Feedback is a critical component of the teaching and learning process. Teachers are not in short supply of feedback tools to assess student learning. However, there is another purpose for feedback that is underused. How often is feedback used to improve the design of a lesson, strategy or structure? In other words, students get an opportunity to evaluate the learning experience not only in terms of what they learned but how they learned, giving a teacher a heads up about what is and isn’t working.
Gathering feedback from learners for the purpose of improving the design of the learning experience can reveal students’ feelings about such things as level of engagement, organization and even relevance. It can help a teacher identify what is good practice while giving students an opportunity to engage in open and reflective dialogue. When students have a passive role in learning, teachers overexert themselves disseminating as much information as possible until either students begin to show signs of disengagement, or time runs out. What if students could give teachers a heads up about their experiences? How would it change the dynamics of a classroom? How much more vested would students be in their learning if they knew teachers used their feedback to improve the learning experience?
As educators we have all likely been in a professional learning situation where we were asked to complete an exit ticket or evaluation form. Although we may have enjoyed the session, we noted a few things that would help the facilitator make the learning experience even better for future participants. Perhaps a visual would have helped us follow along better, or we needed more time to collaborate with others. Whatever the case, we provided feedback in hopes that the facilitator would improve upon their design based on our suggestions. If classrooms are to be places rooted in innovation, there must be a shift that includes a design approach to the teaching and learning process. Design thinkers gather information to help understand how consumers experience their product or service. In like manner, gathering student feedback helps teachers make learning better.
Take time to ask students questions such as What worked well ? or What could be improved? One of my favorite structures, I Like, I Wish, What If, can prompt students to share new ideas.
Gathering feedback doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be relevant and intentional. Students need to know that it is part of teaching and learning and that their voice is critical to the process. Sharing the benefits of gathering feedback and being explicit about the purpose supports students as they work to articulate their thoughts.
As a designer and facilitator of learning, I have found feedback to be a valuable gift. Quite naturally, I like to hold on to some of my favorite tools, tasks and activities. Gathering feedback is a reminder that it’s not about me and gives me a heads up about how I can meet the needs of my learners.
Thank you for reading,