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Collecting, Organizing, and Responding to Student Feedback


Original page created by Laura Guertin (Pennsylvania State University Brandywine) and Rebecca Teed (SERC) with additions and revisions by Gail Hoyt (University of Kentucky), Jennifer Imazeki (San Diego State University), Barbara Millis (University of Texas San Antonio), and Jose Vazquez-Cognet (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).

The final step in creating an interactive lecture experience is to consider how to collect feedback on student learning. Interactive lectures give instructors a variety of ways to get feedback on how well students are learning the material before they take a quiz or exam (more than a visual scanning of the students for glazed eyes and bewildered looks.) This feedback

  • provides immediate or rapid responses from students
  • allows for an immediate response from you (or rapid in the case of written feedback)
  • can motivate students to participate more fully in activities
  • allows you to instantly modify lecture as needed: if most of the class understands, you can move on. If not, it's time to work on the topic some more (assessing and repeating as necessary)

As part of pre-instructional planning, instructors should consider how to collect feedback from students during interactive segments, and decide whether that material will be graded or not.

To grade or not to grade

Although many interactive techniques require students to produce some output that might be graded, not everything that students produce must be graded. Grading provides students with stronger incentives to participate and respond accurately but also requires more time and effort on the part of the instructor. Activities need not be graded for students to receive feedback; that could be accomplished through the task itself or follow up discussion. In general, assessment can have high stakes for students (where the content must be correct for full credit), low stakes (where credit is based more on participation and effort), or no stakes (where students receive feedback but nothing is collected).

  • High-stakes assessments are collected and specifically graded for content.
    • Creates the strongest incentive for student participation
    • Requires that output be collected
    • Requires the most time and effort from the instructor
    • Examples: ConcepTests and extended-response think-pair-share activities that require the production of a written response or a solved problem.
  • Low-stakes assessments
  • No-stakes
    • Nothing needs to be collected from students.
    • Example: Clickers used to provide feedback on student understanding by display of histogram.

Informally Assessing Learning during Group or Pair Activities

Listening to your students' discussion during or as part of the follow-up to an activity will also enable you to assess their understanding. This can supplement or replace written feedback. The instructor might consider these easy

  • During the activity, listen in on a few random groups and do a rough assessment of how well they understand the topic (and if they are on topic).
    • This encourages students to stay on task.
    • Offer help to groups that are struggling with the activity, or quickly make adjustments if the whole class is having trouble.
  • For a follow-up summary/discussion: pick groups or students within groups to report at random.
  • Have all groups report. This is helpful when each group has something different to say (for example if each group is looking at a different aspect of a problem) and the class size is small enough to do so. It may be useful to have each group designate a spokesperson who will speak for the group

Collecting Feedback

In situations where students are responding to questions with multiple choice answers (e.g., Conceptests), responses can be tabulated in numerous ways from the simple raising of hands to the use of student classroom response systems.

  • Have students raise their hands and count or estimate: This option is easy to implement, but can be misleading if:
    • Students look around and change their answer to whatever the majority supports
    • Some students who don't raise their hands
  • Have students simultaneously hold up cards (on a count of three):
    • The cards, usually in a set of three for each student, with a big "A", "B", or "C" printed on them, are prepared and distributed by the instructor, and should be collected at the end of class.
    • In a traditional lecture hall in which all students face the instructor, you can see what the students have answered, but they can't see what anyone else has answered (except by looking behind them, which will only allow a partial view).
  • Have students use finger signals (Paulson, 1999 )
    • To answer, students hold their hands up to their chests, so other students can't easily see them, but the instructor can.
    • Students hold up one finger for "A", two for "B", etc. If they don't know the answer, they hold up a closed fist.
  • Use electronic classroom response systems.
    • The student can punch in their answer (A, B, C) and a central computer receives and records all of the signals.
    • The computer is usually set up to summarize and record the data, not only for the whole class but also for individual students. Some of these devices also allow a student to include an estimate of confidence in their answer.
    • A display of the results of the class as a whole is also provided by these systems, allowing both the instructor and the student to know what percent of the class picked each answer.

Questions or problems with variable, open-ended, or complex responses can be used as the basis for a think-pair-share. The Question of the Day response is written (or drawn, or calculated). Written feedback from these activities also enables instructors to quickly assess student learning.

  • Have each student write their answer and turn in for credit/no credit.
  • Have each student write a short paper on an index card or fill in a worksheet summarizing their group's findings or answering questions about it and turn it in for a grade.
  • One-minute write activities have each student write a response to one or two questions given a few minutes before the end of class. The instructor reads responses and uses the first part of the next class to address questions raised by the student responses. If pressed for time, read a random sampling of these papers and do a whole-class assessment based on those. Common questions for the one-minute papers include:
    • What was the most important point made in class today?
    • What was the muddiest point of the class today?
    • What is one question you have about the material presented in class today?

One option for facilitating the distribution and collection of assignments or activity feedback, particularly with large classes, is to create structured teams. Responses to questions can be submitted either individually or as a team, and team folders can be used to organize any written responses, as well as to identify individual students.

Instructors purposefully assign students to teams of four using playing cards for multiple sets of 52 students. Each set (Aces through Kings) is identified by a different colored pocket folder. Each individual student had a unique identity based on the suit of the playing card (hearts, clubs, diamonds, or spades), the team number (Aces through Kings) and the color of their folder. Every team is accountable for the group in-class assignments/activities, which are collected in the folders. Every individual student is also accountable because they can be randomly be called upon by announcing the color of the folder and then drawing a card: that student gives the team report. Instructors rotate four roles: recorder, reporter, discussion leader, and folder monitor. The folder monitors pick up and replace the team folder, collecting and distributing homework and in-class assignments.

Responding to the Responses

One of the challenges of interactive lecturing is dealing with incorrect answers. If many students don't understand, you haven't explained it properly, or it's simply a very difficult topic. With an interactive lecture, you discover the problem early. Instructors should to respond to student answers and to think carefully about how to handle incorrect answers otherwise, students will be less likely to respond if they think their answers are not being heard or if the instructor's response is uncomfortable or overwhelming. The following are

  • If multiple-choice answers are evenly divided, many or most students may not understand the question or may be guessing. Instructors must decide how to address the issue by perhaps offering a different explanation or using student responses, careful questioning, and discussion to resolve the issue.
  • If it's only one or a few groups that are wrong and the class size is small, and if time is available, the instructor can enable students to get back on track using techniques like Socratic Questioning, and then move on.
  • If the instructor gives one-minute papers at the end of class, it is important to demonstrate to students that papers have been read, that questions posed are answered, and that issues raised by their responses are addressed.