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Is Student Feedback Helping The Schools?

Because it’s often biased and even unrealistic – in situations when the public learning institutions are attempting to obtain more funds from the local authorities – collecting feedback on courses does not benefit the teachers, the students or the learning process on the whole. Then again, despite the fact that this system is perceived as obsolete, it does not stop certain universities and colleges from asking their students to fill in feedback forms five to eight times per year.

Types of student feedback

In theory, student feedback refers to an evaluation of the courses and teachers used by the education institution to improve and refine the educational process. Colleges and universities can gather the feedback via three methods, namely:

  • In-class feedback forms

As the name suggests, the in-class feedback contains a mix of quantitative and free answer type of questions. By far the most common, the problem with in-class forms is that they depend on the attendance rate.

  • Small group analysis

The small group analysis is a method of gathering anonymous feedback regarding the aspects that work and those that need improvement in a course. In all fairness, getting students to participate in a lengthy feedback is relatively challenging.

  • Online surveys

A third method of gathering feedback from students entails having them complete anonymous online surveys. Although they can guarantee anonymity, students are very unlike to provide feedback unless the school offers them some incentive. 

Student feedback can be obscure

By far the most problematic aspect of student feedback is the invitation to comment on the teachers. While the students’ opinions regarding a teacher are usually both positive and negative, they rarely provide any useful information. For instance, unspecific comments such as ‘X is an amazing teacher’ or ‘the school should hire a new math teacher’ are obscure, confusing and practically do not say anything about the educator’s activity and/or skills.

Teacher examination methods are faulty

Sometimes, the educational institutions can appoint external examiners to collect student feedback. Without denying that this is one of the ways to make sure professional standards are maintained, the insights and observations in this case should come from people with a teaching background. In general, an examiner who never spent one day teaching will have a hard time understanding class dynamics and the modern challenges of the profession.

Students carry their own share of the blame

A further problem with student feedback in general is that it usually boils down to whether students like the class or not. For instance, a class focused on fathoming social sciences will often provide negative feedback regarding maths and other real sciences. Does that make the math or physics teacher a poorly skilled educator? No and unfortunately, it is usually hard to determine the real reasons why students why think this way.

Lastly, the student feedback will ultimately depend on how well he or she is doing in class. To put it simply, a student with good grades will often describe the teacher as brilliant, motivational or inspiring. On the other hand, if a student is not doing so well in class, then there is always the risk he/she will use the feedback to shift the blame towards someone else, in this case, the teacher. 

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