Post-it note teaching feedback

Asking students directly about what they think of the class you are leading does not provide the most representative feedback. A few years ago, I therefore implemented a means to obtain feedback for large-ish teaching sessions, which I learnt from Lara Alcock (Loughborough University). The beauty is in its simplicity, which leads to a great response rate (consistently around 80%) and interesting feedback. I give out post-it notes (actually mainly-blank square memo paper, about 10cm x 10cm) at some point during one of the teaching sessions (usually around 20 minutes in) and ask the students to write on one side something the like about the tutorials/workshops/example classes, and on the other side something they would like to see changed/improved. I then collect the notes afterwards, review them, and subsequently feedback anything important that has been picked up to the students in the next session. I have previously done this once a term, about mid-way through, but I may increase the frequency in the future.

The “good side” is often nice to read, but the “improve side” is what I’m really after, since it allows me to identify issues that the students are facing, which I may be able to alleviate. I have sought feedback this way a few times by now, and generally it works very well - the students often seem pleased that you are interested in making the teaching sessions better for them and are very (even brutally) honest in their responses. One issue though (if you are not the lecturer of the module) is that the students often use the opportunity to feedback on the lectures for the module, which I pass on but is not something I can directly change.

Examples of “improve side” feedback

Italics indicate my comments/observations.

  • Could do a brief summary of the key information before doing the questions to help understanding. Several students made similar comments for this particular module, which seemed to stem from an issue with the lectures (many students had stopped attending them by the time of this survey). I implemented this suggestion from the next workshop, and often still give introduction summaries to this day.
  • At the end of a tutorial a quick summary maybe of main pointers or where people tend to make mistakes. I now sometimes do this, depending on the material.
  • Need better board pens. I agree…
  • Have more understanding of what will be on the exam.
  • Maybe sometimes the questions are completed too quickly. There are usually about an equal number of comments saying too fast, too slow and about right. I usually try to ask students during and after each question whether they need anything clarifying, and explain to them this is their chance to slow me down if they are not keeping up.
  • For this second year module, many students clearly missed the smaller group teaching from their first year: Cannot fault the tutor. The issue with the workshops is not something the tutor can really solve. They are not as intimate as if they were in the tutorial rooms smaller class size would help individualising the process and give more tailored progress feedback.
  • Often students raise issues with the lecturers/scheduling, that I can pass on but ultimately can not change: Only negative comment is that it would be more helpful if the workshops were placed earlier in the week because of the homeworks also being due on a Friday. I appreciate this concerns the [redacted to remove identifying information] more than the individual tutors.
  • Online solutions are ****.

There are often a fairly large number of blank improve sides.

Examples of “good side” feedback

Italics indicate my comments/observations.

  • Great tutorials due to thorough and simple steps though tutorials questions…
  • The tutorials were really helpful, clearly explained.
  • The workshop is always exemplary in its content, and the tutor always explains the solutions with a practical degree of depth. Definitely the most proficient workshop I have.
  • Really helped me understand the methods in the module that I couldn’t understand in the notes.
  • The tutorials were really helpful, clearly explained. Basically learnt everything I know from the tutorials.
  • Workshops are always of high quality and the questions & topics covered are ones that we choose to go through, meaning we are able to learn about the areas we aren’t as comfortable with. Workshops are delivered clearly and they strongly improve my understanding of the module content.
  • Interesting comments, such as: These workshop/ tutorials are really helpful for understanding the content w/o it I wouldn’t be able to do the module. I am scheduled to another tutor but come to this one because everything is more clear + prepared. Tom is the only reason why I can do any homework.
  • Amusing comments such as: You are a good man.