Getting Feedback on Teaching
Getting feedback on your teaching allows you to gain insight into your students’ learning (e.g., what they are learn, how they are learning it) and allows you to adjust your teaching practices as necessary to maximize that learning. A number of different methods to get feedback on your teaching are addressed below.
Perhaps the most direct source of information about student learning is students’ performance on (well-designed) course assessments. More frequent lower stakes assessment (e.g., quizzes, short assignments) can provide valuable diagnostic information about learning for the students and the instructor, while allowing time for the student and/or the instructor to make adjustments to their studying and teaching strategies, respectively. Further, this form of repeated assessment can positively impact learning in and of itself (i.e., the testing effect; e.g., McDaniel, Anderson, Derbish, & Morrissette, 2007). Of course, frequent lower stakes assessment can also pose challenges from the students’ and instructors’ perspectives (e.g., workload).
For more information, see:
Seeking feedback on your teaching from your students can also be very informative. There are a variety of techniques instructors can use to elicit feedback from students.
Before collecting feedback, it is important that you decide what information you want to collect, when you should collect it, and how you will collect it. There are a number of techniques you can use to collect feedback on an ongoing manner.
1. Classroom Assessment Techniques
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CAT; Angelo & Cross, 1993) are perhaps the most commonly known and used ways of receiving ongoing feedback. Many of the CATs assess students learning or perceptions of the material, which is important feedback, but there are also CATs specifically designed to elicit feedback on your teaching and/or the course. The original CATs often involved students writing on cue cards or sheets of paper. Higher tech solutions can make these techniques even easier.
Angelo and Cross (1993) outline an array of CATs. Five of those CATs are below.
With this quick but powerful feedback tool, ask your class to indicate what they wish you would stop doing in the course, what they would like you to start doing, and what they want you to continue doing. As with all CATs, it is critical that the feedback loop is closed. Be sure to review the feedback, share the feedback with your students, discuss your understanding of the feedback, and share what changes, if any, you will make as a result of the feedback. If there are suggested changes that you are not able to make, explain why (Angelo & Cross, 1993).
With Assignment Assessments, you ask your students two or three questions to elicit feedback on the learning efficacy of a course assignment. How well did the assignment help you learn? How could the assignment be improved?
At the end of the class, take a few minutes to ask your students to write down what concepts discussed in class are still unclear and, in the next class, clarify those “muddy” concepts.
During the last few minutes of class, ask students to write down their responses to some variation of these two questions: What was the most important concept we discussed today? What question do you have that still needs to be answered?
Ask your students to generate at least one “fresh” real world application on what was learned in a class. This CAT assesses students understanding of the concept as well as their ability to transfer that knowledge to a new context.
2. Midterm Feedback
A common time to collect detailed feedback is at the midpoint in a course. Collecting feedback at the midpoint of a course allows the instructor to make changes that can impact the students who provided the feedback. Three ways of collecting mid-course feedback are below.
For the Small Group Instructional Diagnosis (SGID), a facilitator not involved in the course visits the class, without the instructor present, and asks students to discuss predetermined questions in small groups (e.g., What about the course supports your learning? How could the course be improved?) and report their conclusions to the larger class. The facilitator asks any questions she/he may have to clarify the points under discussion. These points are then put to a vote to reach a consensus among the students as to which are brought forward to the instructor. The facilitator and instructor discuss these points, including how any suggested improvements might be made. The instructor then closes the feedback loop with the students, discussing what changes, if any, will be implemented.
In a large class, you could ask for a number of students to volunteer to be Course Ombudspeople. These would be students who could formally or informally get feedback on the course from their fellow students and would meet with the course instructor(s) to share and discuss that anonymous feedback. Meetings would take place as often as would be helpful (e.g., once a month, twice a term).
The Midterm Check-In is the opportunity for interested instructors to collect midterm feedback in their course(s) using the Your Feedback system (i.e., the online system used at Western to administer the end of course Student Questionnaire on Courses and Teaching]. Instructors select questions from a question pool, which students complete during the midpoint of the academic term.
End of Course Feedback
For all undergraduate and many professional and graduate courses, students provide course feedback near the end of a course using the online Your Feedback system. This feedback is designed to help
- instructors with identifying course and teaching strengths, building on effective practices, and improving other practices;
- departments and Faculties with developing courses and programs;
- Western with regular faculty review processes, including promotion and tenure; and
- students with selecting courses.
For more information on Western’s feedback process and the Student Questionnaire on Courses and Teaching, please see:
In Fall 2017, Western implemented the ability of instructors to select up to two supplementary questions from a pool of questions to add to the end of their Student Questionnaire on Courses and Teaching (SQCT). The questions in the supplementary question pool focus on different aspects of the teaching and learning experience, including assessing specific skills students may develop in a course (e.g., critical analysis of research, problem-solving skills), specific course formats (e.g., blended courses, field courses), and different course components (e.g., labs, tutorials). These questions offer the opportunity to collect specific feedback on course outcomes or components that are not explicitly addressed in the core SQCT questions.
Another important source of feedback on courses and teaching can be feedback from your fellow instructors. The University of British Columbia’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology has a series of videos outlining steps in the peer review process, including what to discuss at the pre-observation meeting between the reviewee and reviewer, the classroom visit, and the post-observation meeting. They also have a website with helpful resources, including possible classroom observation questions, a report template, and possible post-observation questions.
Another excellent resource is the second edition of Nancy Chism’s (2007) Peer Review of Teaching: A Sourcebook, which is available in the Centre for Teaching and Learning’s library. Dr. Chism’s sourcebook includes resources and forms to help with peer review of course materials, classroom observations, and feedback on teaching portfolios.
Self-reflection is also an important source of feedback on your teaching (Brookfield, 2017). Self-reflection can take a variety of forms, including teaching journals, teaching inventories, and teaching dossiers.
Take a few minutes after class to write down your reflections on the class in a journal (e.g., what worked, why it worked, what changes you would make for next time). The journal helps you consider your teaching and can be a valuable tool for informing how you will teach the next class or the next time you teach the course. Tanner (2012) provides helpful questions for instructor reflection on their class sessions and the course generally.
Completing a Teaching Inventory can also give you the opportunity to reflect on your teaching, often with a focus on specific teaching behaviours or general approaches to or perspectives on teaching. Yale provides examples and links to specific inventories.
Although Teaching Dossiers are a requirement for promotion and tenure at Western, it is important not to overlook their power as a tool for self-reflection. Whether you are developing, updating, or simply reviewing your dossier, it allows you to think about your teaching, your goals, and the evidence you collect on the impact of your teaching (McKeachie & Svinicki, 2011).
Scholarship on Teaching and Learning
Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) refers to the practice of undertaking research that examines pedagogy, teaching practices (including their implementation in the classroom and their impacts upon student learning), technological enhancements to teaching, and all aspects of student learning and engagement in higher education. Developing a SoTL research question, collecting and analyzing data, and making the results public all provide opportunities for instructors to reflect on their teaching and their students learning and inform adjustments to improve the course.
If you have further questions about getting feedback on your teaching, please contact the CTL.
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
McDaniel, M. A., Anderson, J. L., Derbish, M. H., & Morrisette, N. (2007). Testing the testing effect in the classroom. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 19(4-5), 494-513. https://doi.org/10.1080/09541440701326154
McKeachie, W. J., & Svinicki, M. (2011). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
Tanner, K. D. (2012). Promoting student metacognition. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 11(2), 113-120. http://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.12-03-0033