Whether you are teaching in a virtual classroom or working with your team remotely this fall, today’s blog post is for you. We all know the importance of feedback- it is a way to check in with your students or your colleagues and to foster a meaningful conversation about what is going well, what could be improved, and what cannot be changed. Today’s blog post is all about how to facilitate honest and constructive feedback. We’ll address the why, when, and how of virtual feedback and provide examples of how you can respond to evaluation immediately.
Asking for input from your team members creates a space for open dialogue. By asking them to thoughtfully evaluate a project or performance, you are inviting them to be active agents. For the academic community, modeling this behavior that will benefit students throughout their careers: the humility to seek evaluation from others, the ability to perform self-evaluation, and the agility to make adjustments and improvements.
For teachers and students, mid-semester feedback should come at a time in the semester when 1. students have completed at least one major assignment and understand the general structure of the course and 2. you have the time to thoughtfully consider the feedback you receive and implement changes if necessary. For me, this time was last week. We have been in class for 7 weeks and my students have received grades/feedback from me for two writing assignments and a quiz.
For those of us managing digital projects, this ask should come throughout your project lifecycle. Asking for iterative feedback ensures that the project is meeting the needs of key stakeholders and end users as is envisioned.
For iterative feedback, a set questionnaire with specific prompts and questions ensures that the feedback you gather can be closely matched to a particular point in the project. Requesting basic information for context, such as browser type and version, can give additional information that informs where technical changes need to be made with regard to systems. The prompts are best when they are short and do not require much time on the part of the end user (we’re all busy!).
There are many survey softwares that you can use for feedback (Qualtrics; GoogleForms; or Survey Monkey, just to name a few) and all have the capacity to host a variety of question formats: multiple choice, numerical ranking, short answer response, etc. I like to use a mixture of closed-ended questions (such as, on a scale of 1-5 with 1 being not at all and 5 being very how confident are you what is expected of you?) and open-ended questions (like, describe an experience from the past month in which you felt engaged with your colleagues). I tend to lean more heavily on the open-ended questions to provide useful and actionable feedback.
Below, I have included a screenshot of the instruction page for my quiz. Notice that I stress both the anonymity of the quiz and the fact that I want both positive and negative feedback. It is important that students understand that you really do want honest feedback and that you really are going to implement changes if necessary. Note also that the first three questions ask students to evaluate their own performance in the course. I ask students if they prepare for class, if they participate in class, and if they engage fully with the online material provided. It is important that students understand that a “successful” course depends as much on the student as it does the instructor.
The types of questions you will ask varies according to your needs. For educators, I recommend returning to your course objectives to shape your questions. I consulted the following educational websites when creating my own feedback quiz:
The most important component of the feedback solicitation process is your response. Be sure to report results back promptly. For digital projects, this means recording the decisions from the design feedback and sharing out the finished product.
In the academic setting, my process for responding to feedback is simple. I read all of the responses and group them into three categories: things that are going well; things that we can work on; and things that we can’t change. I present these to my students in class during our next meeting. In my Zoom classroom, I use the Whiteboard feature to visualize my findings. You could also use a PowerPoint to organize the responses or send your findings via email if you don’t meet synchronously. The key is that your team members understand that you read their responses and that you care about their insights.
How are you planning to facilitate mid-semester evaluations in your virtual classroom? Any good templates to share for user feedback? Do you have any favorite questions? Let us know in the comments.
– Abigail Upshaw