Informal Early Feedback (IEF)Student evaluations of teaching are an important part of the feedback that instructors receive. This feedback can be especially helpful when it is collected during the semester. Our students can tell us if we are clear, accessible, respectful or timely. They may also be able to tell us if the activities we give them are well aligned with the ways we evaluate their learning. Responding to students’ comments by discussing them in class and making changes as appropriate, can lead to increased motivation, better learning, and possibly improved end-of-semester student ratings.
The most useful information in IEF is obtained when students are asked to describe:
- What they are learning and the difficulties they are experiencing in learning;
- What they like about the course, i.e., what is helping them learn;
- What they do not like, i.e., what is inhibiting their learning;
- What changes they might make if they were the instructor.
It is most helpful to have a limited number of items, and leave plenty
of time and space for descriptive comments from the students. It is also
helpful to have specific questions rather than general evaluative ones.
For example, a question such as “Did the instructor make good use of
examples and illustrations?” will yield much more useful results and
practical information than “Rate the instructor overall.”
Once you have collected your informal early feedback, there are three steps you need to take.
- Objectively interpret your results. Look for trends rather than extremes in the comments, and decide on one or two changes you would like to make. It is easier to glean information objectively from your results if you review them with a colleague or specialist in education. Please contact CITL (333-3370) if you would like such assistance.
- Communicate and discuss your interpretation and plan of action with your students. Discussing your reactions and actions with your students indicates that you are taking their comments seriously. This can be a brief, straightforward discussion. Include some positive comments the students made. Choose only one or two negative comments to discuss, and address them simply, directly, and with a positive attitude.
- Act on your results. Implement the changes you have decided to make, and continue to monitor the effectiveness of your teaching strategies.