The best kind of student-teacher feedback is in person. As we all know face-face conversations are the core of any good relationship. However technology can be used to supplement face-face meetings. Sometimes it can be very helpful to obtain online feedback from students. By having feedback occurring outside of class not only can time can be saved in the classroom but the teacher can get important information about student’s understanding of the material before walking into class.
One way of obtaining feedback from students is by putting questionnaires online. I usually associate my questionnaires with the screencasts that I assign students for homework. After watching the screencasts the students are asked a series of very short questions. The purpose of asking these questions is to determine the student’s level of understanding of the material covered in the screencasts. I got this idea from a Harvard professor of physics, Eric Mazur. He uses questionnaires in conjunction with his teaching technique called peer instruction. I ask several questions for homework from which I expect only very short answers. One question is often a conceptual one which tests students understanding of the concepts but one in which the answer cannot be directly found in the screencast. Another question I ask is for students to list the difficulties that they had understanding the concepts taught in the screencast. This is a very informative question that allows me to look for any patterns of misunderstanding by the students. Since I teach math I often embed a question in the screencast. Therefore I also ask students to write their answer to the embedded question in the questionnaire. These 3 questions allows me to determine what conceptual problems students had understanding the material. Since I can view these answers before I come to class I am able to adjust my lesson depending on the student’s feedback. This is called just in time teaching.
In order to post these questions online one needs a platform from which to post them. One could use a learning management system such as Moodle (free and open source), Sophia, Blackboard, Schoology, etc. A very popular and easily accessible platform can be found using Google Docs or Office 365. All of these platforms have the ability to easily create and post questionnaires. Just as easily teachers can retrieve student answers.
Questionnaires are not the only way for teachers to get feedback from their students online. Forums, wikis, blogs, email, etc. are also very effective methods. The ability for teachers to obtain feedback from student’s online gives the teacher very important information about the students understanding of the material. Since this feedback is obtained before class the teacher now has the opportunity to reassess what will be taught in class. This leads to more effective and targeted teaching which can lead to deeper understanding of the material by students.