For the past couple of years I have been using a standard feedback form to gather brief feedback after classes and lectures. This was created by a colleague in the library, and consists of three prompts, printed on one side of A5 paper with space for comments:
- I learnt something from this session that will help me improve the way I work (yes/no tickbox)
- The most useful thing from this session was:
- I am still unsure about:
I have found this effective in conducting an “exit survey” from the class, and getting an idea of what has been well received and what I could have explained better. I record the responses after each class and use them in planning future sessions.
However, a paper form is impractical to use in large lectures. It is manageable in smaller classes, where I can distribute the forms along with any other handouts, and collect them in at the end by asking students to fold them into paper aeroplanes and throw them at me (this makes a nice, fun end to a class, and ensures everyone takes part!), but this doesn’t work well in a lecture theatre with a large group of students.
I have tried various methods for distributing and collecting paper forms in the lecture theatre, but it is inevitably time consuming, and doesn’t result in meaningful feedback: usually only a handful of the forms I collect in have anything written on them at all, and the ones that do tend to only have a couple of words.
I decided to create an online version of the feedback form using free polling tool Mentimeter. The free version of Mentimeter allows for two questions, so I dispensed with the first yes/no question, as I would rather focus on the more meaningful free-text questions.
I use online polling tools (such as Kahoot) throughout my lectures, so asking the students to complete one more at the end of the session doesn’t come as a surprise, and is usually quick to get them into as they already have their phones/smart devices out as they’ve been using them already.
I use the free-text question option on Mentimeter, which allows them to write as much as they want. I show the Mentimeter quiz on screen so they can see the questions and the code to enter to get into the quiz, but I keep the answers hidden, for two reasons. The first reason (and the one I tell the students) is so they can be honest with their answers, as they will not be seen by anyone other than me.
The second, slightly more cynical reason is that I know from past experience that if my students know what they type in will appear on the big screen behind me, I just get a wall full of profanities! So telling them upfront that their answers will not be displayed removes that temptation.
I have now used this technique twice. The first time I tried it, in a lecture to my final year Informatics students, I showed the quiz right at the end, while I was telling them how to get further help. I got some feedback, but not a huge amount: about 30 out of the 150 students in the room filled out the Mentimeter quiz. However this is a greater proportion than usually fill out the paper forms after a lecture, and many of the comments I received were far longer and more detailed than I’d ever seen from a paper form, so I considered this a success!
The second time I used it was in a lecture to the final year Engineering students. This was a smaller group: I initially had about 70 in the room, although quite a few had to leave early (it was a last-minute, rescheduled lecture so I think they had a timetable clash), so by the end of the lecture there were only about 50 in the room.
This time, rather than introduce the Mentimeter right at the end, I did so about 5 minutes before the end. I very deliberately introduced it by saying “We’re coming to the end, and I have two things left to discuss with you. The first is another online quiz…” (we had already done a Kahoot quiz earlier in the session).
I showed the Mentimeter on screen and asked them to complete the two questions, then went back to my slides to go over the last point I had planned to cover (about note taking and referencing). I included the Mentimeter URL and access code on each one of my last few slides, so even after going away from the live Mentimeter screen, they could still see the access details.
This worked well: of the 50ish students I had left at the end of the session, 28 of them left feedback on the Mentimeter. I had also mentioned that if they wanted a response to their “I am still unsure about…” answer, to put their student number on it and I would get back to them, and two students did this so I was able to follow up with them via email after the lecture.
I think introducing it early, and making the point that I had more to tell them after this, worked well. Usually the “Any questions/feedback” line is taken as a cue for everyone to start packing up to go, so if there are any questions they are drowned out by the noise of everyone leaving! But in this case, because I had been clear that this was not the end of the lecture (and possibly also because I’d told them exactly how much ground there was left to cover, so they knew what to expect?), no one made a move to leave until I explicitly told them that the lecture was over!
I still think using paper forms works well in a smaller class, so I will continue to do this where feasible. However in a lecture theatre, this has gained the best response I’ve ever had to requests for feedback, so I’m definitely going to continue using this technique. My next step is going to be thinking about how the questions themselves are worded, and if there’s anything different/better I could try here.