January 7th, 2010

Two Ways to Make Student Feedback More Valuable


Unless they have a real problem with how the course was run, most students fill out end-of-course evaluations so quickly there’s often very little valuable information in them. Here are two ways that Wayne Hall, psychology professor at San Jacinto College in Texas, elicits helpful feedback on his courses:

1. Ask students to write a letter to a future student about the course. This technique helps students to reflect on the course with students’ needs in mind rather than the instructor’s.

Here are some prompts that Hall uses to get students to produce this letter:

  • What did you find interesting about this course?
  • What did you not like in this course?
  • Provide some insight about problems you had in the course.
  • What does it take to succeed in this course?

2. Seek feedback from a few select students. Hall used to ask the entire class for critical feedback, but he has since recruited just one or two people two or three times per course to reflect on the negatives.

“I ask them to skip the praise and ask, ‘What’s one negative thing you can find about the course?’ They hate that, but sometimes they’re able to spot something,” Hall says.

Excerpted from Tips From the Pros: Two Creative Means of Eliciting Student Feedback. Online Classroom, January 2007.