Most professionals experience performance evaluations, but instructors have the advantage of receiving feedback from three groups of stakeholders: students, peers, and supervisors. Instructors can ease the stress of evaluation and inspire meaningful professional growth by preparing questions for each stakeholder group that will solicit impactful feedback.
While many institutions have moved away from end-of-term Likert-scale evaluation surveys, instructors should actively seek qualitative feedback from students both during and at the end of a course.
Students appreciate being consulted about what worked well and what didn’t, but some will opt out of offering their feedback. Even if points are awarded, instructors should not expect 100% engagement in feedback activities, but the students who take the time to do so will provide deeply meaningful insight into the learning experience in your course.
Impactful questions to ask your students could include:
What activity or assignment in this course was most interesting or useful to you? Why?
If you could remove one activity or assignment from this course, what would you choose to eliminate? Why?
If a friend was planning to take this course, what advice would you give them?
Observations of your teaching by another instructor can be the most impactful form of feedback. Each instructor brings a different ‘bag of tricks' to the classroom, and we can all learn from each other.
Before a peer observation or a peer review of your course materials, identify areas where specific feedback would be particularly helpful. For example, if your students have a hard time settling down at the start of class, ask your peer to be on the lookout for contributing factors to this issue, and to offer suggestions for improving your classroom management techniques.
Impactful questions to ask your peers could include:
Did you observe any aspects of my course that were confusing or unclear to you? If so, do you have suggestions for how I could improve clarity?
From what you observed in my class, did my students seem to be engaged in the material? Did they seem to be comfortable interacting with me, and with each other?
If you were teaching this course, what is one thing you would do differently than me? Why?
An instructor’s supervisor (e.g., dean or department chair) is likely to spend the least amount of time of the three stakeholder groups directly observing their teaching, but this stakeholder’s feedback means the most in terms of continuation or advancement of employment. For this reason, it is critical to thoughtfully prepare specific questions to ask before and after your supervisor’s observation.
Impactful questions to ask your supervisor could include:
When you observe my class, will you please look for [a specific element that you would most appreciate feedback about]? I’m especially eager for your feedback about this.
What are your thoughts about my use of class time? Did you observe times where my students seemed either under-engaged or overwhelmed by my pace of instruction?
What stood out to you as particularly successful in the class you observed?
Teaching is a profession of continual growth. Evaluation offers an instructor the opportunity to actively engage their students, peers, and supervisors in answering specific questions that will solicit the most meaningful feedback for their ongoing evolution as a teacher.