Whatever teaching methods you use it’s not always easy to know whether your crystal-clear, carefully-crafted, teaching has actually been understood by all of your students.
This is something I’ve previously addressed with the original Five-Minute Feedback Form that allows you to quickly and efficiently collect some very simple, useful, information about the most important things students think they’ve learnt during a class.
One drawback with this Form, however, is that although it can be used to inform your teaching – are students taking-away from a class the most important points you’ve made about a topic and, if not, what can I do about it? – the format means you can’t easily explore deeper questions:
• What are my students learning?
• What are they not learning?
• Does my teaching always have clarity?
• How could something be taught better?
• What could students do to improve their understanding?
• What teaching techniques do my students like?
• What teaching techniques don’t my students like?
To remedy this omission, the Further Five-Minute Feedback Form – an idea I’ve adapted slightly from “The One-Minute Paper” developed by the University of Waterloo’s “Centre for Teaching Excellence” – lets you ask different types of questions depending on the specific feedback you want for each lesson.
• On some occasions you might want to ask a direct question to test student understanding (“What did you not understand in this lesson?” or “Was there anything in the lesson you found confusing?”). For this type of question where you might need to do some follow-up teaching with individual students, there is space on the form for them to add their name.
• At other times you might want to ask more general questions (“How could the lesson have been improved?) that don’t require students to identify themselves by name.
The Further Feedback Form follows much the same general principle as the original Form: you set-aside 5 minutes at the end of each class to allow students time to think about and complete the Form.
While it’s possible to use both Forms at the same time this is probably too much to ask of your students – and having to sift through a lot of feedback at the end of each class probably defeats the objective of the exercise.
If you keep the time students spend giving feedback to a minimum, a short, regular and expected session that closes the class for example, you’re more-likely to get honest and useful responses – particularly if your students can see you listening to and acting on their feedback.
You can get your students to use the form I’ve created or you can simply ask them to use a blank sheet of paper. The former is probably more filing-friendly, but it’s your choice.
Although the process should not take longer than 5 minutes you will need to allow a bit of time before you run this for the first time to explain what you’re asking them to do and why you’re requesting their co-operation.
1. Five minutes before the end of the class give-out the feedback form.
2. Ask the students to write the question you want them to answer in the box provided.
3. Ask them to add their name (if appropriate) and the date.
4. Remind the students that this is not a test. There are no right or wrong answers.
5. Give students a couple of minutes to think about how they will respond to the question. Ask them not to write anything down at this point.
6. Tell them they have exactly 1-minute (or 2-minutes if you prefer) to write whatever they honestly feel about the question.