What are Students Looking for in Teachers’ Responses to Feedback?

Clare Hardiman Each semester, Latin students complete teacher feedback forms—questions ranking aspects of a class from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree,” alongside two short answer questions. Students are required to complete the feedback form for all classes, though for teachers’ approaches of addressing the criticism and compliments differ. Some teachers choose to recognize the feedback by silently implementing it into their practices, whereas other teachers take half a class period to discuss the results with their students. Feedback forms are meant to shape students’ learning experiences by informing the teacher what students believe should change or remain in the class. However, they create mixed feelings among Latin’s upper school students. So what is the importance of teacher feedback forms for both students and teachers? Are they actually helpful to create a space where students can learn effectively and teachers can teach effectively? Sophomore, Allie Roehm, says, “I’ve noticed minimal differences in classes before and after taking the feedback forms.” Similar to the opinions of other upper school students, Allie believes that “feedback forms are a step in the right direction even though they’re not perfect” because “it shows that teachers care about their classes and their students.” Although feedback may seem to have minimal impact in some classes, teachers are still learning how to implement the feedback to make their class the best it can be for themselves and for their students. That said, Allie adds that “only some of my teachers go over the feedback…I appreciate when they do go over the feedback because it shows that they want to hear how they are doing.” Many students appreciate when teachers recognize their opinions and acknowledge that aspects of the class can be changed. Similarly, sophomore Abby Dutta believes that “all teachers should be required to go over the feedback” because “none of my teachers went over the feedback forms.” Although some teachers prefer to implement the feedback into their practices without discussing in class, some students might believe teachers are, rather, neglecting the feedback because oftentimes the changes are too small to notice. In my own experience, when a teacher acknowledges feedback in class it makes me and other students feel like the teacher cares about our opinions. Every teacher is entitled to running their class as they please, though, and choosing not to discuss feedback certainly doesn’t denote a particular teacher as less caring and willing to change their ways than another teacher who reviews their feedback. Additionally, Abby touched on a problem that I, along with many other students in the upper school, believe impacts the quality and thoughtfulness of our feedback. She explains that “teachers shouldn’t give the last five minutes of class to complete the form.” If the goal of feedback is for students to be truthful and thorough in expressing their opinions, five minutes— for most students— does not allow us enough time to effectively explain ourselves and put thought into how to make the class a better learning space. Allie adds that feedback forms are “definitely helpful for the teacher but some of the questions don’t relate to the class… so in one class, I had a teacher who made their own student feedback form, and I thought that was a lot more helpful than the generic all-school student feedback form.” In fact, many students, such as sophomore Haley Goldenberg and Sophie Golub, have teachers who create their own feedback forms that connect more to the class’s specific curriculum. For example, Mr. McArthur creates his own feedback forms “tailored to [his] math classes,” in addition to using the school feedback form. Mr. McArthur believes it is important to go over feedback with the class not only so “everybody is on the same page” but so he can maintain  “a growth mindset and can improve.” As a teacher, Mr. McArthur says that feedback makes him “much more aware of his students experiences,” which is important because a teacher and his/her students interact and learn from each other best when they are on the same page in terms of where the class is and needs to go. Although feedback forms have the potential to change classes for the greater good, they are still a work in progress. Feedback forms can help both teachers and students to improve their ways and work together to make the classroom a place both enjoy, but students must be given enough time to process and write their thoughts and teachers should do their best to acknowledge students’ opinions. ]]>