How to Generate Student Feedback to Improve Your Classes

Generating feedback is an important practice we strive to instill in our students. For example, during a critique, students give and receive input which can improve each other’s future work. But, have you ever thought about how a student critique might benefit your work as an art educator?

Receiving student feedback about your class is an enlightening way to improve your teaching and your courses. Seeing what students really think about being in your classroom is a great way to shape future instruction so the art room continues to be a place students want to be.

Today I’m sharing some of the best questions you can ask your students as well as some various ways to collect their feedback.

written student feedback

Generating Successful Guiding Questions

In order to receive feedback about our classes, we have to pose questions for our students to answer. Not every student will provide a useful response. However, after asking for feedback about your class at least one significant theme or trend will usually emerge.

Too many questions can reduce student depth and insight. Better data comes from choosing one or two questions and having students explain the reasoning for their answers.

The following list of questions can provide useful feedback:

  • If you were the art teacher next year, what is one assignment or project you think every student would enjoy doing?  Why do you think students would like it?
  • What was one of your favorite assignments in art class this year? What did you like most about the assignment?
  • What was one of your least favorite assignments in art class this year? What about that assignment did you not enjoy?
  • What ideas do you have to make art class more engaging and interesting for students next year? This could be related to classroom materials, an idea you have to incorporate into our daily routines, an activity, an assignment, or something from another class you have had that would make art even better.  Be specific and explain your answer.
  • What did you get out of art class this year?
  • Did you enjoy art class this year? Why or why not?

3 Ways to Gather Feedback

1. Make it Part of Your Beginning-of-Class Routine

Once you select the focal question to generate feedback, it is time to choose a format for student responses. One effective way to produce feedback is to project one or two questions onto your screen or board, and have students write the answers. Give students a quarter sheet of binder paper to write on as they enter your room. This way, the feedback questions become the “do now” activity to start off class.

do now slide

Have students reflect on the questions and respond for at least two minutes. Encourage students to respond using complete sentences rather than fragmented words or ideas. Two or three sentences per question provide the best insight.

2. Hold One-on-One Conferences

It is also valuable to have one-on-one conferences with students to generate feedback. One-on-one conferences are perfect for assessment, and in this case, they can be used to assess your art class.

When students come to talk with you during a feedback conference, make sure they have had time to process the questions beforehand. Give students a chance to think through their responses because the nature of the intimate conversation can cause some students to shy away. The benefit of gathering feedback from students in person is that you can hear their response. Sometimes student writing can be brief or incomplete. When students tell you their responses, you can ask clarifying questions, engage in dialogue, and hear their tone which may not surface through a written response.

3. Give a Digital Survey

Another way to gather information about your class is to pose questions to your students in the form of a digital survey. Adults are asked to do this all the time through staff meetings, at conferences, and other convening events. Consider using an easily accessible platform such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms. Be aware you’ll need access to students’ school email addresses to use the former. If your school has lists for particular grade levels or groups of students, you might even be able to save yourself more time. Using Google Forms for this purpose requires no email addresses. Simply have your students fill in their names for “Question 1.”

Evaluating the Data

After reading or discussing all the responses, it can be difficult to know how to digest all of the information. Make a list of responses as they come up and use tally marks to see how many times each response was used.  If the question posed was about how to make the class better next year, write the main idea down from each response and begin tallying when students repeat a similar suggestion. That way you can identify patterns and see the most common responses. Often, the repeated responses can lead to a new experiment or direction for the next semester or school year.

tallying feedback

Opening yourself up to student feedback truly does have benefits. By giving students a voice in their own education and modeling the critique process outside of an art assignment, students are able to see value in their opinions. Our students have first-hand experience with the material, after all, and can offer up some inspiring ideas! Feedback is essential in all areas of life, and by asking students to help improve our classes they can be a part of that reality.

How do you generate feedback for your classes?

What questions or concerns does this article raise for you?

Matt Christenson

Matt is a high school visual arts and mural design teacher in San Francisco, CA who strives to cultivate maximum creative potential in all students.

Related

  • This is an important piece to making a classroom community. It invites the students into the conversation of their education and learning. I am always appreciative of the ideas and feedback students offer. They want to offer honest, supportive feedback, and appreciate being trusted to do so.

    • Matt Christenson

      Hello Kelly! Thanks for sharing this comment. I agree with you.

  • Liz Calais

    As a previous public school system art educator, I developed and conduct an after-school fine arts/visual art program at a private elementary/middle school. It is an enrichment program for schools that have limited classroom space, curriculum space, and dollar revenues. This school year completes the 7th year of the Program and each year is an incredible learning experience. I have found that children are most honest when they’re in a non-threatening environment. Of course, they’re not graded in this program, nevertheless, they (and their parents) must be committed to following the program policies so I suppose it could be considered a threatening environment. In any case, it is important that I am consistently positive, enthusiastic, compassionate, and passionate about art. I tweek the lessons annually, according to the verbal and non-verbal communication received from the students. I appreciate your article Matt, about generating feedback. During the classes, I constantly communicate with my students about their medium preferences, and processes. I have often thought of a written evaluation for the students and parents, but always felt like I gathered enough information throughout the school year during lessons. You have inspired me here to get it in writing. Thank you. I will choose questions #1 (assignments) and #4 (art class overview) for the written evaluation to send home. As teachers, we are constantly learning and I believe have a responsibility to constantly evaluate ourselves to meet the needs of each and every student. Good job with the article Matt…….

    • Matt Christenson

      Hi Liz! Thanks so much for your response here. I love the work you are doing and I am so glad that this article resonated with you. I agree with what you said here…we are constantly learning as teachers and our students have a unique opportunity to help us evaluate what we do. Thanks again for sharing!

  • Elizabeth Oh

    After a major project my 7th & 8th grade students write a five paragraph reflection essay. There is an outline they follow, that covers the experience from the start to the end of the assignment. These essays I’ve discovered are extremely valuable. The students articulate how they felt at certain parts of the assignment, how they managed to solve a problem encountered, to how they felt about the finished piece they worked so hard on. These essay’s have given me great insight to how to improve the projects.

    • Matt Christenson

      Hi Elizabeth! A five paragraph essay sounds like it would yield a ton of valuable information. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Karin Ling

    For each class, I print out an illustrated list of projects/techniques we had worked on that term (i.e. 1. print making. 2. drawing imaginary animals. 3. Giving peer feedback…) I give each student a fill in the blank feedback form where they answer the questions: What did you enjoy doing this term and why? Which work were you most proud of and why? Which project/technique did you not enjoy and why?

    Because I teach elementary
    art, I jazz up the feedback forms with emojis (thumbs up, bored face, etc.). Younger students have the option of simply writing the number corresponding to the project/technique instead of writing out all the words. I started doing this to help inform my report writing and future plannig. I tell the students the purpose of the forms which also helps them take the feedback seriously.

    • Matt Christenson

      Hello Karen! This is great! Thanks for sharing.