Blog, How-Tos, Teaching Tips

How to Use Student Feedback to Improve Your Teaching


Summer is the season for improving your teaching — but how do you decide which area to focus on first? Your students have the answer. Student feedback is critical to classroom success, and these evaluations can serve as the starting point for improving your teaching.

Getting feedback — particularly negative feedback (A.K.A. “constructive criticism”) — is not as simple as it sounds. It’s easy to get defensive, take comments personally, or formulate excuses for why a student may have criticized your teaching. We understand that student evaluations can be difficult.

But let the positives outweigh the negatives.

Students are an excellent — if not the best — resource for you to improve your lessons, activities, and overall professional career. Evaluations provide a glimpse into how students are experiencing your course. Learning about your students (what works and what does not work for them) can help you achieve your ultimate classroom goals.

Cyber Science 3D explores the different ways to get student feedback, and how to use their suggestions to your advantage.

Come together with an end-of-the-year focus group.

Make this a fun, exciting part of the last week of school. Gather your students in a circle and let them share their favorite and least favorite parts of the year. Remind them of their achievements and how proud you are to be their teacher!

To use the focus group responses for later review, take advantage of new technology! Record the conversation with your phone or audio recorder (the note-taking app, Evernote, has a convenient audio recording feature). Before asking questions, remind students that you are recording so that you can refer back to their advice to help you become a better teacher.

Some questions you might ask in a focus group:

  • What did you love about this year?
  • What were your favorite and least favorite things we did?
  • What was the most boring thing we did this year?
  • Was there anything you wish we would have done more of?

Have students fill out an anonymous survey at the end of the year.

Online platforms, such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey, allow you to create surveys and make the answers anonymous. Use surveys to ask students about their personal experience in your classroom. Include some multiple choice and rating scale questions, but make sure to include several open-ended questions as well.

Focus your open-ended questions on how you can improve personally — these are the responses that students may not feel comfortable saying in front of their classmates in focus group. Ensure them their answers will be kept anonymous.

Here are some examples of questions to include in your survey:

  • What was your least favorite learning activity, and why?
  • Was there anything you would change about this year?
  • Is there something you wish you could have told me this year?
  • What can I do to make my classroom better?
  • Any other suggestions, comments, or words of encouragement?

Consider these factors when you are reading over student evaluations:

  1. Pick a good time to read over student evaluations. Give yourself some privacy, enough time to carefully read through the information, and some mental space to analyze them.
  2. Instead of trying to copy down all the details, look for patterns in the comments. Paste students’ answers into a text file. Then, use Wordle to generate “word clouds” and see trends in the evaluations.
  3. Track quantitative results. Consider your summary rating for each question asked and how you measure up to the standards of your department and your own personal standards.
  4. Take your experience into account.
  5. Take the context of your class into account. Research shows that student evaluations are more positive in classes that are smaller rather than larger. Also, student feedback tends to be more positive in subjects that are typically easier to understand (for example, an elective course rather than a required course).

Reach your ultimate classroom goals with Cyber Science 3D learning technology! Contact us today for a free trial.