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Should we take more notice of learners’ feedback of our lessons?

‘Snapping out’ of our old ways? 

Is it time to alter the damaging habit of overlooking learner-feedback and time to start consistently asking what our learners consider to be valuable components within lessons? 

Are we too jaded and ‘swept away’ in the strong current that is the busyness of the academic year? This somehow drags us into rushing through the teaching content, frantically getting learners out the door in time for their next lesson? Are we then oblivious to what our learners say amongst their peers about the effectiveness of our lessons? Therein lies the problem of learners’ possible boredom thresholds and perhaps explains our own stagnation in avoiding positive changes to the structure of our lessons. 
Here we explore the advantages that can be gained from taking notice of learners’ feedback of our lessons: 

Time to take learner-feedback seriously? 

Whether we accept it or not, it is the norm to seldom ask our learners for feedback on our lessons. After all, we of course as teachers know what their needs are and what they are required to learn, don’t we? As a result, we are probably guilty of inadvertently ignoring and ultimately neglecting the developmental needs of our learners. Is this ignorance on our part consequentially a moral failing by neglecting to fulfil their learning needs? Through habit we probably let them leave our lessons time after time without constructing any kind of lasting strategy to find out how our learners can learn best. Why is it so crucial that we consider how to tackle gathering systematic learner-feedback? 

Adopting a positive perception of learners’ feedback 

In a recent lesson, I paused and looked around the class for reactions of the learners to the on going teaching and tasks: Were they enthused by the way the topic was being delivered?

Indeed, I had the class ‘in the palm of my hands’ and were seemingly concentrating on making notes for their future assignments. However, what would their views be on the learning if they were approached to comment on their experience of that hour or so? Could I expect to hear views that the methods of note taking and Powerpoint delivery in that lesson were painstakingly boring? 

Learners can often collectively be too uncomfortable to raise the point of dissatisfaction in teaching methods in order to avoid questioning the teacher’s authority, perhaps for a ‘quiet life’. I would argue that we are somewhat naïve on how insightful their responses could be, if we would delve a bit deeper to find out. What can we do to create what is described as planning to include “memorable moments” (Morrison-McGill, 2019) within our lessons? This can be a solid starting point towards learning, once initial learner-engagement has been captured. 

Targeting learner-dissatisfaction 

It is so easy for our learners to lose interest in our subject area in the long-term, so we must do our bit to galvanise them by reeling them in with learning methods that are of interest to them. Can we use more quizzes, scenarios, APPs and role plays in more innovative ways? Can we be more supportive in providing more one to one feedback within lessons? Should content involve more humour, real-life examples and genuine employment options, whilst linking this all to consistent graded assessment as mainstays? We must ask them as often as possible, to satisfy the demand for their preferred learning methods while their ‘motivational fires’ are still ‘burning’ within. 

Adopting the ‘A.S.K. learners’ approach 

Should we as teachers, be the protagonists in asking learners for more feedback on our lessons? Could this be the antidote to improve engagement and learning? If we consider our learners as consultants for their own learning we can aim is to ‘A.S.K.’ for learners’ input on a set of three questions. 

A – Assess activity engagement (were they engaged) 

S – Seek suggestions on lesson improvements (what do they suggest for improvement) 

K – Kick-start (when to apply any changes?) 

We can target learners with the above questions as a preliminary measure and then assess as teachers how these suggestions could be included within our future lessons. 

Increased experimentation and spontaneity 

An emerging view amongst the teaching fraternity is that it is no longer a sign of weakness to listen to our learners. It can in fact, show strength of character to put ourselves ‘in their shoes’. We then become active listeners of the audience that could ultimately improve our teaching. More likely than not, they probably know more ways to digitise learning, which is then more appealing to them. We must do our utmost to merge the ideas of the learners into the curriculum and at least be more open to their suggestions on lesson-delivery. It could well be our gems of learners that actually have the key to unlock what could improve our lessons further! 

The breakthrough with progress 

If we take notice of learner-feedback, we will be clear in the knowledge that we are catering for the specific style or intervention that has been requested by various learners themselves. This should increase engagement levels further and we can then be in a position to use the findings to inform our teaching practice to hasten improvements. From engaging with their feedback, we can unearth a more positive experience of lessons for them, making for a more fulfilling planning experience for us as teachers. This should create a constructive confluence of ideas between the teacher and learners. The end goal has to be the creation of lessons that make learners feel enthused within a challenging and stable environment. 

Improving the capacity for respect 

In ridding ourselves of any ego issues, we can benefit massively by asking learners to provide their views on learning in lessons. They will feel more valued and respected knowing that they have been entrusted to suggest areas for improvement. Who wouldn’t like to have their opinion valued for the purpose of positive change? This could even stimulate increased independent learning when learners become more in charge of their own learning. They are increasingly likely to then seek their own examples in their free time to add to assignments such as snippets from knowledge-laden subject-specific documentaries. 

Enhancing learner to teacher trust 

If our learners are confident enough to open up to us on what can be improved, we must listen intently to trust their advice and follow through with applying the changes. We shouldn’t take their ideas (whether constructive or frustration-borne) as personal criticism but as an opportunity for improvements to be ignited in our own teaching delivery. We will also reap the rewards as our lessons will become more fun to them, which can have positive links with learner-progress. 

Concluding thoughts 

Whilst we may not always be able to ensure our learners are ‘salivating’ at the prospect of attending our lessons, we must not squander the opportunity to keep ourselves attuned with aspects that could increase engagement. Furthermore, involving learners in providing feedback to help to enhance their lessons will undoubtedly empower them, which is surely a positive outcome for their learning experiences? We should without question, take more time to consult our learners at opportune moments or as often as we see fit, to provide a more balanced view of targeting satisfaction and progress within lessons.

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The author

Fabian is a fully qualified Teacher and has worked in Secondary and Further Education establishments since 2008. He is currently a Lecturer of Sport in Further Education. He has Masters Degrees in Teaching and Learning (2013) and Sport and Culture (2004). He achieved a Sports Sciences and Leisure Management Joint Honours Degree (2002). He has the desire to improve teaching practice through reflective methods by producing positive action plans. He has a drive to ensure teaching styles invigorate both teachers and learners to produce positive outcomes for development. He regularly updates his knowledge of teaching practice and is an avid reader of educational blogs. His interests are writing and producing content on teaching strategies to make working practices more structured and consistent. His experience totalling ten years in Secondary and Further Education have equipped him with the skills to motivate and maintain the highest aspirations of learners.

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