Thursday, March 5, 2020

Improve your teaching by getting feedback from your students

Throughout the school year, I work with our new teachers to make sure that they get time with me, with each other, and time to learn. In small groups of 3 - 5 teachers, I meet with the groups 4 times throughout the school year.

Prior to our last meeting, I shared with them an article by Jennifer Gonzalez from her website, Cult of Pedagogy. (If you haven't visited her website, do yourself a favor and go there now!)

The article is titled, "5 Reasons You Should Seek Your OWN Student Feedback," and in it she shares the 5 benefits and the 3 "how-to" steps to gathering student feedback. 

RELATED POST: No more scores, only feedback

One surprising benefit

Of the 5 benefits, there was one that kept surfacing thorughout the day as I met with the new teacher groups. Jen Gonzalez shares "bully prevention" as a benefit of collecting student feedback. One of the questions that she says should be included on a student feedback survey is, What else do you think I should know?

By asking an open-ended question, it allows students to share information with you that may not have anything to do with the instruction. They may share issues they're having with another student, how they feel about the temperature in the room, where they like to sit and how they learn best. 

Teach students how to give feedback

In the article, Gonzalez suggests that students should be taught the difference between "constructive" feedback and "mean" feedback. With anonymity rampant on the Internet today and the ability for consumers to give ratings, students may not understand how to give feedback that is actionable and helpful. If we teach them how to share information that helps a teacher to get better, we will have a better chance of getting constructive feedback. 

Act on the feedback

Lastly, Gonzalez states several ways to act on the feedback and not sit on it. 

She writes, 
  • Talk. Then talk some more.
  • Look for patterns.
  • Dig into the mysteries.
  • Solve the easy problems.
  • Watch your ego.
  • Notice the positives.

A few of the teachers in the meetings had already given their students a survey after I had sent out the article to them. They were able to share how they had followed the suggestions in the article, and things they wish they had done differently. All of them said that they wished that they had given the survey earlier in the year so that they could have gotten the feedback sooner in the year. 

My expectation that I shared with our new teachers is that by our next meeting (early May), they will either have their survey written and ready to share with students or they will have given their survey by then. 

On a final note, I reassured our new teachers that I didn't want to see the results from their students. My goal for them was to learn from the students they serve and grow as a reflective teacher. I also let them know that I was going to be sending out a feedback survey to our staff members soon, so that I could get feedback for my own growth. (One of my tenets of leadership: Never ask others to do something that I'm not willing to do myself.)

Do you get feedback from the people you serve?

What ideas do you have to solicit constructive feedback?

I would love to connect with you via Twitter or on the Compelled Educator Facebook page. Feel free to reach out!

*If you're looking for ready-made surveys, Gonzalez provides links to her Teachers-Pay-Teachers site at the end of the article. 

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