Student Feedback Surveys Ask the Wrong Questions

Getting student feedback is not a new concept. Blog post after blog post encourages teachers to ask for student feedback. Jen Gonzales, author of Cult of Pedagogy blog, lays out the 5 Reasons You Should Seek Your OWN Student Feedback and the We Are Teachers blog offers these tips on what to do with student feedback once you have it.

A recent tweet that showed up in my feed stopped my scroll. The tweet basically encouraged teachers to get feedback from students and do something with the feedback. The tweet in and of itself is spot on. The responses, however, made me nervous.

“…regularly asking for feedback on learning activities, me, and my teaching.”
“I love giving my students quick google form evals on a particular lesson, lab, resources…”

I found some relief in this response. “I’ve found that a lot depends on how and what you ask students…”

We’re asking the Wrong Questions for the Wrong Reasons

I’m becoming more concerned that we are asking the wrong questions for the wrong reasons.

Isn’t asking students questions about your teaching less important than asking them questions about their learning?

I get especially concerned because these student surveys are being used by many state departments for the teacher evaluation process. I came across Missouri’s student survey online. Not all of the questions concerned me, but the questions highlighted in the chart below are interesting.

Question on the Survey I wonder…
Our class stays busy and does not waste time. Busy is an interesting word to use. Does the question suggest being busy is good? Does the question imply that quiet, reflective time is a waste because it doesn’t appear “busy”?
My classmates’ misbehavior slows down the learning process. Does this question inherently blame another child for the rate at which a student can or cannot learn? Does it imply learning is dependent on perfect behavior of self and others?
Does this also imply being compliant is how to learn?
We learn a lot almost every day. How do students know how to quantify learning? Isn’t it true that some learning is not realized for weeks, months, and sometimes years?
My classmates and I know what we should be doing and learning. Is the teacher the only one who determines what a child should be doing or learning?
My teacher makes me work hard so I learn what I need to know. Who determines what a child needs to know?

I even saw one teacher feedback survey online that had a rating scale with the question, “How effective is your teacher’s style?” Yikes! Do our learners know what that means, or may they decide to pass judgement about the wardrobe worn by the teacher? Another survey asked students to rate the teacher’s “fun factor” and another asked students how many times they laughed in the classroom.

All of the examples I’ve shared led me to ask, what is the reason for surveying our students? Why are we asking them more about teaching than learning?

Student Feedback Survey Focused on Learning Exists…Use It Instead!

I did find a student survey that is centered on a student’s learning. Katie Novak, an expert in Universal Design for Learning, created this student feedback survey.  Here are a few questions you’ll find on the survey:

I understand why everything I am learning in this class is important.
In this class, I am provided with choices for how I will learn new knowledge and skills.
I am provided with opportunities to reflect on my learning and think about what I need to work on to be a better learner.

The survey is also crosswalked and linked with the UDL Guidelines. That is really helpful because each guideline lists teacher practices that will support a teacher’s effort in creating the conditions for learning. This is the start of co-constructing the curriculum which we discuss at length in our 10 Principles Whitepaper.

Stop the Shame Game of Student Feedback

What we really want to know is a learner’s perception of their learning…not their perception of the teaching. Asking about learning and not teaching is an avenue to reduce blame and shame in the classroom…for teachers and students. When the learners own the learning, their perception of their teacher isn’t skewed by fear of retribution, learning challenges, or a behavior reward party.

Are you ready to stop asking your students the wrong questions for the wrong reasons? Are you ready to ask them about learning?

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