Four Ways to Collect Quality Student Feedback

It seems that terms, labels, and acronyms are endless in the teaching profession. Just when you get used to the popular jargon making its rounds, new ones appear and others fade away. It's like a constant conveyor belt of "in" terms in education. Feedback is not one of those words. It is a constant in the world of education. Other words and phrases may come and go, but feedback will always be in for us.

It truly is a powerful process. At its best, feedback is purely communication between you and your students. However, most of the time feedback is used only to refer to a one way communication of information - you give your students feedback on their progress. On my agenda board in my classroom, I wrote "Feedback on Writing #2 Assignment." I stopped and realized that feedback is just as important for me as it is for my student writers. They need to hear and see my feedback on their progress as writers. I summarize the feedback I've given students on a whiteboard and label one side "Issues" and another side as "Improvement Targets." This entire board consists of me communicating to my students the most common weaknesses I noticed in their writings and then identifies our targets for improvement. I then list the strategies students can use to help them meet the improvement targets and improve any weaknesses in their writings. It has worked very well to target our improvements and overall improve student writing.

I realized - almost mid-sentence- that I've been treating feedback as a one-way street. My way, that is. Students knew what I thought about their writings, what were our overall weaknesses, and the strategies I assigned to fix those weaknesses. As my students sat silent in the classroom, passively listening to my spill on all this, I realized that feedback needs to be a two-way street - from me to my students & from my students to me. I know, I know. Well, that's common sense and we all do that. Do we? Because as I went on & on in my 20-minute talk that I called feedback, my students still had no way of GIVING ME FEEDBACK other than raising a hand to offer a comment. Not gonna happen in middle school. To raise your hand and ask a question or give a comment is doing the exact opposite that most middle schoolers want - attention on themselves in front of EVERYONE.
So, I decided it was time I start practicing feedback the right way - as a two-way process in ways that were manageable to me and not ways that required them to ask questions just because I asked if there were any questions. I can assure you, they have questions, comments, thoughts, but none of them want to raise their hand in front of the entire class to say them. I needed to know what my students thoughts were on everything I had said and identified in my feedback lecture and on that whiteboard.


  Asking students for comments and questions  shouldn't be the only way you collect feedback from your students. 

Finally, here's the reason you came here to read this.

4 EASY WAYS TO COLLECT QUALITY FEEDBACK FROM YOUR STUDENTS

1. GOOGLE FORMS: Create a Google form for students to fill out and submit. Add some basic questions that are yes/no responses. Have students input their scores so that Google can compile and do the work for you. That's the beauty of this method - it analyzes the feedback for you. It will summarize info in a pie chart, bar graph, and separate into percentages. #teachertimesaver
Provide a few items on a form for students to write out some thoughts & responses. For example, one question I am putting on my Student FB Response Form is this: Is your score on this writing a true reflection of your skill level as a writer OR is it a reflection of your motivation or other factors in life (home, stress, etc). But always provide at least one item on the form for students to respond in writing their own thoughts, feelings, etc. PIECE OF ADVICE: If you use this method, assure your students that their responses are confidential and only between you, the teacher, and the student. If you don't assure students of this confidentiality, they may not be as honest as you need them to be or not at all.
KEY FEATURES: 
No one sees it but you unless you share it
Responses tend to be more truthful & genuine
Technology/Device required to access
Not anonymous

2. PLUS/DELTA CHART: Going #oldschool on this one. This is used in many ways and in many settings to get responses from a given audience or group. Take chart paper and draw line vertically down middle. Label one side with a triangle (delta) and the other with a plus symbol (+). The delta side is where students will write ideas or suggestions for you to consider. You can leave it wide open and let students come up with a broad range of feedback ideas or you can write a question for students to give targeted responses. Do the same with the plus side. The only difference is that this side is asking students to share one thing that worked. VARIATION: Rather than students writing directly on the paper, have them write their responses on post-its. This will save chart paper and allow each one to be recycled each time you do a PLUS/DELTA response chart. This method can also be anonymous - no student names. You can also modify this method by not asking every student to respond but only a chosen or random group of students.
KEY FEATURES: 
Everyone can see it
Can be anonymous or identified
No technology or devices needed
Usually honest

3. GOOGLE COLLAB DOC: This may be my favorite tool to use in my English class. It's quick & easy to set-up a Google Doc that allows students to "jump-in" and contribute or complete a task or request. The best way to push a collab doc out to students is through Google Classroom, but you can just as easily give students the link to the doc to jump in and start commenting, creating, etc. Other than the ease and time benefits, you can set this doc up so that students can contribute anonymously or identified. So you have the benefits of being anonymous but everyone can still see and discuss the comments/feedback left. If you want to go deeper than just having students contribute feedback to you, a collab doc allows multiple comments & feedback rounds through the comment feature. If you intend on sharing the feedback you get, whether anonymous or not, this is the way to go. TIP: To make a Google Doc collaborative for jump-ins that can be edited, you will need to click the share button, then set the desired permissions - for collecting comments you will want the "can edit" option.
KEY FEATURES:
Everyone can see it & other responses/comments
Can be anonymous or identified
Technology/Device required
Not as genuine or honest

4. FLIPGRID: If you want students to collect verbal feedback, FLIPGRID is your new best friend. IT allows students to record short videos with the push of a button and posts all videos on a grid or board. You will first need to create a Flipgrid account and a board. The board allows you to change settings and length of the video. Of course, with this method, students are identified and everyone who has access to the board through the code can see the videos. Although from my own experience, you will get better feedback from anonymous methods, this is a consideration for particular types of feedback, such as a general question that you are seeking opinions or suggestions about. For example, if you want to get feedback from your students about which website they prefer or program, this would be a great tool to quickly get visual and verbal feedback. Hey, as English teachers we read enough writing, right? SO, give the video a try for a change of pace.
KEY FEATURES: 
Everyone can see it
Not anonymous
Technology/Device required & quiet space to record
Can be intimidating for students to video themselves speaking

That's the scoop on the four tools I recommend for better student feedback that will also save you time. And anything that can save my time as a teacher is worth a try. Leave me a comment or send me an email and let me know how these tools worked for you. Feel free to leave additional ideas or FEEDBACK for me! : )

Happy Collecting!

Mrs. B

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