers!
Marking tends to go up if she likes you (come to Thursday) if you have the same view & style of writing. Also, assignments have nothing to do with our program.Student quote from Winter 2018 course evaluation
Our program is very demanding already and there are a lot of assignments to be done. This wouldn’t be bad if some of the assignments related to our program in some way. I don’t understand how a blog about college experience or paraphrasing a paragraph… is supposed to improve our writing skills for research papers.Student quote from Winter 2018 course evaluation
When she gives the opportunity to hand in rough work for her to check over before I submit it, and gives a date of when she will have it back to me by, but does not respect that date nor gets the work back to me before the final due date.Student quote from Winter 2018 course evaluation
At first, I was angry that the students would say such mean things about my teaching — I mean, I work SO hard to plan engaging lessons and cool activities/assignments! Impulsively, I wanted to defend myself as a teacher. I felt personally attacked. However, when receiving negative feedback, you have to take a step back and reflect on your own practice – what really happened and why did students say what they said.
When I first read the first quote, I thought to myself, “No, the people who came to the optional lab class worked harder to earn those grades. It wasn’t because I liked those students better!” I wanted to scream from the rooftops that I wasn’t playing favorites. Then I got thinking about what I would do proactively in my next class to ensure that I was transparent about the value of the optional computer lab support – it allows for extra time writing with support in the classroom to answer questions right away and an opportunity to receive frequent feedback on writing assignments before they’re due. It’s not favoritism; it’s extra effort being put in by those few students that show up for optional computer lab classes.
The feedback from the students in the winter 2018 semester blindsided me. One way to avoid being taken off-guard by your students’ course feedback is to gather frequent formative feedback during the semester so that you can adjust your teaching approach while you still have these students. See my post about why and how to gather formative feedback here!
Be Honest With Yourself – Read your course feedback (the good, the bad and the ugly) and honestly reflect on what the students said.
Reflect on What You Could Do – Based on the students’ feedback, what could you do proactively next semester to eliminate barriers or miscommunication? On the flip-side, what did the students say that encourages you to keep doing something that you’re doing in your class?
Do It – It’s one thing to reflect and another to do something with that reflection. If you know you need to change something and you aren’t entirely sure how to go about it, reach out to trusted mentor, colleague or your institution’s teaching and learning centre for support.