student feedback

Sometimes I’m surprised by the feedback that I’ll get from my classes. We don’t have a very sophisticated assessment program where I work, but we do have an online form that asks the classic couple of questions “What did you learn today?” and “Do you find anything confusing?” I don’t tend to invest this type of feedback with much meaning, but it can still be useful sometimes. Even though it is fairly rare for a student to post anything negative, I can use the answers to those questions to see how aspects of my presentation went – if a student writes that they aren’t sure how to find books in the library or if several students write that they have difficulty finding the full text of a journal article when given only a citation, I know that is one area I’m going to have to repeat or try to emphasize further.

I taught a class this week that I was expecting to be very painful, because when I talked to a few of the students who came in early it was clear that they hadn’t gotten their research paper assignments yet and they didn’t know that they were all going to be asked to write about a specific topic. This is not a good scenario for the introduction to research workshops that I do, because it is so much easier to connect with a class if they are actually ready to start working on their assignment. But I went through my usual session, using their future assignment topic for all my search examples. I actually spent more time explaining a few things, because I thought that they might not be able to take full advantage of tons of hands-on time.

A few students asked questions, but there were also a bunch that didn’t look very engaged (and I don’t blame them, I would be less than engaged if I was in their places, having a library session without the context of an assignment). I was surprised when I got the student feedback from this class, because there were a bunch of comments that my presentation was “clear and concise” and one person said that they were not expecting the library visit to be useful but they ended up learning a lot. So if nothing else, the feedback served as a bit of a boost after teaching a class I was not feeling very postive about.