By: Maggie Downs
Every educator wants an engaged student in the classroom. After all, the role of an educator is not just to impart knowledge but to facilitate the growth and development of their students. And one often overlooked but invaluable tool for educators is soliciting student feedback.
Encouraging students to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences can have a profound impact on the learning environment and the students’ overall educational experience. A 2006 study at Colorado State University found that soliciting mid-semester student feedback encouraged a more responsible attitude by the students as they reflected upon the course, while the implementation of their suggestions resulted in an improved learning experience.
This is an incredibly beneficial way to empower students, enhance teaching effectiveness, promote inclusivity, and foster a culture of improvement, said Amrit Ahluwalia, senior director of strategic insights at Modern Campus.
“By allowing students to provide feedback on the learning experience, it pushes them to think critically about their learning experience, their engagement with the course materials and their understanding of an environment that fosters growth. These skills are the foundational building blocks of lifelong learning—it helps students learn how they learn most effectively,” Ahluwalia said. “It also gives them an opportunity to consider whether there were aspects of the course experience in which they could have applied themselves more fully. All of this coalesces into helping individuals become more engaged students.”
How to Make Space for Student Voices
Ahluwalia said creating space for students to be heard and recognized is central to a positive learning experience, both online and in the physical classroom. There are a few techniques to accomplish this.
“Surveys offered in-class, at mid-semester and at the end of semester—conducted either by paper or digitally—can generate quick and insightful student feedback on course content, teaching methods and the learning experience. Instructors can also make one-on-one time available for students to share their feedback in a more direct and private manner,” he said.
“Across the board, it’s essential to ensure the environment is welcoming and inviting of feedback. This allows students to not only receive a learning experience, but to participate in a continuous improvement process that enriches the learning experience and their own understanding of their learning over time.”
Fostering a Student-Centric Approach
Soliciting student feedback shifts the paradigm from a teacher-centric to a student-centric approach. It acknowledges that students are active participants in their education, and their voices should be heard. This shift in perspective empowers students, making them feel valued and involved in their own learning journey.
“Across the board, it’s essential to ensure the environment is welcoming and inviting of feedback,” Ahluwalia said. “This allows students to not only receive a learning experience, but to participate in a continuous improvement process that enriches the learning experience and their own understanding of their learning over time.”
Enhancing Teaching Effectiveness
One of the most compelling reasons for soliciting student feedback is its potential to enhance teaching effectiveness. By gaining insights into their students' experiences, educators can refine their teaching methods and adapt to different needs.
For instance, if students consistently mention difficulties in understanding certain concepts, educators can adjust their teaching strategies, provide additional resources, or even restructure their curriculum. It’s an opportunity to assess their teaching practices and make necessary adjustments.
The self-improvement cycle not only benefits the educator but also creates a dynamic learning environment where both students and teachers are growing together.
Promoting Inclusivity and Diversity
Incorporating student feedback helps cultivate an inclusive and diverse classroom environment. By listening to the experiences and perspectives of students from many backgrounds, educators can identify and address potential biases or prejudices in their teaching methods.
Moreover, soliciting feedback can reveal areas where students from underrepresented groups might feel marginalized or excluded. By actively seeking and acting on this feedback, educators can take meaningful steps toward promoting equity and inclusion in the classroom.
This also provides valuable insights into systemic issues within educational institutions. When patterns of concern or dissatisfaction emerge in student feedback, it can signal a need for larger changes in policies, curricula, or support services. This feedback can serve as a catalyst for important discussions and reforms.
Tailoring the Learning Experience
No two students are exactly alike, and their learning preferences and needs can vary significantly. Soliciting student feedback allows educators to tailor the learning experience to meet these individual needs more effectively.
Whether it's adjusting the pace of instruction, providing different resources, or offering alternative assessment methods, incorporating student input enables educators to create a more personalized learning journey for each student.
This also enhances trust, the foundation of any successful educational relationship. When students see that their educators are genuinely interested in their opinions and well-being, it strengthens the rapport between them.
The benefits of this can go beyond the classroom, influencing students' overall perception of education and their motivation to learn. Students who feel valued and respected are more likely to develop a positive attitude toward learning and education as a whole.
“Soliciting student feedback — and accepting and engaging with that feedback openly — shows the student that their perspective is valued,” Ahluwalia said. “It elevates them to an active participant in the learning environment, rather than a passive participant, which will improve their engagement with the course material and ideally with their peers.”