feedback for the sake of feedback

I know feedback is important. One method I employ to garner feedback is to give my students a couple written questions every day.

I then take the responses and read them. I comment on them. Or I ask questions. Often times I request more specific information.

I take great pride in collecting feedback and reviewing it assiduously. I believe all this effort helps to show students my interest in their learning. It also provides a line of communication that may prove more accessible to students. It makes me a more effective teacher (at least that is what I tell myself when I look in the mirror).

All well and good. But what is it all for?

In my previous post I discussed losing my focus. I managed to lose it even while eliciting daily feedback in a number of ways. How, you might ask, did this happen.

Asking for feedback, collecting it, talking about it is all for not if we don’t bloody listen to it.

While in class today I heard a number of students tell me (for the umpteenth time) they have a hard time with taking notes. Something finally clicked. They had been giving me feedback for days requesting specific help with taking notes on what they are listening to.

Instead of listening, I carried on doing what, in my mind, was needed. Somehow I allowed their requests to enter my brain space but not sink into my thoughts on how to guide their learning. I allowed the demands of a static curriculum to guide me, not the needs of my students. I was aware of what my students needed, but it was a superficial awareness. The dots between the feedback and planning didn’t connect.

There are all kinds of interpretations we can infer from this reflection on my teaching. Your guess is as good as mine at the moment (more self reflection certainly called for).

Feedback is meant to help us adjust, to be flexible to the ever changing contexts of the classroom. Feedback is meant to help us meet the needs of individuals and classes as a whole.

It doesn’t do any good to elicit feedback if we aren’t actually going to be present to our students needs and plan our lessons accordingly.





9 thoughts on “feedback for the sake of feedback

  1. Thanks for the reminder John! I picked up some feedback on Friday and forgot to mention it yesterday. Today I’ll be telling them that I heard them loud and clear by sharing what was on their feedback slips and giving a short commentary. They’ll also see how their feedback is integrated into my lessons over the next few weeks.

    And I loved your other post, as you can imagine. Will be putting it up on the Self Compassion for Teachers Facebook page and blog In the next couple of days. Hope that’s okay.

    Take care my friend! Virtual compassionate hugs sent your way!

  2. Have you ever thought about using learner diaries? Sandy Millin has a nice post about them and I need to write a post about them, as they are something which I’ve used in class. Learners really enjoy writing them and it opens up a nice dialogue with the teacher, particularly areas on what they need or can and can’t do.

    I don’t know if it fits your working situation but another suggestion would be can-do statements. I’ve used them on several courses and at the end of each module or week (depending on the course) the learners fill out a can-do sheet I’ve pre-made and it can be quite revealing.

    • Hello!

      Thank you for taking the time to stop and comment. I always appreciate thoughts, questions and suggestions. To answer your question, I have thought about learner diaries. And also have done them (although not with this class–not appropriate) 😀 I do know Sandy Millin, I enjoy her blog and will have a snoop around for her post on learning diaries.

      Thanks for the heads up.

  3. Hi John,

    First off, nice to find your two blog posts on one and the same day. Sort of at the same time, too. I will not ask you how you’re doing it.)
    As for your post – I hear you. I know exactly what you mean. I so often find myself in this very situation of realizing they’ve been sharing their needs with no change in my class. Especially, of course, this “we need more grammar” and more specific ideas related to grammar and how I *don’t really manage to* teach it. I think I need to have it written in caps in front of my desk. As soon as I’ve read and “analyzed” students’ feedback, I guess I should write a big reminder for myself for this particular class and put it somewhere that’ll help me to keep it in the back of my mind, always.

    Thanks for this post. I’m sorry I’m having this Korea time when you’re no longer here and so we can’t meet, that’d be great.

    • Hi Ann,

      You always manage to put a genuine smile on my face and in my heart. Thank you for your anecdote, as I always say, it’s a massive relief to know I’m not the only one! I was speaking with a colleague on my way out of work today and he too agreed that feedback can get lost in the shuffle. He also mentioned his master’s program and how frustrating it was when his teachers didn’t take on the feedback his class gave them. That experience provided a vivid demonstration of how students must feel when they are constantly asked but never see any results!

      I too am saddened by the fact that I am no longer in Korea to meet you. I am, however, heartened in the knowledge that you are quite the world traveler and that (more than likely) our paths shall cross someday!


      PS- I only have the time cause I sometimes just can’t sleep until I get the thoughts out of my head. That, and I seem to be making it a habit to multi-post and then go on hiatus 😉

  4. I love the idea of daily feedback, but that seems a bit overwhelming. I think I could do with more feedback though, as I usually are assumptions about how things are going. This, obviously, does not paint an accurate picture. So, I think I will incorporate a Friday feedback form – thanks to you.

    Could you give me an example of some successful feedback questions?

    • Hello Anthony Teacher!

      Thanks for the comment and question. Every day feedback is definitely a lot. In my particular circumstance at this moment it has proven to be critically helpful in helping me adjust to the myriad demands that come from beginning teaching in a new country, with a new curriculum, with new students and starting in the middle of a term.

      Once a week feedback is good too. Any feedback really is good. The main point I wanted to make to myself was that taking feedback for the sake of it wasn’t much use. It could actually turn out to be a disconnecting factor with students who become disgruntled at being asked but never being listened to. Adjusting myself and my plans is a critical component to the feedback process, at least in my eyes.

      As for specific questions, I’m always leery of giving a standard “these are good” type recommendations. Too much depends on context. That said, I can share some of the questions I have use and perhaps they can give you a starting base to begin your contemplations of what might work for you in your context…

      1) What did you learn today and how do you know you learned it?
      2) What questions do you have about ___________?
      3) What did you enjoy doing in class?
      4) What would you prefer not to do again?
      5) What concerns about ___________ do you have?
      6) Is there something I am not doing in class that you would like to do?
      7) What can I do to help your learning?

      Hope these help! And thanks again for stopping by


  5. Pingback: Feedback: Taking the Good with the Bad | Anthony

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