Listening to Students’ Feedback

After we ask for feedback, we need be ready to listen and do what we can to adjust our teaching in order for students to see the value of providing it. Remember that the reason we ask students for feedback is to improve our teaching practice. Therefore, both formative and summative feedback should be used to reflect on your teaching and to build your teaching dossier.

Be Open to Suggestions for Change: When reading through your feedback, consider all comments (about your teaching) and think through how you will work with this feedback to develop your teaching practice.

Teach Your Students How to Give Feedback: It will helpful if you talk to your students about feedback and give them chances to craft constructive feedback. You can tell your students that writing “This class was boring” is valid, but will not help you improve as a teacher. Instead, if students can frame their comments with what would have worked better or at least specifically what did not work for them, you can learn how to make the class better for future students.

Organize and Interpret Your Feedback: Once you have the pile of paper or your summary of formal evaluations, what do you do with that material? Consider using the TATP template Feedback on the Fly: Identifying and Responding to Emergent Themes to help you wade through the comments and come up with a plan to effect change through the feedback. You will also want to compare comments with your own self-assessment or observations from the term. The TATP have a tip sheet Feedback on the Fly: How to Collect, Interpret, and Respond to Student Mid-Course Feedback that provides best practices around formative feedback, but that can be useful for summative feedback as well. Remember to document your feedback, keep all copies of evaluations (even the ones you think are bad), and make a plan for future change.

Get Advice About Using Feedback and Improving Your Teaching: What about the feedback you are not sure how to use? After you have read through and processed your feedback, it may be useful to talk to someone at your institution. This might be a trusted peer or faculty member or someone at the University’s teaching and learning centre. At the University of Toronto we have the TATP for graduate-student course instructors and CTSI for faculty members. You can gain additional support at UTM through the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre and at UTSC through the Centre for Teaching and Learning. All these centres will also have opportunities for professional development, such as workshops on revising your syllabus, creating lesson plans or assessments, or preparing your teaching dossier. Teaching is hard work, but there is help out there.