Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You know what's way overrated?

Formative feedback, that's what.

I had the bright idea recently of asking my class for some formative feedback, midway through the semester. It's the first time I've taught this class, and I wanted to make sure that the students were getting what they wanted. We all are kind of swimming through this together, after all, me teaching it for the first time, them taking it for the first time, and wouldn't it be great to just, y'know, get some comments, some suggestions, some input, some helpful critique? so we could take this good thing, this class, la cosa nostra, this thing of ours, and make it better?

Oh yes. What a great idea. It made me feel super-virtuous and proactive. I asked a colleague to facilitate the feedback solicitation, which is to say, to ask the students to write down their answers to the following questions on a piece of paper:
a. What is going well in the class?
b. What would you like to change or improve?
Then my colleague was to collect the papers, the anonymous papers, and I would read them and ponder them, and this would enable me to improve things.

This improvement would, of course, come after the part where the comments burned a hole into the fabric of my soul for a couple of days. But that's to be expected.

Luckily, I was too busy today to even eat lunch, so there was no time to brood in any concrete way. Only in the lowgrade way, where I felt like I might be coming down with the flu or maybe I would perish from hunger. Either that or maybe I'm a terrible teacher. Probably the latter.

Well, tomorrow is class again, and I will just have to take myself, my books, my (souped-up, post-formative-feedback) preparation and my flu/hunger/I'm-a-bad-teacher ethos into the classroom again. And just try, that's all.


  1. I thought Janice actually gave some excellent advice on this yesterday. You're an excellent teacher hightouch.

  2. I prefer the don't ask don't tell approach with my students because always, there's just that one comment that does indeed sear a hole. Hole-searers. That's what those students are.

  3. I was going to do some of this formative assessment. Perhaps I will take your experience as a cautionary tale.

  4. Hole-searers. Just like the seeds you miss in your pot that explode under heat and burn a perfect little hole in your new t-shirt that cannot be repaired, totally spoiling your high. Buggers they are. Little seed hole searers. Nobody likes them.

  5. I am a fan of feedback. It hurts, yes, but it's a chance for the students to be honest with me and themselves.

  6. Luckily for you, no one who wants to help improve higher education in this town cares about anything but quantitative, summative assessments--need any more evidence that you are doing the right thing?



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