An image showing student responses in different formats
Author: Tania Lee;

One approach to gathering student feedback or checking in with students is by calling on raised hands during class. However, this may only give you a limited view of the actual “muddiest points” in class. Muddiest points, a common technique for asking a student to pause during a lesson and write down a question or confusing point about content just presented, is a step forward to capturing where the class is on their current understanding.   

Other opportunities for students to let you know their questions may be through a special appointment or by dropping in on an office hour. However, some students, for a variety of reasons, might not come to an office hour. Are there any timely and equitable ways to catch student questions as they happen, perhaps by incorporating these opportunities directly into a lecture or lesson plan? Here are a few ideas.

Collect Student Feedback Through a Survey

One way to collect feedback from students is by planning a survey. Your course website (e.g., Learning Management Systems [LMS]) may already have a built-in survey tool where you can create your own check-in form. Check out the following guides of using different survey functions of most popular LMS in K-12 and higher education settings: Canvas, BlackboardMoodle, and Google Classroom. Or, if you prefer to build a survey using digital tools, like Google Forms or Microsoft Forms, you can still post the link to your survey on your course website. 

An image showing survey feedback through emoji, thumbs up, etc.

Spur of the Moment – A Reusable Poll

Sometimes, there are unplanned moments in class when you want to pause and check in with students. For this reason, you can check out live audience polling tools, such as Poll Everywhere. In Poll Everywhere, you can set up multiple generic poll questions such as multiple choice, ranking, or open response questions. After using each poll, you can choose to either keep on using the poll or clear and reset it. Past responses are saved and accessible in your account in paid plans.

Tips for Removing Barriers When Gathering Feedback

1. Anonymous option

While not appropriate for every scenario, consider whether your scenario will benefit from anonymous responses. Why anonymous? Although calling on students’ with raised hands in class will still work, a survey study found that some students may be reluctant to self-identify and prefer to respond through an anonymous survey. Many tools offer this optional feature. See guides: Poll Everywhere, Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Google Forms, and Microsoft Forms.

2. Provide Multiple Ways for Students to Express Themselves

Many survey tools also provide multiple ways for students to respond, besides text. One example is Canvas. Through Canvas’s survey tool, students can submit a text document, an image, or a short recording of their audio response through a file upload question type. You can also have students type their response directly into a textbox using the essay question type. Students can also insert a hyperlink to content outside of Canvas in their response. 

Why does this matter? According to research that supports the development of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), learners differ in the ways that they express what they know. Some learners express their thinking better through text or media in different learning environments. Allowing learners to communicate their learning using text, images, or spoken word, makes it quicker for you to monitor their learning.

Check out these other tools that provide multiple ways for students to express themselves:

After Class, review student responses

You may want to check out the polling responses after class and use it to adjust unit pacing or to identify knowledge gaps and see where to provide more resources. All these tools offer a way to download survey responses. See guides: Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Google Forms, and Microsoft Forms.

Final Thoughts

Meeting students where they are and making students feel they are being heard can help to motivate them to dive into their learning in the classroom. With these survey tools, you can hear more voices of your class.

Suggested Readings

Burgess, S., Bingley, S., & Banks, D. (2016). Blending Audience Response Systems into an Information Systems Professional Course. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 13, 245-267.

Meyer, A., Rose, D. H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST Professional Publishing.

Noel, D., Stover, S., McNutt, M. (2015). Student perceptions of engagement using mobile-based polling as an audience response system: Implications for leadership studies. Journal of Leadership Education. doi: 1012806/V14/I3/R4

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