photo by Dan Gold
We’re getting close to the midpoint of an unprecedented semester, and many teachers are wondering how it’s all going. We’re trying new technologies, experimenting with new assignments, activities, and grading systems. We’re contending with a wider range of student experiences than we’re used to. Meanwhile, we have much less access than usual to the subtle data that can give us a sense of how the course is going, from student body language to the quiet sounds of confusion, affirmation, and interest that we hear throughout a face-to-face session, not to mention the casual conversations we sometimes have before and after class.
So, how’s it going? In a semester like this one, it can be helpful to ask students directly. They have years of experience learning, and they may have great thoughts on how you can best help them do that now.
As our guidebook on Gathering Teaching Feedback suggests, there are lots of ways to sound out your students. We’re happy to help you think through your options; reach out to us at email@example.com if you’d like to have a conversation. In the meantime, a few ideas:
Informal opportunities present themselves in office hours, where you can ask visitors about particular aspects of the class or about the experience as a whole. Anonymous polling in class (via Zoom or PollEverywhere) can give you a lot of information quickly without putting too much pressure or burden on you or students.
However you gather your information, the crucial next step is to tell students what you’re hearing and what you plan to do with the feedback. You may be able to make some adjustments now—much of the semester is still ahead of us—while other ideas may have to wait for another semester. But talking to your students about their thoughts makes it clear just how much you value their input.
This is an extremely unusual semester, but you and your students are in it together. Together you can make the most out of the time in front of you.