3 Surveys for Student Feedback to Improve Instruction

Use Student End of the Year Feedback to Improve Teaching

During the summer break, or at the end of a quarter, trimester or semester, teachers have the opportunity to reflect on their lessons. Teacher reflections can be improved when student feedback is included, and collecting student feedback is easy if teachers use surveys such as the three described below.

Research Supports the Use of Student Feedback

A three-year study, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, titled The Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project, was designed to determine how to best identify and promote great teaching. The MET project has "demonstrated that it is possible to identify great teaching by combining three types of measures: classroom observations, student surveys, and student achievement gains." 

The MET project collected information by surveying students about their "perceptions of their classroom environment." This information provided "concrete feedback that can help teachers improve." 

The "Seven Cs" for Feedback:

The MET project focused on the "seven Cs" in their student surveys; each question represents one of the qualities teachers could use as a focus for improvement:

  1. Caring about students (Encouragement and Support) 
    Survey Question: "The teacher in this class encourages me to do my best.” 
  2. Captivating students (Learning Seems Interesting and Relevant)
    Survey Question:“This class keeps my attention – I don't get bored.”
  3. Conferring with students (Students Sense their Ideas are Respected)
    Survey Question:“My teacher gives us time to explain our ideas.”
  4. Controlling behavior (Culture of Cooperation and Peer Support)
    Survey Question: “Our class stays busy and doesn’t waste time.”
  5. Clarifying lessons (Success Seems Feasible)
    Survey Question: “When I am confused, my teacher knows how to help me understand.”
  6. Challenging students (Press for Effort, Perseverance and Rigor)
    Survey Question: “My teacher wants us to use our thinking skills, not just memorize things.”
  7. Consolidating knowledge (Ideas get Connected and Integrated)
    Survey Question:“My teacher takes the time to summarize what we learn each day.”

The results of the MET project were released in 2013. One of the major findings included the critical role of using a student survey in predicting achievement:

"Combining observation scores, student feedback, and student achievement gains was better than graduate degrees or years of teaching experience at predicting a teacher’s student achievement gains with another group of students on the state tests".

What Kinds of Surveys Should Teachers Use?

There are many different ways to get feedback from students. Depending on a teacher's proficiency with technology, each of the three different options outlined below can collect valuable feedback from students on lessons, activities, and what can be done to improve instruction in the coming school year.

Survey questions can be designed as open-ended or closed, and these two types of questions are used for distinct purposes that require the evaluator to analyze and interpret data in distinct ways. 

For example, students can answer on a Likert Scale, they can respond to open-ended questions, or they can write a letter to an incoming student. The difference in determining which survey form to use because the format and the types of question teachers use will influences the type of answers  and the insights that can be gained. 

Teachers should also be aware that while survey responses may sometimes be negative, there should be no surprises. Teachers should pay attention to the wording of survey questions should be crafted to receive critical information for improving -such as the examples below-rather than unwarranted or unwanted criticism. 

Student may want to hand in results anonymously. Some teachers will ask students not to write their names on their papers. If students feel uncomfortable handwriting their responses, they can type it or dictate their responses to someone else.

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Likert Scale Surveys

Student surveys can provide data that can be used for teacher reflection. kgerakis/GETTY Images

A Likert scale is a student friendly form of giving feedback. The questions are closed and can be answered with one word or number, or by choosing from available preset responses.

Teachers may want to use this closed form with students because they  don’t want the  survey to feel like an essay assignment. 

Using a Likert Scale survey, students rate qualities or questions on a scale (1 to 5); descriptions associated with each number should be provided. 

5 = I strongly agree, 
4 = I agree,
3 = I feel neutral,
2 = I disagree
1 = I disagree strongly

Teachers provide a series of questions or statements that student rate according to the scale. Examples of questions include:

  • I was challenged by this class.
  • I was surprised by this class.
  • This class confirmed what I already know about ______.
  • The goals of this class were clear.
  • The assignments were manageable.
  • The assignments were meaningful.
  • The feedback I received was useful.

On this form of a survey, students need only to circle a number. The Likert scale allows students who don't want to write a lot, or write anything, to give some response. The Likert Scale also gives the teacher quantifiable data. 

On the down side, analyzing the Likert Scale data may require more time. It may also be difficult to make clear-cut comparisons between responses.

Likert Scale surveys can be created for free on Google Form or  Survey Monkey or Kwiksurvey

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Open-Ended Surveys

Open Ended responses on a survey by students can give great feedback. Hero Images/GETTY Images

Open-ended question surveys can be fashioned to allow students to answer one or more questions.
Open-ended questions are the kind of questions without a specific options for response. 
Open-ended questions allow an infinite number of possible answers, and also allow teachers to collect more detail.

Here are sample open-ended questions that can be tailored for any content area:

  • Which (project, novel, assignment) did you enjoy the most?
  • Describe a time in class when you felt respected.
  • Describe a time in class when you felt frustrated.
  • What was your favorite topic covered this year?
  • What was your favorite lesson overall?
  • What was your least favorite topic covered this year?
  • What was your least favorite lesson overall?

An open-ended survey should not have more than three (3) questions. Reviewing an open question takes more time, thought and effort than circling numbers on a scale. Data collected will show trends, not specifics.

​Open-ended surveys with questions can be created for free on Google Form or  Survey Monkey or Kwiksurvey

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Letters to Upcoming Students or to the Teacher

Surveys can be as simple as a letter to a students who will take the course next year. Thomas Grass/GETTY Images

This is a longer form of an open-ended question that encourages students to write creative answers and to use self-expression. While not a traditional survey, this feedback can still be used to note trends.

In assigning this form of response, like the results of all open-ended questions, teachers may learn something they did not expect. To help focus students, teachers may want to include topics in the prompt.

OPTION #1: Ask students to write a letter to a rising student who will be enrolled in this class next year.

  • What advice can you give to another students about how to prepare for this class:
    • For reading?
    • For writing?
    • For class participation?
    • For assignments?
    • For homework?

OPTION #2: Ask students to write a letter to the teacher (you) about what they learned questions such as:

  • What advice can you give me for how I should change my class next year?
  • What advice can you give me about how to be a better teacher?

After the Survey

Teachers can analyze the responses and plan the next steps for the school year. Teachers should ask themselves: How will I use the information from each question? How will I plan to analyze the data? Which questions need to be reworked to provide better information?