Feedback the Teacher‏‎

Roman Emporer giving a Thumbs Up sign.Feedback the Teacher is an exercise which is all about the students offering feedback to their teacher about the class in general.

It's not for all classes or for all teachers, but if a teacher is serious about their job, it can provide invaluable help in making the lessons better.

Background

In many cases an English teacher will be working alone or in a small school. Whilst big organizations should have a system in place for evaluation and professional development and criticism, many schools will not. Teachers in these schools often feel as though they are working in isolation and it's difficult to know whether your methods and work are actually making a difference or not.

Likewise, because of language difficulties it's sometimes hard to know exactly what problems the students might have.

The idea here is that the students are allowed to give their teacher feedback as to how they view their English class and doing this can provide valuable insight into how the class in general is going.

There are no typical responses as all classes are different, but these kinds of responses tend to come up more often than not:

  • We get too much homework.
  • The coursebook is boring.
  • I'd like to do less grammar.
  • I think we need more practice exams.
  • You are too strict.
  • I think you are great!
  • I'd like more games.
  • The coursebook is too easy.

If you think that you would benefit from this kind of feedback and if you are prepared to take the good with the bad, then this kind of exercise can be incredibly useful.

Method

There are different ways you can take feedback from your students, amongst other ideas:

  • a short questionnaire along the lines of rating different aspects of the class
  • a blank slate where students can write what they like
  • two boxes for the students to fill in: what they like and what they dislike

You can make the main feedback as specific or as general as you feel comfortable with. The first time it is perhaps better to make it general, along the lines of, for example:

What I like about my English class:

What I dislike about my English class:

This does not focus on you, the teacher, but on the class itself so you may get replies about the coursebook or the atmosphere in class, etc which you were completely unaware of.

If you feel you are ready for it, you can also ask more specific questions about yourself or ask students to comment on your teaching style and methods.

You can also make the feedback anonymous if you like, asking students to drop it in your pigeon hole or on your desk whenever they prefer.

When and Who

Some teachers will only use this with more mature students. Others will take the whole class.

It's not useful to do this at the beginning of term but it can be done mid-term or perhaps better still at the end of term (when you won't have to face the class till after Summer by which time everyone will have forgotten about it!).

And one tip here, it's best to get students to respond to this kind of survey individually. If they get together in a group and do it you'll find they tend go with the general opinion of the group rather than voice their own opinions.

Responses

And once you have the feedback, what next?

It really depends on the teacher, but it's generally good to go through everything and ignore the outrageously positive comments and ignore the outrageously negative ones first. The rest will help you build up a picture of what the class feels about itself, about you, and the lessons in general.

And from then, general assumptions can be drawn. Perhaps they are highly specific and practical, for example:

  • one class complained about the air conditioning being too noisy which the teacher hadn't really considered a problem; the complaint was taken to the school owner and she organized a replacement unit
  • a number of classes complained about the quality of the coursebook which the teacher happened to agree was bad; it was changed for the following term
  • several students complained that their teacher kept them late to finish off the lesson; what the teacher didn't know was that they needed to catch a bus and when they were kept late they ran the risk of missing it

Other times the feedback can be more general and relate to your teaching style. Perhaps the students feel you are too strict with them. Or maybe they'd prefer less written work in class. Maybe they feel you are distant with them or perhaps they would like more games in class.

As teachers it's sometimes easy to get into a rut and give the same lessons year after year, barely changing style or content. By getting feedback from - essentially - your customers, you can adjust your methods and content to make them enjoy the lessons more. This in turn will have benefits for you and the students.

See Also

Lesson Snapshot‏‎ for English Teachers - a less personal way of seeing how you teach

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