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Getting Feedback

Getting Feedback on Your Teaching 

As you prepare to take your place in academia, your teaching is just as important as your research.  So you need to develop and improve your teaching skills in parallel with your research skills. Don't wait for evaluations from the end of your course.  While those are valuable, they come too late for you to make more immediate changes to your teaching style.  

For these reasons, VPTL strongly recommends getting midterm feedback. This creates the opportunity to readily implement suggestions from students and see immediate results. VPTL offers a wide range of ways to collect meaningful feedback on your teaching and your students’ learning during your course.  

 
A trained evaluator comes to your class during the last 20 minutes and, in your absence, divides the students into small groups to collect feedback. The evaluator summarizes these responses and presents them to you later in a private consultation and written report. 
 
Create a survey for students to complete, and we’ll send you a confidential report of the anonymous results. And we can connect you with a consultant in your disciplinary area who can help you interpret your results and put them into action. 
 
VPTL will record your class for the purpose of teaching improvement. Please request a session at least one week prior to your desired recording date. Our professional VPTL consultant will then meet with you after the class is recorded to go over the recording and offer suggestions. 
 
A consultant will observe your class or section, give you feedback on your teaching, and help develop teaching goals for improving your next class. 
 
A VPTL Consultant hosts 4-5 TAs from your department for a two-hour session where each TA delivers a short presentation that is video-recorded. The group then gives feedback to each TA in a positive, encouraging environment. Speak with your department to request a microteaching session from VPTL.  
 
Regardless of the feedback tool you choose, you'll want to discuss the results with an expert:  a VPTL consultant, the professor of your class, your department’s faculty TA training director, or colleagues.  This will create the opportunity to review what you have learned and get suggestions about what and how to change. 

Tips for Responding to Student Feedback 

 
Respond quickly to student comments. 
Ideally, you should respond to your students' comments at the next class meeting.  To make this possible, schedule fast feedback activities – such as index cards, informal questionnaires, or small group evaluations –  during times in the quarter when you will have the opportunity to immediately review the class's comments. 
 
Consider carefully what students say. 
First, review the positive things your students have said about the course. This is important because it is easy to get swayed by negative comments. Then consider their suggestions for improvement and group them into three categories: 
  • Those you can change this quarter (for example, the turnaround time on homework assignments) 
  • Those that must wait until the next time the course is offered (for example, the textbook) 
  • Those that you either cannot, or for pedagogical reasons, will not change (for example, the number of quizzes or tests) 
 
You may want to ask a colleague or a teaching consultant to help you identify options for making changes. 
 
Respond 
Dedicate time in the next class for letting students know what, if anything, will change as a result of their feedback. Thank your students for their comments and invite their ongoing participation in helping you improve the course. Students appreciate knowing that an instructor has carefully considered what they have said. 
 
Use the time to clarify any confusions or misunderstandings about your goals and their expectations. Then give a brief account of which of their suggestions you will act upon this term, which must wait until the course is next offered, and which you will not act upon and why. Let students know what they can do as well. For example, if students report that they are often confused, invite them to ask questions more often. Keep your tone and attitude neutral; avoid being defensive, indignant, or unduly apologetic. 
 
Read more about the benefits of talking with students about mid-quarter evaluations in this piece by Dr. Maryellen Weimer.