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I'm doing small group tutoring for an undergraduate course next semester and I'd like to gather feedback from students to improve my skills.

What are some questions I should ask the students in order to get useful feedback?

I want to do this with a quick (anonymous) Google form at the end of each session, but I'm open to other ideas about how to collect data.

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    $\begingroup$ Make sure, very sure, that not only is it anonymous, but that it's clear it's anonymous, and that you want to be told the things wrong with your teaching - I know I was once given a survey like that, and it wasn't quite clear whether or not it was anonymous, so I gave the most median responses possible, and didn't say what I actually thought. $\endgroup$ – heather Jun 17 '17 at 22:15
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Take everything with a grain of salt - if they like you they'll tend to be kind in their evaluations. It's also really easy to have anonymous surveys that yield ridiculously positive results (see the "analytics" used by just about any after school, drop in, or summer CS program for examples - using questions like "are you more or less likely to take another CS course").

Whenever I do an anonymous eval I do a few things:

  1. Figure out a way to make it anonymous but to also make sure everyone submits one. Once I wrote a system that they could audit that collected responses and emails then scrambled the answers and sent it to me with a list of who responded separately another time I had the students send the results to a trusted third party.

  2. Ask the kids for the good and the bad. I tell them that even the worst teacher does some good and even the best does some things wrong. I tell them that it's also nice to see some positive and if I only asked and got the negative it would be just to depressing :-)

  3. The bad is important so I know what to change but the good is also important so I know what to keep.

  4. I tell the kids that saying something is bad is ok. Better is why it's bad but even better is a suggestion as to how to change it.

  5. If possible you want to follow up with the kids a semester or year later (if not longer). The perspective of time can really change opinions.

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Getting feedback from students is the best thing you can do to improve your craft as a teacher.

I end every week with an exit ticket (and the course as a whole with one), and it is often the highlight of my week reading students' responses. I tell students that feedback from me is the way they improve as students and so to is their feedback the way I improve as their teacher. Understand though that the motivation of your own growth should always be improvement in student learning.

Include several straightforward questions about the relevant subject matter. These are ungraded "formative assessments." In other words, these are means by which you can see if your students actually understand what you taught them. It is no good for students to enjoy your class but not actually learn anything, and just because you taught it doesn't mean they learned it.

For example, if you are teaching the binary number system, give them a few small sample conversion problems to answer on the form (and yes, Google Forms is my absolute favorite and preferred means for gathering and analyzing this data, but you could certainly do this without them). See if they can actually do what you have been teaching. I would then follow up these short practice questions to test for understanding with questions such as the following:

  • In terms of my instructions, what worked and what didn't?
  • Are you comfortable with your ability with this week's subject matter? (Using a Likert scale is handy - I remove the "Neutral" option, so students have to "pick a side.")
  • Comment on the pace of instruction.
  • Did I provide you with sufficient examples?
  • What questions or comments do you still have about the material?
  • The objective of today was for you learn X. Do you think that goal has been achieved?

There are great resources on exit tickets online. A quick Google search for "exit tickets" will give you some great examples. This page from Brown University has more sample questions.

Note on anonymity: None of my surveys is anonymous. I work hard to build an environment where students know I am actively working hard to hone my own craft and that I trust them and am humble enough to reflect on their feedback. I've had many occasions where following up with a student is necessary to make sure I can respond appropriately to their feedback. Students respond positively when are invested in their respective; if you show you are working hard for them, more often that not, they work hard in return.

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I actually wrote an Action Research paper on getting student feedback as part of my administrative license coursework. Student feedback is an incredible tool to use to improve professionally!

Just to add on to Peter's answer, I have not had good results with anonymous surveys. I've found that, although there may be some freeing of tongues associated with anonymity, most of my students (at least at the high school level) mostly take the opportunity for a freedom they are often more interested in: freedom from creating thoughtful answers.

I explain to them that if they really don't feel comfortable writing something, that they don't have to, but that no one is asking me to do this. I just want to make my courses as good as they can be for them and for future students. I also mention that I hope that they think enough of me (and feel respected enough by me) to know that I would never alter someone's grade on account of honest feedback.

I ask the same five questions in every class. The questions are a very loose adaption of Liz Lerman's gorgeous feedback system for dance classes, by moving from positive to negative, and introspective to outward-facing. If I want any additional questions (such as Likert-scale questions, or something else particularly course-specific) I put them at the top before this main set:

  1. What did you do well this (year/grading period/semester/etc)?
  2. What could you have done better?
  3. What did I do well?
  4. What could I have done better?
  5. Are there any other comments?

If I feel a course floundering, I also have been known to ask for feedback mid-semester in order to diagnose the problem and correct course. I have received very thoughtful (and sometimes powerful) responses to these questions over the years.

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  • $\begingroup$ Add 4.5. What would you do to improve the course/situation. $\endgroup$ – Buffy Jul 2 '17 at 14:48

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