3 easy questions to get started with student feedback

By Ben Barnett, CEO of Loop

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In his book, Visible Learning for Teachers, John Hattie makes an interesting observation about student feedback. Hattie argues that while “feedback is critical to raising achievement," its absence in classrooms remains a problem.‍Working with teachers to gather student feedback, we have observed that teachers often face two obstacles before getting started. They don’t:

  • have enough time to develop good questions
  • have enough confidence to ask the right questions

Many teachers add Student Voice to their PDP but are not sure how to start. Since we hear these messages often, we brought together the three best questions to get any teacher started with student feedback.

"Are you clear on what is required to be successful in this subject?"

This is a superb question to ask early during a subject or course. Firstly, it will highlight any areas you have overlooked while setting learning goals. This ensures no nasty surprises for students down the track.

Most importantly, we have found a positive correlation between this question and successful completion. Students unsure of subject or course requirements will feel less confident about how to spend their time - and are prone to disengagement or even dropping out. Gaining student-teacher alignment from the start is a critical step to minimising the risk of student disengagement.

"How challenging did you find today’s activity?"

This is a fantastic question to understand the various differences in your class. No two students are the same, and they will respond to activities differently. This question helps you to calibrate those differences, and creates a foundation for any differentiated teaching strategies you may employ.

“Challenge” is a better alternative for engagement than “enjoyment” because it directly links to the educational impact of that task. A challenging activity or task – when completed – reinforces a “growth mindset” in students. 

Including a follow-up question about why they answered as they did can also be very useful.

"What’s one thing I could do to better support you as a learner?"

Students have the highest probability of success when they have the right support. Some students require more support around assessment time; others need autonomy to dig deeper on a topic for a greater challenge. Too often, we make assumptions about a student’s best learning style. This question is a useful way to either reinforce or counter those beliefs. It’s also great to gain authentic responses direct from your students!

For this question, we suggest experimenting with only allowing identifiable responses. This allows teachers to set more personalised strategies in their learning environment. Though, even an anonymised data set will still reveal varying support requirements across segments. 

When starting out with student feedback, we suggest starting small. A regular schedule of two to three questions every few weeks is better than an end-of-term survey because feedback is most effective when asked for regularly instead of all at once. 

Student feedback will able you to learn more about your students, enabling you to refine your practice and maximise their chances of success.

So, why not get started today?