Formative Feedback
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Making Course Corrections During Your Course Based on Student Feedback

Formative feedback includes a number of methods for finding out how the course is going so far.  Usually, the students are asked some questions anonymously and all students' responses are collected so the teacher can get an idea of the true pattern of responses for the entire class.  Often, such information has the salubrious effect of counter-balancing the attitudes of a vocal minority or allows a faculty member to see beyond the silence when students tend not to want to voice their needs in front of everyone.

Common Procedures

1. At the end of class (for once-a-week classes) or at the end of the week (for multiple classes per week), have students write a response to one or two of the following prompts.  Once a week is recommended (but obviously not mandatory) for staying in touch with your students, and responses are brief and anonymous so you can read the entire class's responses fairly quickly for an overall impression.  You can ask about the course so far or about specific time periods, e.g. the current unit of study or since the last test.

Please complete the statements below concerning your experience in the course so far.  Do NOT put your name on your paper.  Be sure to place your response about this course on the desk next to the door as you leave class.  I am interested in this information, so be honest, but I'm looking for patterns in the answers of the entire class.  I'll respond to you as a group at our next class session.
bulletMy first impression was . . .
bulletThe part of the course that has interested me most . . .
bulletI am most successful in this course when . . . 
bulletI was surprised that . . .
bulletThe problems that I have had in this course . . .
bulletI have noticed that I . . .
bulletStrategies that work for me in this course . . .
bulletI am least successful in this course when . . .
bulletI have to change . . .
bulletI have discovered . . .
bulletIf I could start this course over, I would . . .
bulletI wish . . .

2.  Stephen Brookfield's "Critical Incident Questionnaire":   Click the link at left to see Dr. Brookfield's questionnaire, which he uses each week in his night class.

Variations

Brookfield has students use carbonized paper so that they can leave him one copy of their responses and keep one for themselves.  Each month, he asks students to summarize their responses by explaining what they have learned about themselves as learners while taking his course.

One caution is that you do have to be willing to respond to and even act on results.  For instance, if students reply in large numbers that "I am most successful when the professor has a review session before a test," you may want to schedule a review session before each test.  Or if a number of students stipulate, "I have noticed that I tend to lose track when taking notes," you may want to build into your lectures a 2-minute pause during which students can catch up, compare their notes with a classmate's, or respond to a question that would cause them to use their notes to summarize about the last 10 minutes or so of lecture.

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