Listening to Student Feedback

I have no statistics on the topic, but my impression is that many colleges and universities require students to fill out feedback surveys on their professors. Meanwhile, many high school teachers likely ask for little to no feedback from their students at all.

I can understand some of the justifications teachers would have for this. They're the ones who have advanced educations in their subjects and in pedagogy; their students are—naturally—unschooled in that knowledge. Students may also get bogged down in all sorts of un-useful and irrelevant thoughts when asked to comment on a teacher or a class. Teachers may find it difficult to derive anything constructive from student feedback—and their feelings might get hurt, too.

Nevertheless, I generally found listening to student voices to be less—not more—trouble than it was worth over the course of my year of student teaching. In U.S. history, my openness to student input admittedly did lead to problems: Some students increasingly felt they had a license to complain openly and frequently about activities in class, and some found that if they stated their preferences strongly enough, the teacher might just give them their way.

All the same, I think the benefits to listening consistently outweighed the drawbacks. When students voiced opposition to my choices as a teacher, it forced me to provide stronger and better reasoned justification for my assignments and strategies. Or, if I did change course, students had to take ownership of the activity that they had effectively chosen. Perhaps most of all, I showed that I valued my students' thinking, and wanted them involved in determining the direction of their own education.

In any case, I hope this brief outline adequately explains my thoughts on listening to student feedback. My next two posts on the blog will feature the end-of-the-year feedback my students actually gave me.