When a teacher executes a lesson, they always have an idea (based on their own hunches) how it went. Often though, they forget to check in with the group that knows for sure. Asking for student feedback is truly the best way to know if what you are doing in the classroom…or isn’t. I don’t know one educator that comes up with a lesson where their intent is for it to go poorly. Sometimes the classroom throws curveballs though and those lessons flop miserably….I always get the image in my head of when someone loses their grip on an egg and it goes crashing to the kitchen floor and that reaction of just staring at it for a second before the inevitable “Ugh!” and clean up begins.
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Really, our classrooms are no different. No matter how much we strive to be perfect, we just can’t be. We’re human after all, and our job is 100% dependent on the other humans in the room. Sometimes there are 12 and sometimes there are 30 and they each have a story. The only way we can know those stories is to ask for student feedback.
Facing the Fear of Lesson Plan Failure
There is legitimately NOTHING WRONG with a lesson not going as planned. Sure, it takes some clean up to make sure the students are still achieving the goals of the curriculum, but it is much better to go outside of your comfort zone and try something new that might not go as planned than to do the same type of activity as normal where you won’t “hook” your students curiosity with where you might be going with what you’re doing. Keeping them on their toes at all times is the key to strong student engagement. If a student can ask you “How do you come up with this stuff?!”, you’re winning.
Teaching is one of those professions that no matter how much you prepare for it, there is literally no telling what we are going to walk into on any given day.
We can prepare and try and plan and do all of the things we think will work for our students. Sometimes it’s a grand slam and sometimes we miss the mark. It could be because of the approach or because of the day. You know something though? It’s OKAY as long as you are trying to find the best way to reach your students….sometimes it will work and sometimes it won’t. There is no shame in that.
Utilizing Student Feedback
At the end of the day, we can know our students and try all kinds of different projects and ideas in the classroom. Honestly, though, the best way to know what is and isn’t working overall is by asking the students themselves. Asking for honest student feedback might just be the scariest idea ever. Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than this, I know. We all have “that” student that popped into our heads….the one we have butted heads with every. single. day. Do we really want to give him or her the floor? Do we really want to take into consideration *that* student feedback?
The answer is yes. Even though we may get reviews we don’t like, it helps us better understand what our students NEED. Sometimes this is a humbling experience and other times it reminds you why you became an educator and that you truly are making a difference. Student’s often lash out due to what is going on with them, not you. Don’t let that scare you into not asking for the student feedback. Take personalities into account and find out what the general consensus is.
Now obviously if the student feedback is off the wall (ie. “We should never have to do any type of work in this class”), it can be thrown out because it isn’t realistic. However, listen to the general tone of everything else. If students collectively love a certain type of activity, ask yourself how you can do more of that. If the students want to see more of something, try to find ways to incorporate it. You’re not turning your classroom into a dog and pony show….you’re making it a place that fosters learning best for those who are looking to you for guidance. Would you want to be in a place where you knew you would be doing things you love? We all know the answer to that question.
The best way to implement the use of student feedback is by starting it out right away at the beginning of the school year. If you wait until too much time has passed and you randomly spring it on your students’ midyear, it might cause a rift that is hard to come back from. By asking the student feedback “early and often”, you can adjust as you go. The students will see what they are saying matters and that you take it into consideration and they will give you more meaningful responses each time you ask. If you cannot begin this (and do it consistently) all year long, consider doing this for the first time at the end of the year as a whole class summary. This really allows you to analyze the data the students are giving you and also gives you some time to wrap your head around their words and create a game plan moving forward for the following year. However, I truly recommend asking for student feedback as often as it fits (once a unit? Every Friday? Whatever works best for you).
Especially if you are just beginning to dabble in #studentcenteredlearning (or thinking about it, at least), see what your student body says. What do they love in the classroom? What do they hate? Obviously, it won’t be perfect, but you can get a sense of what will work for them (or what DOES work for them) and create plans for them. Again, if the student feedback is visibly seen in the class, the students will understand that their voices were heard and it creates a more unified commitment from them in the classroom since they can see you actually CARE about what they say.