Making Feedback Meaningful
It’s all in the post lesson comments.
It is a really important part of student feedback. Meten operates a system whereby after every lesson, teachers and students can evaluate each other on a scale from 1 to 5. From my experience, I would say that it is not being utilised to its full potential.
Of course, in a business environment, one is not going to give a fee paying student a 1 out of 5, tell them that their vocabulary is weak, their motivation appalling, and that they really should not have bothered turning up. The general rule seems to be to give a 5 and hope you will get them back. It’s not a system that instinctively appeals to me, as I think that teaching and evaluation is about a lot more than a number. I learned the hard way before formal training, giving a VIP client a 4 as I didn’t see, and likely got the same back!
However, properly used, the platform has considerable merit. It gives the opportunity to give meaningful feedback that will motivate students. It is the easiest thing to click a 5 without much comment, but it is in the comments that value resides. Criteria for assessment are; preparedness,-participation and proficiency. I try to make my comments address these, while making the comments personalised to the student, for example,
“It was good to meet you today. You were well motivated and prepared and made an excellent effort on speaking activities. You used a good range of words about health and well being, and could use the correct language to give advice. Good work!”
Comments do not need to be long. As long as you try to explicitly try to address the assessment criteria, and keep the tone positive, it’s fine. As you get to know students better, the EME field is a valuable source of information as to how students are progressing, not only with you but with other teachers. It is important to remember the business context. We want students to come back for further lessons and to feel that their efforts in class are understood and recognised. So, why not take a little time to be appreciative? It makes both personal and business sense, and helps in building an ongoing relationship with clients. When you notice something worthy of praise in class, why not praise it?
“A very good lesson. You talked well about the changes in life between your and your grandparents’ generations. You also expressed yourself very well when discussing things you would like to do in the future.”
On reflection, I’ve learnt in my short time here that the sooner after lessons you complete the evaluations after class, the better. I’m sure other teachers might recognise the following description. It’s Saturday, you’ve had a day (or maybe even two) off, and you have a number of lessons to close from Wednesday. You look on the system, think “What lesson was that again?”, get the books out again and go “Ah yeh, it was that one.” With a busy teaching schedule, it is inevitable that you won’t always be able to close lessons off on the system immediately, but it does really help to. First, it shows the students that you have thought about their performance. Secondly, it helps you.
I’ll end with the thought that the EME feedback system also gives you the chance, as a teacher, to demonstrate that you care. We are all human, don’t always have perfect lessons every time, however hard we might try to. I am not embarrassed to admit that, and on a couple of occasions when ideas haven’t quite worked, I will use the system to thank the students for coming, apologize to them, and promise to deliver better next time. Making that promise demonstrates that you are thinking about your work and that you are committed to seeing your students progress. As long as you keep it.
I had a lesson a couple of weeks ago that was intensely hard. A 12-year old boy, who just refused to talk after 15 minutes. The next one was even harder; hard-core disengagement. Eventually, I found a way in. It was fabulous to be able to write to write expressing my delight at his engagement and performance.
In short, I’ve overcome my initial feeling that it’s all about numbers. Clearly, any organisation needs a metric to assess against. Inside that though, I think it incumbent on us as practitioners to reflect on how we best make use of information systems. A few minutes of thought straight after, or as soon after as possible, are a valuable resource both to your students and yourself, in terms of relationship building and ongoing reflection and self evaluation. The more you put into that process, the more you will benefit.
George is currently participating in the Gallery Teachers Academic Exchange Programme to China, if you are also interested to teach overseas, you can read more about it here.