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Gaining feedback from your students

Some students may not have much experience with digitally enhanced learning. It is important to keep in touch with students to understand their progress and experience. You can plan both formal and informal opportunities to receive feedback, and a clear plan is important in reassuring your students that their voice matters.

In this brief guide, you will look at strategies and tips for gaining formal and informal feedback from your students.

Why feedback is important

Seek formal feedback from your students to find out how things are going, both early on and mid-way through your module. This provides the opportunity of improving things for your current cohort of students.

It is important to consider that students may also be asked for feedback from other modules, your school or faculty, the wider university, professional services, Leeds University Union as well as national bodies.  Therefore, it is critical that the tools you use to request feedback are easy for students to use and have clear benefit to them, as well as for you.

Appreciative feedback

This type of feedback will tell you what works and help you to replicate the positive elements and further develop your approach.

Developmental feedback

Developmental feedback will help you discover what isn’t working or what could work more effectively. The ways that students behave (accessing content or participating in discussions) do not necessarily indicate deeper levels of cognitive or effective engagement in their learning. If the feedback that you receive is surprising, acknowledge that as a positive. You may choose to make significant changes to your teaching as a result.

Methods of receiving feedback

There are many ways in which you can receive feedback digitally from your students.

Live webinars

You may choose to communicate directly with students in discussion forums, in Microsoft Teams or in live webinar sessions, you will have opportunities to provide and receive feedback. These opportunities will most likely be part of the learning experience itself – for example, supporting students in the areas which they are finding challenging.

Discussion forums

You may choose to provide a dedicated discussion forum to receive feedback and suggestions quickly. To encourage a higher level of participation, you could make contributions to this forum anonymous so that students do not feel under pressure from their peers. Discussion forums are useful for ongoing suggestions, but you could also post messages in the forum asking for specific feedback. Remember to set expectations on how regularly you will check and respond to suggestions in the board.

Interactive whiteboards

A visual approach can be a very effective way of gaining feedback from students, especially if they are being overwhelmed by requests for written feedback in surveys. You could display a scale from 1 to 10 on an interactive whiteboard and ask students to a place a cross on it to show how confident they are with the concepts you are teaching. This will quickly become populated with marks from the whole cohort, giving both you and your students a visual representation of student progress.

Microsoft Forms

You can gather more formal feedback using a survey or poll created in Microsoft Forms. You can read guidance on how to use Microsoft Forms on the University’s IT website.

Responding to feedback and adapting your approach

When reviewing the feedback you have received, use your judgement to consider why students may have responded in the ways that they do. For example, if students tell you a piece of technology is difficult to use, rather than abandoning it, you could provide instructions or allocate time for your students to familiarise themselves with it.

Below are examples of the kinds of changes you might wish to make and when you can make them. The most rapid changes you can make are in how you deliver your live sessions and facilitate discussion forum activities. In response to feedback you might do the following:

  • Provide a dedicated session on a particular topic or problem students are finding a challenge
  • Simplify or clarify instructions for different activities
  • Provide materials in advance for students to familiarise themselves with prior to sessions
  • Use different approaches to facilitating discussion in forums, such as interweaving or summarising.

If you make changes to your learning materials and activity plans while your module is running, take care not to disrupt the learning experience of students. Below are some of the types of changes you could make during and after your module:

During the module

  • Selecting additional learning materials or media
  • Clarifying how different materials, media and activities connect to one another.

After the module

  • Structural or organisational changes and refinements (making structural changes to your module while it is running will run the risk that students will become lost or confused)
  • Selecting new or alternative technologies (switching between technologies can be disruptive to student learning)
  • When making changes and responding to feedback make sure you maintain communication with your students to explain changes.