assumptions, authentic learning, discussion, kids, learning, Student-centered, students

Do You Dare Ask for Student Feedback?

Yesterday, in a quiet moment of inspiration, as my students were presenting their super hero projects and getting a little droopy eyed, I stopped them and asked for feedback.  And not just great postive statements, but things I should change, things I should keep, things thats hould be removed altogether.  We started with the positives; they loved how I didn’t make them write a comic book but rather focused it on character and setting.  They loved the creative aspect, the shared writing, and all of the exmples.  And then I asked what they would change.  After one brave student raised their hand and gave me a suggestion of more partner share, then many joined in and added their suggestions.  These suggestions were better than my original ideas!  I sat there 10 minutes of listening and writing, dumbfounded that I hadn’t done this for every single project.

When we decide to ask students how they really feel we run the risk of being told that we suck, to use a favorite 5th grade word.  We run the risk of being told we are boring, that the project was uninspired, and that they would never do it to another student.  (You know a project is bad when it is “done” to you).  But we also run the risk of getting better ideas, constructive criticism, and valid points that propel our projects further into student-directed learning, further into deeper knowledge acquisition.  My students took ownership of the project as well as their criticism.  They didn’t feel the need to apologize for what they were about to say but  phrased it specifically and unemotionally.  They knew that I knew it wasn’t an attack on me.

So do we dare to ask the students for feedback on all their learning?  Do we dare take 10 minutes of our day to ask for suggestions, even if just one in a while?  Do we dare to actually do something with those suggestions because any fool can listen but it takes courage and dedication to do.  My students showed me yesterday that they trust me enough to share their opinions, they know I will take their words to heart and I will actually change what I did.  They know this because I have proved to them what my intentions are.  What a huge success in a 5th grade classroom.  So ask yourself; have I involved my students?  Have I asked for their feedback and opinion? Those that the learning affect the most?  Or am I too scared to do it? 

6 thoughts on “Do You Dare Ask for Student Feedback?”

  1. I LOVE this post! I teach social studies at the secondary level at an alternative school. I have asked for student feedback on my performance, how they feel I treat them and others, a number of of other things that they are highly qualified to answer. The surveys are anonymous, but almost all students share their name. I start by telling them they can tell me I suck, but they have to explain what I can do better. They provide me with so much insight into things I did not even realize I do. They are also pretty fabulous at telling me what I am doing right. By allowing students to provide us with genuine feedback it helps reassure them that what they think really does matter. So glad you are doing this.

  2. I wonder if part of the problem with not asking feedback is that most teachers feel like they have to move on to the next objective or next project. We don't give our students time to assimilate new information and we sure don't model doing it in our classrooms either.

  3. Will, I think you struck a nerve; time! I always think it will take so much time to get the discussion going but yesterday it was less than 10 minutes, we can all spare that kind of time. I try to not get rushed in my teaching as it is, but still feel the pressure of having to move on. I hope this post shows others how quickly it can be done.And Beth, I do that too every year and boy do I learn some things. It is wonderful though to see what the students tell you and how they tell you. It means so much to my growth as a person and as an educator.

  4. Great post Pernille…I think we don't ask our students because part of us fear what they might say. Reflective practitioners always look for improvement and as a teacher there is no better feedback than from a student.

  5. Great reflection Pernille. I think it comes down to whether we want to do something great with our students or just get done the stuff of the weekly planner we spent so much time on preparing. We need to be 'prepared' to go where the kids need to go and we'll only find that out if we ask.

  6. We give students a formal feedback questionnaire each year. It's hugely valuable. They tell me things I never noticed.It's also good to have a feedback session after each unit of study – find out what students like and what they don't like.Janet |

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