The end of the school year and the summer time is a reflective time for me, as I am sure it is for most educators. An important part of my reflection is the feedback I receive from my students.
I recently just had a conference with a parent who was looking ahead to the following school year. Her daughter is a struggling reader and she wanted to get a head start on reading over the summer.
I began by explaining what reading instruction would look like at the next grade level, and how the reading expectations increase. I told her about some of the novels my literature circles have used over the years at, but that I wasn’t sure which books would I would be focusing on yet because I was still waiting for more feedback from my current students.
The mother probed, "What do you mean when you say that you need feedback from your current students about books for next year?" I think she was surprised and impressed when I explained that my current students play a large role in helping me select my mentor texts, small group texts, and books to suggest to my literature circles during the following school year.
THREE AREAS TO GET STUDENT FEEDBACK
Student feedback can be an invaluable resource for planning, which is why every school year I ask my students for feedback on the following three areas.
1. INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS
Instructional materials are all the mentor texts, the small group texts, and the books that I have suggested to literature circles.
Students give me feedback on my instructional materials throughout the school year. I constantly take notes on any informal feedback my students offer, such as their thoughts on the novels we have read or their feelings about projects and activities we completed on the texts covered.
I openly share with my students that their feedback on our reading material is important to the students a year below them, because their feedback helps me select books for the following year.
After every book we read as a group (whole class, small group, or literature circle), I ask my students to reflect on that book in their “Reading Inventory.”
Every student I work with has an ongoing “Reading Inventory” to state if they would recommend the book that they just read, as well as a place for them to critique the book. This “Reading Inventory” serves two purposes.
First, it provides helpful feedback for me regarding my materials selection for the following year. I continue to use picture and chapter books that my students have given good reviews. The books that are unpopular, I rethink—both the text and my purpose for selecting it. I usually end up replacing those books with more engaging texts.
Second, a reading inventory is a great way for my students to keep a record of all the books that they have read throughout the school year.
A copy of the “Reading Inventory” is available for you to download.
2. UNITS AND LESSON PLANS
Units and lesson plans are the actual teaching points we covered throughout the school year.
I collect feedback on my units and lesson plans throughout the year as well. I jot down notes about things that went well or comments my students have made, both positive and negative, following a lesson.
The formal feedback I get from my students is based on the data collected from the work they produce. If all of my students do well, that can be the sign of a successful unit, or it can also be a sign that the unit was too easy. I then look closely at the unit including the objective, materials, and my teaching.
On the other hand, if all of my students do poorly, the unit needs a complete overhaul.
Getting student feedback from assessments can also help pinpoint strengths and weakness in the unit, based on the questions the students did well or poorly on.
Throughout the years, I have found that some of the most helpful and critical feedback about my units and lessons actually comes from myself. I try to be very critical of the lessons I teach and genuinely reflect on what went well and what I need to improve upon.
Unfortunately, I have a long commute to and from work, which gives me plenty of reflection time.
3. TEACHING STYLE
Teaching style is how I have implemented my lessons in the classroom.
I find surveys to be a very useful tool for getting feedback from students about my teaching style.
There are many surveys that you can create and that students can complete online. I find these surveys are most useful when I am looking for numerical data, averages or commonalities because often the tabulation is completed by the survey engine.
I prefer paper and pencil surveys when I am collecting data on a more personal level because I like to refer back to the information provided by each individual student. I find it is easier to look back through paper surveys for individual responses rather than surveys on the computer.
The survey I am always most excited (and a little nervous) about giving to my students is the End-of-the-Year Feedback Sheet. This feedback sheet gives students the opportunity to share their thoughts about the school year, including lessons, units, activities, and teaching. Getting feedback from students about your teaching can be scary, but I find it to be very helpful.
I appreciate the honesty and constructive criticism my students have offered over the years. This feedback from my students has helped shape me into the teacher I am today.
Download the End-of-the-Year Feedback Sheet to use with your students this year.
Getting feedback from students is a critical component in my planning for the following year.
Asking your students for their feedback about your choice of instructional materials, your unit and lesson plans, and your teaching style will help you plan for the following year. It will also shape you into a better teacher, year after year.