Are There Hidden Motives behind Feedback Forms?

A few days ago I taught the last lesson of the course for adults (end of Summer semester). Each student was handed a feedback form to fill out.

How far will management go just to please? (I took the photo!)

Despite being a teacher for many years, this is my first experience with a real, clear cut, “for profit” framework. The message that it is a business is being hammered home in many ways. The main one is, of course, the size of the language class for the weakest students in the school -37 students.

But its the other ways in which the message “the customer is always right” is being sent that makes me wonder what the purpose of these forms really is. I have already been asked to teach the course again, so that can’t be the reason I was asked to meet with “the big honcho” (not the English coordinator) to discuss them.

A telling example has to do with use of the site Quizlet, which I believe to be a very useful tool. I put up two lists of relevant vocabulary for my students to practice. I made a simple screencast showing them how to use it. In addition I posted a page in mother tongue explaining how to use it. Despite all that, it seems one or two students had trouble with it and asked for help from the support service (students can’t write me directly, emails go through the office first). I was immediatly told not to use Quizlet.

So what happens if a student complains that there wasn’t enough groupwork or too much groupwork? What about the number of quizzes I gave in class? I gave quite a few, short, easy ones as I believe that success breeds motivation (which leads to more success) but there were a couple of students who did not hand in the tasks and did not take all the quizzes. How will “the customer is always right theory” work here?

I’d be very interested to hear how such things work in other places.


8 thoughts on “Are There Hidden Motives behind Feedback Forms?”

  1. You did all that to assist them through quizlet? And only 2 people complained? And the mgmt told you to stop using an excellent learning tool because of the ‘strain’ on the support staff?
    My oh my.

    I guess they want teflon teachers – do their job, no stick, no mess!

    I wonder what else you’ll be forbidden from using – keep a list!

    best to you, Naomi

  2. Hi Naomi,

    My school makes extensive use of student evaluation forms and I am always shocked by the questions the ask. “Does the teacher always address you as Mr. or Ms.?” is one of my favorites. Another, “Do you want to take this teachers class again?” is simply terrifying. We are expected to get 80% positive responses to all questions. Which is odd considering students only have a chance to take my classes again if they sign up for the International Course which is 14 hours of English a week. Getting student feedback is important, but I think for teacher evaluation purposes, quite misguided. And when the feedback is used to direct how the course is taught and decrease a teachers ability to provide what they feel is best for the students, not very useful at all. I mean, we are teachers because we are supposedly in a position to know what will help our students reach their goals when they do not.

    Ah, why oh why can’t we have better administrators?

    Kevin Stein

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I don’t even know what questions they ask on these forms at this school. Goodness, I hadn’t even thought of getting a grade in numbers on the evaluation!
      One thing I am sure about, the question you mention regarding Mr. and Mrs. wouldn’t appear! Here we are much less formal. We’re all on first name basis. At the high-school even the principal is called by his first name!

  3. In the summer program, our feedback forms are short and sweet, mostly to gauge overall (class and extracurricular) experience. We also use it to determine how much tech students brought with them. Other than that, answers have little to do with anything unless there are “strongly disagree” all the way through.

    During the regular academic year, students fill out university-issued feedback forms that are generic enough to be used throughout all disciplines. I get to look at them, but they generally are useless.

    I think feedback from teachers about their classes, support from administration and suggestions makes more sense in my context.

    1. Thanks for explaining about your setting, Tyson!
      I see there are different approaches to these forms.
      Will know more next week, after being “talked to”…

  4. Well, the “big honcho” seems to have forgotten that he wanted to talk to or “at” me. He was supposed to call at a certain time and didn’t. Not complaining!

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