At the end of each semester a survey is distributed in class for students to fill out. The professor typically receives the completed surveys a few weeks later, after they have been reviewed by the department chair and head of the faculty evaluation committee. I have always found the feedback valuable for improving my courses, especially the written comments which are more specific and actionable than 1 to 5 Likert rating scale questions. Soon after receiving the forms, I update my courses to reflect the feedback. Often, the feedback from one course applies to all of the courses that I teach.
It occurred to me that students taking the course the following semester had no idea what the feedback was from students who took the course the prior semester. I recently had the idea to share with current students the course feedback from the prior semester (but not the score for the course or professor, as that could anchor students and bias their Likert scale ratings later on). I take students’ written comments, verbatim (though small edits are sometimes necessary to shorten and to clarify meaning), list them on a slide, and review that with students at the start of the semester. I explain to them the changes I made, the changes I did not make and explain why, or when I plan to make the changes.
By doing this, my hope is that students recognize that I am:
- Willing to be transparent.
- Serious about improving my courses.
- Attentive to the “voice of the customer.”
- Setting an example for students in accepting and acting upon feedback.
In addition, I have shared other types of information with students from the previous semester or semesters. This has been part of my Lean teaching pedagogy for several years now. To that end, I share the results of informal surveys and selected homework assignments. This gives students a broader context in which to understand their work and allows for a more substantive discussion of the topic. And, it helps me see trends and comprehend the topic more deeply, which improves my teaching.