How the best teachers introduce student feedback

By Ben Barnett, CEO of Loop

Students with tablets DOWNSAMPLE

To build a product that teachers deeply love, we talk to teachers almost every day. It’s apparent that some teachers gather more useful student feedback than others. 

This is not by chance. It follows from how the teacher initially framed feedback to their class. 

Teachers that receive the most useful feedback report mastering a number of key steps in introducing their students to feedback. Through our work in Student Voice, we have brought these steps together to share with our teaching community.

Step 1: Explain why their feedback is important

Teachers who are adept at gathering student feedback always mention they formally introduced their students to the concept of feedback. That is, they communicated why they were seeking student feedback and the type of changes it might lead to in their classroom – before they asked for a single item of feedback.

Finding your own words is key, though you may might find inspiration from one of these approaches:

  • Saying feedback will support their learning: “Your feedback helps me to help you. It allows me to focus my teaching where you need it the most.”
  • That feedback empowers students to shape their own learning environment: “Your feedback will help me to understand how you best learn, and what activities you find most engaging.”
  • Feedback helps a teacher reflect on his or her own practice: “Your feedback helps me to be a better teacher. Like you, I need feedback to be my best.”

Step 2: Give examples of effective feedback

The quantity of feedback is important, as too is the quality you receive. You may want to give some pointers on how students can give you feedback that will enable to you to make changes. Suggest they use specific language and offer examples, too. In return, mention that your questions will be clear as possible.

Step 3: Explain you want constructive feedback, too

If students feel that their constructive feedback or suggested changes will go ignored, it’s unlikely they’ll feel comfortable sharing their opinion. Make it clear you are asking for honest feedback to improve student learning and teaching conditions, so you can best support them. To help this along, you may want to consider giving students the option to submit feedback anonymously.

Step 4: Explain that you’ll seek regular feedback and read all responses

Seeking regular responses with fewer questions is more effective than asking a long list of questions at the end of term or semester, so commit to this type of process with your students. This includes setting aside some time to discussing discoveries you’ve made with their feedback data, and communicating any changes you will make. For example, you could say: “Based on your feedback, you felt the previous lesson was hard to understand. To help this, I’ve simplified today’s focus and we’re going to revisit concept X”. This demonstrates you engage with their feedback and are willing to adopt their suggestions, too.

Step 5: Explain that teacher and student are on the same learning journey

As part of this introduction, students respond positively when teachers open up about their own learning journey. Feel free to mention a time in the past when you received useful feedback, detailing the changes you made and the benefits that followed. This degree of openness will show that you’re serious about understanding their views, and you will receive more thoughtful feedback accordingly.

By spending a little time upfront to properly introduce your students to feedback, you will gain much more useful feedback. This infinitely increases the likelihood of it helps your students becoming more engaged and enthusiastic participants in their own learning.