Collecting Feedback from Students

keyboard, coffee mug, pencils, and "feedback, opinion, survey, comments, ratings, result, advice, idea, response" written on the table.

Research suggests that collecting regular feedback from students is one of the most important tools we have in our toolkit to improve student learning in our classrooms [1,2]. This feedback is even more powerful when we are teaching for the first time or implementing new teaching strategies [3]. So this semester, when all of us are implementing new strategies and many of us are teaching courses that have been radically redesigned, it’s especially important to check in with our students as often as we can.

If you like the idea of collecting feedback but don’t have the energy to build a system to do so, the CAT is here to help. In this post, we share three options for collecting feedback that are designed to get you the results you want without the added burden of designing a system from scratch.

 

Import Our Feedback Survey from WFU Commons

One of the great features of Canvas is the Commons–a searchable database of course materials that can be easily imported into your Canvas site. You can access the Commons from the leftmost menu (under the shield) in Canvas and filter your search to bring up WFU-specific resources. Most of these materials were created for actual courses and authored by faculty like you and me, but the Commons can also be used by support offices to share resources. And if you search “feedback” among the WFU resources, you will find a “Course and Instructor Feedback” survey created by yours truly (WFU faculty can also access the resource directly).

This 7-question survey can be quickly imported into your course site, but the first and third questions do require some customization. The first allows students to report their progress on your specific learning outcomes, and the third allows students to rate the helpfulness of specific features of your course (e.g., a specific reading, assignment, or strategy). You simply enter your outcomes/features and the survey structure does the rest. We’ve also included some guidance for students in the “instructions” section of the survey. Feel free to adjust or delete anything you find unhelpful there.

If you don’t have time to customize, we recommend deleting the first four questions and launching the survey with the following three general questions:

  • What, if anything, would you recommend I KEEP doing to help you progress on the course outcomes?
  • What, if anything, would you recommend I STOP doing to help you progress on the course outcomes?
  • What, if anything, would you recommend I START doing to help you progress on the course outcomes?

You can find more detailed instructions about importing and customizing this survey here.

 

Embed Our Google Form

One downside of collecting feedback via a survey is that you only get a snapshot view of how things are going at a specific time in the semester. Two Wake Forest seniors, Cameron Allen and Frantasia Hill, helped us to see that there could be real value in creating an avenue for students to provide anonymous feedback whenever they wanted. To do this, we recommend embedding a simple, single-question Google Form in your Canvas site. Think of this as a virtual version of a comments card box. Unlike a comments card box, however, you don’t have to make it a point to check it for submissions every day. You simply set up your form to send you an email when a new comment comes in and forget about it until you get the emails!

If you’re familiar with Google Forms, you can go ahead and create your own survey. But we’ve also created one for you that you can copy here (make sure you are signed into your WFU Google account for this to work). For detailed instructions about embedding a Google form in your Canvas site, visit this helpful Georgetown guide here (you can skip to step 4 if you plan on using a copy of our form).

 

Invite Us to Talk with Students

Finally, I want to remind you of what I consider to be the most valuable service we have to offer at the CAT. If you are willing to spare some time with your students, a member of our team can meet with them to perform a Small Group Instructional Feedback session.

In these sessions, ranging from 15 minutes to a full hour, we join your class and, once you’ve left the “room,” lead your students through a structured reflection exercise. Think of the process as something like a student focus group with the CAT team member in the role of the researcher. We ask your students questions about their learning experience in your course,  prod them to elaborate, and seek clarification when necessary.

We often meet with you before the session to get a sense of the kinds of questions you want answered and then meet again after we have had a chance to process and summarize their feedback for you. Because we have expertise in teaching and learning, we know which questions to ask, which threads to follow for important insights, and which comments to completely ignore. So our summary gives you the feedback you need without all the irrelevant and unhelpful baggage that comes with end of semester course evaluations.

If you’d like to schedule a SGIF with someone on our team, please set up an initial consultation here.


[1] Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203887332

[2]Overall, J. U., & Marsh, H. W. (1979). Midterm feedback from students: Its relationship to instructional improvement and students’ cognitive and affective outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology71(6), 856–865. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0663.71.6.856

[3] Hampton, S. E., & Reiser, R. A. (2004). Effects of a Theory-Based Feedback and Consultation Process on Instruction and Learning in College Classrooms. Research in Higher Education45(5), 497–527. https://doi.org/10.1023/b:rihe.0000032326.00426.d5

 

 

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