Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
If you are like me, there are usually one or two topics in each class you teach about which students say things like it’s too hard, it’s too easy, you’re not fair, etc. As the semester draws down, consider looking inward and reflecting on how well your teaching has gone this semester (and perhaps previous semesters) and plan for how you want to teach next semester. And since it has been many years since many of us were undergrads, it is necessary to engage in reflective self-assessment, the process of subjecting your teaching to student evaluations and asking: is it me?
Take a SIP of This: Is it me? Reflecting on our Teaching from a Student Perspective
One of the best ways to determine if you’re meeting your students’ educational needs is to ask them. Simply distribute (hard copy or electronically) an anonymous questionnaire one or more times throughout the semester that asks questions like:
- What do I do that helps you learn?
- What do I do that hinders your learning?
- How could I better help your learning?
- What about the course content helps you learn?
- What about the course content hinders you from learning?
- What else are you hoping for from this class?
- How do peers in the class help you learn?
- How do peers in the class hinder you from learning?
- How could peers in the class better help you learn?
Collect this information and read it for themes that appear. Also notice the outlying opinions that are voiced very strongly in attempt to distinguish whether it is a disgruntled student, or a student voicing a concern no one else is brave enough to raise? Hopefully, you’ll find that most students are satisfied with most of the course. But you might also be surprised to learn they are just as annoyed as you are with the classmate that blurts out answers every question. You might learn they think your syllabus is confusing. You might be surprised how honest (and not mean) students will be in order to improve the course (especially if you have extended your students the same courtesy). Many of your students have seen more university classes taught, in more styles than you have, and often have very good advice about how to make a course better.
Then you get to decide what, if anything, to do about their concerns. Consider starting with sharing the broad themes of critique with the class and stating how you will address their concerns, in the current semester (if possible), or in the future.But be sure to thanks the students for their feedback, and make them feel as if their input will be taken seriously.
Attempt to collect feedback for several semesters to ensure that student concerns are not an idiosyncratic feature of a particular class or group. You might realize that a large-scale change is not necessary, but rather simple tweaks such as clearer assignment guidelines, or a varied presentation of material in class (lecture, video, guest speaker, etc.) will address students’ concerns.
All of this is up to you. Ideally, this reflective practice will become a regular effort to improve your teaching through soliciting student input.
Still Thirsty? Take Another SIP of Is it me? Reflecting on our Teaching from a Student Perspective
- DePaul University has many useful links on reflective practice
- Our Educational Technology Center has a new program called Course Constellation to help through you improving your own online/ hybrid teaching.