Student Feedback

You can essentially judge when the academic year begins to wind down. Firstly, the weather is warmer and HSC markers are beginning to look forward to reclaiming their weekends and evenings (if for nothing other than to enjoy a reprieve from the hot sheds at Homebush) and secondly, academic reports are being compiled, based on assessment tasks and examinations. The hurried nature of these few weeks is at times so busy that any time to stop and reflect seems to be somewhat a luxury. Actually it is a necessity.
I have long advocated for student feedback and evaluations of their studies. I can recall in my early years of teaching, handing out sheets of paper, with questions attached, to evaluate the teaching and learning in my class. Some teachers don’t evaluate at all. Others evaluate the learning and not the teaching. I evaluate both and I am always amazed at how insightful an attuned my students are, to what happens in the classroom. For anyone who thinks students aren’t engaged or aware of how they learn and how they are taught, is selling their students short.
I have just completed evaluations with my year 10 English class. I asked them questions that challenged them to reflect on the texts we studies, the kinds of learning experiences, assessment tasks and teaching style evident in the classroom. I presented this by creating the survey in Google Docs. The students had class time to complete it. I prefaced the evaluation, as I do with every evaluation in that I want them to be honest, refer to specific examples and to offer any suggestions. In particular I reminded them that their comments are used to refine the programs for the following year and if they enjoyed the study this year, it was because the students of last year had provided meaningful feedback.
I have to say that I was really impressed. They were able to clearly articulate the activities they enjoyed and were able to link this to how they learn. Small group discussion to allow them to test out their ideas before sharing in a whole class discussion was their favourite activity. They also enjoyed the variety of questions they were asked to answer. They liked it that the class worked collaboratively and posted answers to questions on our Edmodo page. They appreciated the feedback they got on formal tasks and informal work. It was really interesting to note that they wanted more feedback. I.e they wanted me to look at more of their work, though they did enjoy the peer marking and critical friend. I know that I had provided them with feedback, but realize that they may have wanted more. I suspect that this is in part that they are a really conscientious class who love to write and want me to read everything. Marking online has been good, but with such an enthusiastic class, they wanted more.
I also asked them to think about the units they would keep and why and also to propose ideas to teach year 10 in term 4 next year, as there wont be a School Certificate exam. Their ideas are phenomenal. I am in the process of collating them to present to my department, but I was really pleased that many students suggested a project, designed by the students and ending with a showcase at the end of year.
I really believe that asking the right questions is so important. I learnt that they enjoyed coming to class because I really challenged them to “My teacher used effective learning and practicing techniques such as asking various questions regarding the text and assigning productive homework. I feel my teacher could help me learn better by providing more individual feedback for internal class tasks.” My favourite comment was “My teacher has helped me learn by constantly getting the student to do more of the talking than she does. I think this helps because I wasn’t soley relying on her to teach me we also had to put in the effort as well. Another way my teacher helped me learn is by being precise on the work in which she wanted done, this helped me because it was clear what i had to do and i stayed focused.”
So I’ve learnt that my actions and manner do have a significant influence on my student performance. I’ve also learnt that even though the quality of my feedback is very good, I need to give more. I guess my students have proven much of what Hattie has suggested in much of his research.

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About acoure

English Coordinator and English teacher in Sydney. Believes in the power of education. Passionate about pedagogy, how students learn, curriculum design and learning spaces. I am keenly interested in finding out more about how teachers have adapted their pedagogy in a 1:1 environment. I am also eternally grateful for the inspirational educators I worked with in my formative years of teaching. They opened my eyes to the power of what a deep understanding of pedagogy can do to enhance the learning opportunities for students.
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